Are you ground down by the endless cycle of doom and gloom in the news? The litany of Brexit handbag fights, Trump brain-farts, KGB cyber warfare and environmental catastrophes? Google has just the ticket: the company has just announced that it’s putting a new Google Assistant feature through its paces, which is designed to deliver uplifting stories to you.
Called “Tell me something good”, users can expect stories that focus on people “solving problems for our communities and our world”, says the company.
Google offers some examples of what good news you can expect: Backyard apiarists in East Detroit who are working to revive dwindling bee populations; How Iceland has reduced teen drinking; and how Georgia State University is helping students graduate on time.
The news items are selected by Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit, nonpartisan outfit that trains journalists in how to report stories about the ways people respond to problems and produce positive outcomes. The stories are curated from a wide range of outlets, and summarised by Solutions Journalism Network.
The feature is a timely arrival. We live in a time when much of the news is negative and disturbing, and some psychologists suspect that this type of sustained exposure could continue to societal levels of anxiety, stress, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. According to psychologist Dr. Graham Davey, if the news you’re exposed to emphasizes suffering and emotional stress, it could have a real impact.
More recently, a survey conducted in the US found that half of Americans say that exposure to bad news causes anxiety, stress, fatigue and insomnia.
A big difference is the way in which we now consume our news. Moving away from the era of the morning papers and the nightly news, stories often have shocking elements such as audio or video captured by eyewitnesses, and we’re exposed to these as we check our mobile devices throughout the day.
Google acknowledges that Tell Me Something Good will not be a silver bullet; a one shot cure-all for the cycle of bad news that seems to be a staple of modern life. Instead, the company says:
“It’s an experiment worth trying because it’s good info about good work that may bring some good into your day.”
Hopefully, it will take your mind off from the lawsuit Google is facing where it’s accused of tracking phone users’ locations, regardless of their privacy settings.