Maybe 2016 wasn’t so bad

Predictably, perhaps, we’ve waited until the last couple of days of 2016 to apply the brakes to the “2016 is the worst year ever” movement.

I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy — today — so this video today reaffirmed something I’ve long believed: If something’s getting done, it’s probably science.

By the way, wild salmon are spawning in the Connecticut River for the first time since the American Revolution.

On this subject of “worst year ever”, however, Sam Sanders of NPR writes today that maybe we should just get over it.

The year was not nearly as bad as the Internet wants you to believe.

Nikki Usher, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, calls this recent phenomenon “ambient journalism,” or “when you’re constantly plugged in through social media and you’re constantly online and engaged in some way.”

And that — that constant bumping into news and online discord, that constant engagement — over time, it becomes an assault.

Every five minutes, another sad headline, another Twitter mention or fight, another shared link on Facebook, another push notification. Another hit. And even if the news isn’t even explicitly about us, trust, we’re still taking a hit.

And, Usher says, besides that aggression of immediacy, a lot of the headlines we consumed this year, particularly about the election, pushed a certain narrative: a nation, and even a world, completely and disastrously divided, perhaps beyond repair.

“Lots of crappy, bad things happen every year,” she says, “but you aren’t told over and over again that this just shows us how bad everything is.” And for Usher, there’s no escape. “Usually there are realms where there are types of coverage that provide a break in the kind of narrative of disrepair.”

Part of the problem of assessing the year seems to involve the fact the things that get our attention are narrowing, so our assessment of the year excludes a fair number of legitimate benchmarks.

Ebola was eradicated in 2016, but people stopped caring about Ebola around here when the polls closed on Election night in 2014. It’s often hard to celebrate that which so many people went out of their way ignore, despite its importance.

We should change that in 2017.

  • MikeB

    I need more science in my information diet

  • Jeffrey

    It’s nice to hear that my hunch was correct. Spending a great deal of time on social media gives you the impression that everything is falling apart. I have little to no social media presence, so I am finding that I more optimistic than many of my friends.
    There are genuine issues that raise concerns, but the people that I know that spend a great deal of time on social media seem to be in a constant state of uproar or outrage over something.

    • Rob

      Things are generally falling apart; over-indulgence in social media just leads to an exaggerated sense as to the extent to which things are falling apart.

  • Anna

    I’ve made myself a pledge to just make an effort to take care of my small corner of the world.

    Several things give me hope for 2017.

    My first grandchild will be arriving sometime at the end of June. I wish the kid was here already but you can’t rush Mother Nature.

    At least one of my family members is having some doubts about a Trump presidency, especially his obsession with Twitter. Trumps twittering drives my oldest brother nuts. I definitely agreed with him that Trump is shaking up the Washington establishment but stopped short of saying the man is going about it the wrong way.

    My “The sky is falling” sister is calling less often (as in once a month instead of once a week) so I don’t have to listen to her rants about her co-workers, the choir members in her church choir and her irrational hatred of soon to be former President, Barack Obama. My blood pressure is almost back to normal levels.

    Minnesota still has Mark Dayton as governor for the next two years and I think he can keep the leash tight on a Republican-controlled legislature.

    “Grey skies are gonna clear up. Put on a happy face!”

    • Kassie

      If Mark Dayton is our savior, we are screwed.

      • Anna

        You are entitled to your opinion and I will defend to the death your right to express it.

        • Kassie

          Seriously, I’m as liberal as one can be, but have no faith in him keeping the Republicans under control. He let’s his emotions get in the way of negotiations. Government Shutdown 2017 here we come!

  • Rob

    I would argue that optimism and pessimism serve no useful purpose, so let’s get past this “glass half full/glass half empty” construct. The realist’s answer to whether the glass is half-full or half-empty is “Yes, it is.” Some developments will be good, some will be bad, and some will be mixed. Let’s try to see them as they are.

    • I feel a little bad for people who think celebrities won’t be dying anymore starting on Sunday.

      • Rob

        I read on the Intertube that God has declared a moratorium on celebrity deaths for 2017…

    • Bob Sinclair

      An engineer would say that the glass is the wrong size.

  • Kit Kimberly

    I guess it wasn’t so bad if you’re a privileged white man.

    For the rest of the world, it was pretty disastrous :/

    • Or a person in danger of contracting ebola.

      • Kit Kimberly

        Yeah, b/c having a misogynist racist sociopath as the leader of the “free world” is going to work out so well for them.

        • Right. I guess it comes down to what parameters you use to evaluate something. In this case, it’s the election and only the election. Fair enough.

          • Kit Kimberly


            Yeah, b/c living in a country where a majority either WANTS a misogynist racist sociopath for president, or doesn’t care enough to try to stop him, is so comforting.

            I lived in Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic for 7 years. I have friends who lived that society where they couldn’t trust their neighbours, their bosses, even their immediate family.

            It destroyed a whole generation.

            And now we will have it here.

            Your deliberate disingenuousness is part of the problem :/

          • Anything good happen to you this year? Personally, that is. Or was it just garbage start to finish?

      • Kassie

        I need to learn more about the ebola vaccine. Putting that on my to-do list. I fear that it will be a lot like the life saving AIDS drugs that have come out that took so long to get to the people who really needed them in Africa and other poor countries. I’m hoping the people who need it will get it for free.

      • DavidG

        I think the “ebola is eradicated” overstates the situation. As far as I can tell, what they declared was the current outbreak in Liberia was over. There is still the very real possibility that new outbreaks could occur, and not just in Liberia.

        I haven’t read enough about the vaccine that was just announced to comment on that.

  • Rob

    Every cloud has a silver lining, but it might just be the result of deadly radiation.

  • >>The year was not nearly as bad as the Internet wants you to believe.<<

    Well, I started 2016 by putting my 20 year old dog to sleep (in January), and ended 2016 by putting my other dog to sleep…(on Monday)…

    So there's that…

  • Tyler

    I think everyone is entitled to interpret the year based on their experiences. In my family, my brother in law survived testicular cancer and we dealt with a miscarriage. Plus, in my opinion, the election sucked. So 2016 can bite me.