If stories that restore your faith in humanity are your thing, or you're quick to click on a video with the words "heartwarming" or "inspiring," you might be a recreational good news porn addict.
But unlike other vices, we think this is one habit you don't have to kick. If done right, a good news porn addiction doesn't take hold of your life -- rather it empowers you to help improve others'.
Giving credit where it's due, this concept of good news porn was first introduced to me by HuffPost's senior Religion editor, Paul Raushenbush. He walked over to the HuffPost Impact and Good News section of our newsroom and said he'd written a piece called, "My Road to Recovery From Good News Porn." I was a bit concerned.
I've written good news for a living for eight months now, so you have to understand -- it alarmed me to find out that 1) I'm a professional pornography distributor and 2) People are trying to wean themselves off my product.
"Good news porn can be like sexual porn," Paul writes, "in that there is no real commitment, engagement or sacrifice involved. Good news is presented for our enjoyment, and when we are done, we can move on without any thought for those whose lives we just consumed."
I've read those lines a hundred times now and have come to this conclusion: Paul's right. But the porn isn't the problem. We are. Because we've let ourselves forget positive content's purpose.
Good news shouldn't be consumed merely to satiate our own emotional cravings. It should be consumed as a reminder that people in this world are working to make it a good one.
Good news is also covered so we can help its subjects' causes. It's covered so we can be inspired to follow suit. Good news can make you feel happy, yes, but you can use that happiness to make a change. And if you're not prepared to donate your time and money to a person or cause as Paul suggests (this is a great suggestion, by the way), you can digest good news in other ways. You can share a story with someone going through a struggle to let them know there's a light at the other end. You can make an effort to complain less about your own problems. You can choose to love more and to appreciate what you have. These are small changes, of course, but they can make a difference.
Somewhere along the way, we've lost sight of these missions, of the importance of good news. That's the real problem.
So when you consume good news porn -- when you consume any news coverage, really -- you have to make a choice: Will you spit out what you've seen, read, or watched five minutes from now or will you swallow the content and let it shape you?
When you watch a military homecoming video, will you think, "How nice! I feel happy," and click to something else, or will you use the video as a reminder that the men and women in those clips are mothers and fathers and wives and husbands who make sacrifices for their families, their countries, and for you?
When you read about someone's small act of kindness will you simply tweet the link, as to say, "Look! Good people exist!," or will you internalize that kindness and work to be a better person?
If you're addicted to good news porn, will you use the happiness it brings you and send it back into the world or will you keep it for yourself?
Here's my issue -- I don't want anyone to recover from a good news porn addiction. I'd argue it's the only addiction worth holding on to. But we have to learn how to use it properly.
Because without good news porn we run the risk of forgetting there's any good in the world at all. That's a risk I'm not willing to take.
And positive news coverage doesn't exist to trick you into believing the world is perfect.
Someone once commented on the HuffPost Good News Facebook page that our editors must live in a world of rainbows, pixie dust, and butterflies. How naive of us, this reader said, to ignore the real issues in the world, to pretend that serious problems don't exist. "Get your heads out of the clouds," was essentially this person's point.
But I think that person is missing a bigger point -- that celebrating the good in the world doesn't mean neglecting the bad and the ugly. Showcasing happy moments isn't the same thing as pretending sad ones don't exist. Highlighting what society is doing right isn't the same thing as ignoring what it's doing wrong. And pointing out triumph isn't equivalent to turning our heads to failure. That's why we cover good news.
It upsets me when people say our world is going to Hell because if we start to think that way, it surely will. If everyone were to 100-percent, no-if-ands-or-buts-about-it believe that the world is a bad place, what shot do we have at making it a good one? This may be the pixie dust talking, but I don't think anyone who's ever changed the world for the better truly believed that we had no chance at being good.
So everyday we read, watch, share and talk about good news porn. It's a reminder that the world isn't all that bad. Is there room for improvement? Always. Should we do more than read an article and think, "How nice" or "How awful" and be done with it? Of course. But are
a few a lot of people already making strides to turn their families, communities, countries (and themselves) into kinder-operating units? Absolutely.