It’s no secret that our current newscycle is often a fiery hellscape, to put it gently. In fact, it’s something so well-known that Google Assistant has rolled out a new feature that can be prompted by saying, “Hey Google, Tell Me Something Good.” (While we’re at it...Alexa, play “Tell Me Something Good” By Rufus and Chaka Khan.)
Announced in a blog post Tuesday, the new Google Assistant feature will share a brief summary of a positive news story when a user prompts it with the simple phrase, “Tell me something good.” The new feature works on any Google Assistant-enabled device, whether it’s your Google Home, your laptop, or your mobile device. So, while you’re keeping up with what’s going on in the world, you can also stay informed about the good things that are happening in spite of and to counteract the bad.
What kind of good news will Google Assistant share? Basically, any kind of story in which people are working to positively affect change in the world. For example, according to the Google blog post, the good news could be how Georgia State University stopped students from “slipping through the cracks” and close achievement gaps between black and white students by pairing statistics with empathy. It could also be about backyard beekeepers in Detroit who are helping to bolster the decreasing bee population. Basically, news stories about people doing good that make you feel good.
The curated good news stories come from Solutions Journalism Network. They’re a nonpartisan, not-for-profit working with journalists to highlight how people are solving problems, rather than just reporting on the problems themselves. As their mission statement says, “We seek to rebalance the news, so that every day people are exposed to stories that help them understand problems and challenges, and stories that show potential ways to respond.”
Of course, Google knows this new feature won’t fix all our current problems or suddenly make all bad news bearable. As Google Lab Creative Producer Ryan Burke writes in a blog post for the new feature, “‘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.”
Staying informed is a crucial part of being an engaged citizen. However, it can mentally, emotionally, and even physically exhausting to constantly read about the bad things happening around the world. In fact, some studies have reported a rise in “headline stress disorder,” which is, as the name suggests, news cycle-induced stress. You likely don’t need to look further than your own after-work habits to know the news is making us drink more, it’s making us feel more anxious and more depressed. So, rather than inundating our screens and, in turn, ourselves with disheartening news, Google Assistant's new feature works to remind us that good things are still happening.
Google Assistant’s new feature joins other news-related initiatives working to combat our news cycle exhaustion. The Huffington Post has a whole Good News section on their site, reporting on everything from the silly to the sincerely awesome. Business models of sites like UpWorthy and Good.Is focus on people doing positive things, showcasing stories that exemplify positive change. Even Mr. Rogers’ suggestion to “look for the helpers” is an example of seeing the good in the bad.
It would be ignorant to suggest we stop paying attention to bad news altogether. We need to know what’s going on in the world, the problems that affect us and our neighbors. Like, Lin-Manuel Miranda says, “I think it’s important to eat your vegetables and I think it’s important to eat your dessert. By which I mean, if you go down the wormhole with reading the worst news all the time, you’re not going to be of any use to anyone.” So, eat your news veggies, but don’t forget to treat yourself to something good after.