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On Jan. 8, President Henry J. Eyring and Sister Kathy C. Eyring gave a devotional where they encouraged students to be optimistic about the world. It can be hard to be optimistic when daily headlines only highlight the worst.
“There is a growing trend among news purveyors to emphasize strife, sin and sorrow,” President Eyring said. “Even seemingly reputable news agencies are increasingly focused on the worst of human behavior.”
Although it can be a struggle to stay informed and be optimistic, the Political Affairs Society shared how they are able to do so.
“I stay optimistic with reading news by making sure that I balance out more harsh stories with more optimistic stories,” said Caitlin Cox, a freshman majoring in international studies. “I like following UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)… and seeing all the good the UN does. …There are still a lot of people that are doing really good things — you just have to look.”
For some students and faculty on campus, a variety of news sources can help put issues in perspective.
“When I read the news, I set up my Apple news feed so (it has) a bunch of different news sites,” said Max Erickson, a sophomore studying economics. “It prevents me from getting bombarded by one side and being really angry and outraged.”
By being educated on different sides of an issue, students can be more optimistic.
“Read from the buffet,” said Stephen Henderson, a communication professor with years of experience in the news industry, “If you are only sticking to the pasta line or the jello salad line or the meat and potatoes line, you’re not getting the whole buffet.”
Henderson explained that news has become more “siloed,” meaning that — thanks to social media and algorithms — people are more likely to surround themselves with news articles that reflect their own views as opposed to a variety of perspectives. This can be harmful and perpetuates a less optimistic outlook.
“If you want to have a better outlook on life,” Henderson said, “read everything that’s out there, and then the one agency’s spin of some idea is not going to feel so isolating.”
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“There are still a lot of people that are doing really good things — you just have to look.”
Jill Kirkham, a faculty member in the political science department, compared clashes between groups over current issues to a couple arguing about where to go for dinner. Even though they argue, both have the same end goal — food. In the end, issues aren’t the result of one person but of a system.
“When I think about things being beyond any one person’s control … it doesn’t make me feel less optimistic,” Kirkham said, “it makes me feel more sympathetic.”
The gospel and an eternal perspective can also help students and faculty keep a positive mindset.
“I understand that horrible things happen to a lot of people and there is reason to mourn that … but if we get bogged down in mourning that loss, then we won’t take the steps to prevent it in the future,” said Nicholas Loosle, a senior studying political science. “As Latter-day Saints we have that unique perspective (that) these are the signs of the times … so of all the people in the world we should be the ones that take them in stride.”
Stories can also carry an optimistic influence. There is a unique power in story telling, for better or worse. But sharing stories that highlight positive and accurate aspects of the world and the people in it encourages optimism.
“When you get into millions or billions it just all sounds like numbers,” Kirkham said,“but when you talk about the story of one … that can make you move to action.”
Scroll strives to contribute to optimism by publishing uplifting, inspiring stories and highlighting the good that takes place among the people on campus everyday.
“It seems like the students are trying to figure out what stories will get read, which is part of many industries,” Henderson said. “But beyond that they’re looking for stories that are positive, uplifting and inspiring.”
In the end, students can stay optimistic yet informed by reading from a variety of sources, keeping a gospel perspective and choosing to focus on good stories.