It’s the year of the optimist, don’t let negativity fuel the headlines

In order for us to make more positive spaces, we are required to post more good news and engage with more uplifting content.


Yellow journalism pertained to sensationalist media reporting in the 1890s and the “media wars” between William Randolph Hearst – publisher of the New York Journal – and his arch-nemesis, the New York World’s Joseph Pulitzer.

Hearst took it a step further by driving the value proposition: “If it bleeds, it leads” in order to elevate negativity to front page news; analogue click-bait, if you will, Will.

Some 130 years later and social media algorithms (and Daily Sun street poles) covet this mantra. As a result. there’s been a perceived exodus from Elon Musk’s polarised Twitter to Mark Zuckerberg’s love-light-happiness domain of threaded (momentary) bliss.

ALSO READ: How do British press come up with Meghan Markle headlines?

Techcrunch reports that Threads already has one-fifth the active user base of Twitter and, at time of writing, has amassed an audience of 150-million-plus Threaders. That’s what I’m calling them.

My Threads feed (curated differently from yours) is nostalgic of 2008-Twitter, where community, uplifting engagement and positive promotion of people you followed, akin to one of the earliest Trending Topics – #FF/ Follow Friday, which made the platform feel welcoming, as opposed to divisive.

FF (fast forward) to 2023, and all social media is a cesspool of populist rhetoric or ads; reinforcement of our conscious and unconscious biases and a playground for sinister tactics à la Cambridge Analytica.

Despite congressional interference in “big tech”, the cynic in me is sceptical of both the US and SA elections in 2024, and the impact of the part played by social platform propaganda. We say we want positivity.

ALSO READ: We are all cut from the same cloth

We have hedged our bets against a Twitter meltdown and/or migration – the likes of which were last seen during the MySpacedays – by offering to create our Twitter clone and make a sacrifice to yet another Zuckerberg alter … with our data; our generation’s oil.

We claim to want to operate within a world, social space and metaverse of positivity, but our walk is incongruous with our talk (posts) and I foresee a future Threads that exhales with negativity, and extreme views. It’s a human inevitability. We are a species that thrives on war. We reject peace.

Generally speaking, of course. I’m dubbing our current period “If it cancels, put it on the mantel” and the reason we are force-fed negativity like digital foie gras – it’s pure content stickiness. The entire social ecosystem is digital voyeurism, fuelled by drama.

ALSO READ: Victory for Media: Judge gives Slapp for press freedom

Our hunt for positivity is paradoxical in nature. Alejandro Betancourt describes the positivity paradox on Medium.com as “both good and bad effects of being positive”.

“On the one hand, positivity can help you achieve your goals and be successful. But, if you’re only focused on being positive, you might miss vital warning signs and end up in danger.”

In order for us to make more positive spaces, we are required to post more good news, engage with more uplifting content, ignore the trolls and be somewhat positively oblivious. It seems too simple and obvious, and perhaps it is.

It’s much easier being a victim, to blame circumstance, the government or a higher power for our inefficiencies and have-nots. Perhaps we long for combat and the ability to be physically dominant or – conversely – submissive that our democratically curated platforms of free (hate) speech are the last remaining outposts for expressing our animalistic aggression, now passively.

ALSO READ: Should journalists be embedded with the military?

Being an inhabitant of planet earth and the laws of physics, complete with gravity, suggests it’s easier to be grounded than it is to fly. Now, more than ever, we need to inspire, first ourselves, then our communities, our provinces, our nations and then the globe.

If you really want to change your outlook on this crazy world, digitally or physically, it’s time for you to stand up for what you believe in. It’s the year of the optimist and if Steve Jobs was Threading, he’d break the internet with one of his most powerful quotes: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

ALSO READ: Sanef condemns attempts by Moti Group to ‘gag’ amaBhungane journalists

I believe in your authentic goodness, South Africa, don’t let the bad guys win and definitely don’t let their negativity fuel the headlines of your papers, your news, or your social media posts.

-Sharman runs award-winning advertising and marketing agency Retroviral.

Read more on these topics

journalism