October 17, 2014 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
"What Kind of News Are You Spreading?"
A recent study showed that good news travels faster and farther than bad news, at least when it comes to Facebook. This study showed that good news stories posted on Facebook were shared and "liked" at a much higher rate than stories that were reporting bad news. I was encouraged to hear about this study because it often seems that the bad news stories get all the attention in the media. It seems, though, at least on Facebook, that the general public is attracted more to positive news stories.
There are certainly important times and circumstances when bad news does indeed need to travel far and travel fast. The recent Ebola outbreak is a good example of such a time when the bad news needs to travel far and fast in order to warn people about potential danger. At the same time, the level of fear surrounding this story has been inflamed well beyond what most experts agree is the realistic danger of this disease for those of us living in the United States. Fear, like the Ebola virus itself, can be highly contagious and can spread exponentially if we are not careful to contain it.
This past week there was another news story that traveled far and fast. This story, clearly a story of good news, was the announcement of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi as the co-winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
News traveled fast about Malala Yousafzai. At age 17 she is the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize, receiving the award for her courageous advocacy work to make quality public education accessible for all, especially girls, in every part of the world. Her advocacy work began in her native country of Pakistan, where she spoke out against Taliban forces that were destroying girls' schools and banning them from attending any public school. Her public position nearly cost her her life when the Taliban tried to assassinate her in 2012. She now lives and goes to school in England where she continues her worldwide advocacy work.
Kailiash Satyarthi, the other winner, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to abolish abusive child labor practices around the world. Starting in his native country of India, Satyarthi founded the Save the Child Movement in 1980, which has acted to protect the rights of more than 83,000 children from 144 countries.
Watching the news stories regarding Ebola and the Nobel Peace Prize winners spread this past week caused me to pause and reflect on the kind of news I spread in my corner of the world. Am I spreading mostly good news? Am I working and speaking out for justice and peace? Or am I spreading mostly negative, fear-based news? Do I too easily get caught up in the anxiety of others and mindlessly spread that anxiety to others?
The answer to any of these questions can be "yes." We all indeed have the capacity to spread negativity in a way that is not helpful or healthy, for any of us. We each also have the capacity to spread good news of people we know, who live in our own communities, who are making a positive difference in the lives of others. And on a good day, we might even be that person who is making a positive difference in the world. Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi can be role models to all of us, inspiring us to do good in our own neighborhoods, creating and spreading our own good news.
How about you? What kind of news are you spreading? Are there ways you might be more intentional about both spreading and creating good news in your community and in your relationships with family and friends? The fact is that the news we spread can be contagious. Let's do our part to be sure that what people catch from us is positive and life-giving.
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