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.