Google looks to highlight positive news

The internet giant is offering a new tool for Google Assistant that elevates stories with a happier tone to counter a rising tide of depressing online content.

Does checking your news feed in the morning fill you with dread?

Google wants to change your relationship with the news by offering a new tool to bring more positive stories from around the internet to the top of your newsfeed. Even slicker, the company is using its new high-tech voice assistant to make your morning less dreary.

The Verge reported:

Designed to dole out a daily digest of positive stories simply, users can now just ask Google Assistant to “Tell me something good.” In Google’s terms, the company says many of us are wading in a “hope gap” — the idea that the more you focus on problems rather than the solutions, the more prone you are to feel fear and anxiety. The hope gap makes it easy to get trapped in a place where you can’t problem-solve.

Good news in the context of the Assistant isn’t uplifting empty calories à la Upworthy, but rather news that is focused on positive change happening out in the world. Google calls this “solutions journalism,” and it is meant to spark dialogue about how to make things better, rather than wallowing in how everything is terrible. For example, “good news” includes stories like how a university eliminated achievement gaps between white and black students, and how Iceland used unique tactics to curb underage drinking.

Google is partnering with the Solutions Journalism Network, which has advocated for a new reporting model in newsrooms including NPR, Huffington Post and PBS to spread hope instead of fear.

The Verge continued:

The initiative falls in line with wider overtures across various tech companies that want to fix or improve the way we connect with each other on the internet. Both Facebook and Instagram now have tools that help you manage your time on social media, while Apple has made it easier for people to micromanage time spent on phones. Much discussion surrounding various platforms like YouTube and Twitter, meanwhile, are concerned with making sure users don’t walk away feeling depressed or burned out. Within that context, Google’s new feature comes across as another tech giant’s attempt to improve internet morale.

Google shared a video about the offering:

Experts say that there is good science behind trying to limit the negativity that everyday internet users encounter.

TechCrunch reported:

The feature arrives at a time when many people are feeling overwhelmed by the news, much of which is negative and troubling.

Some psychologists believe this sort of exposure may have long-lasting effects on mental health, contributing to stress, anxiety, depression, and even PTSD, in some cases. The impact may be greater if the news outlets you’re exposed to emphasize the suffering and emotional components of the stories they present, according to psychologist Dr. Graham Davey, who spoke to The Huffington Post about the topic back in 2015.

On social media, users seem ready for a change:

The feature could be an opportunity for PR pros and communicators with solutions to offer or good-news stories to share. It is also a signal that consumers are growing tired of infotainment that plays on their fears.

For Google, the good news is a happy break from complaints about its other problems, including secret plans to introduce a censor-friendly search engine for China. The feature also aims to satisfy users unsettled by misinformation on social media and a rise in distrust for online news sources.

Google says it hasn’t found the ideal formula to fix our public dialogues either. In a blog post announcing the feature it wrote:

“Tell me something good” isn’t meant to be a magic solution. But it’s an experiment worth trying because it’s good info about good work that may bring some good to your day. Give it a go yourself on any Assistant-enabled device, including your phone, Smart Display, or Google Home.

What do you think of Google’s new program, PR Daily readers?

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