The news cycle now runs 24-hours, letting you see events develop around the world in real time. This, among other things, has the unfortunate side-effect of getting people hooked on bad news. People are becoming catastrophiliacs addicted to bad news.
What is catastrophilia?
Basically it’s from Greek words for “catastrophe” and “lover”. A catastrophe is an event that turns the world upside down, even if it’s just for one person or for a short time. As Hollywood can attest, a good catastrophe hooks people and sells tickets. People love to watch catastrophe, whether it’s happening to a relationship, a career, a city, or the whole world.
Part of the reason we stare at the auto accident tying up the left lane on the highway is because we hope everyone is okay, but often the bigger part – and growing all the time – is a hope that we can see twisted metal, shattered glass, and other evidence of catastrophe.
Ever feel a little let down when you see that the accident was just a minor one? “That’s all? That’s what’s tying up the freeway at rush hour?” If so, you understand what I’m talking about. It better be big and bad to justify time in our world.
Face it: a movie about a war, but we never see anyone shot? A movie about an earthquake, but we don’t see skyscrapers topple? A movie about a disease, but we never even hear anyone sneeze? It can be done, but I’ll wager it isn’t going to dent the box office. We want to see something break.
We “love” bad news
Notice how folks believe bad news way faster and more easily than good news?
Say someone reports a cure for some major disease; if we even notice it, we probably won’t believe it very quickly. We might even laugh at the naïve way others believe the news.
But how fast would we accept and share the news that some horrible, incurable disease had been discovered? Even if it was found to be a hoax, there would still be some saying it was real and the so-called hoax status is just a cover-up because someone doesn’t want people to know “The Truth!”
News outlets know we are hooked on bad news like a drug. It triggers brain chemicals that just hold us to the source, waiting for the next fix or (hopefully) an increase in the potency. In time we become numb to just bad news and we need horrible news to make us feel the rush of that terrible high again.
And if you can’t find enough bad news that resonates with you personally, you can choose from a growing list of tailor-made reality programming designed to push exactly the buttons you want pushed.
So if you ever wonder why there’s a shortage of good news in the world today, it’s not because it’s missing.
It’s just supply and demand: consumers love catastrophe.
Providers are banking on it.