Let’s Not Doomspread Loneliness Writing constructively isn’t hard: put solutions up top in the lede. Why wait until you’ve beaten us up already?

This Quanta story by Marta Zaraska follows the classic doomspreading journalistic model so you’ll have to scroll right to the bottom to find the work that is being done to help support people who feel chronic loneliness, but, if you can avoid getting caught in the cheap attention trap, it’s an interesting read.

Example of anxiety-inducing sensationalist doomspreading:

10 hours without social contact is enough to elicit essentially the same neural signals as being deprived of food 🤮

Example of constructive storytelling, from the last two paragraphs in the article:

While interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy, promoting trust and synchrony, or even ingesting magic mushrooms could help treat chronic loneliness, transient feelings of solitude will most likely always remain part of the human experience. And there is nothing wrong with that, Tomova said.

She compares loneliness to stress: It’s unpleasant but not necessarily negative. ‘It provides energy to the body, and then we can deal with challenges,’ she said. 🥰

In the last 432 words of their 2,000 word article, Marta Zaraska covers four possible solutions for chronic loneliness (which I’ve bolded) and offers a comforting arm around the shoulder for the rest of us.

But how many people will read that far? The first 1,500 words are, by and large, doomspreading, explaining why chronic loneliness is a terrible thing and how difficult an emotion it is for scientists to study, let alone treat.

Take note, journalists, all — writing constructively isn’t hard. It doesn’t even mean removing the darker details, but why not put solutions and that arm around the shoulder up top in the lede? Why wait until you’ve beaten us up already?

I sort of don’t want to know the answer to that question.

If you notice a journalist who opens with doomspreading, do yourself a favour and skip ahead to read the final paragraphs first.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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