2016 Is 'the Worst'? That's a First-World Problem

Seriously, was everything really that bad? Sam Sanders gives his take on NPR
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2016 11:07 AM CST
2016 Is 'the Worst'? That's a First-World Problem
It did seem crappy at times, though.   (Getty Images/Baloncici)

With the bookends of David Bowie dying and the deaths of Carrie Fisher and mom Debbie Reynolds—and Prince, George Michael, Brexit, and a contentious US election in between—Sam Sanders admits he, like many others, has taken to calling 2016 "the worst." But Sanders writes for NPR that while the past 12 months may indeed deserve a spot in the midst of a white-hot dumpster fire, 2016 may not have actually been as bad as all that—and "it surely can't be the worst year of all time," he notes. He runs through things that many Americans can be thankful for, including a recovering economy, our relatively safe existence, and, yes, for Trump supporters, a satisfying conclusion to Election 2016. Plus, much of the "'2016 is awful' rhetoric" was helped along by what Nikki Usher, a George Washington University media professor, calls "ambient journalism," a nonstop engagement with online news and headlines via social media that basically, "over time … becomes an assault."

"Every five minutes, another sad headline, another Twitter mention or fight, another shared link on Facebook, another push notification. Another hit," Sanders writes. Combine that with this year's seemingly prevailing narrative—that of "a nation, and even a world, completely and disastrously divided, perhaps beyond repair"—and it's easy to see why 2016 has earned its black-sheep status on the calendar. "Lots of crappy, bad things happen every year, but you aren't told over and over again that this just shows us how bad everything is," Usher notes. There's also the medium of the Internet itself, often used "ironically, with hyperbole, and usually, with a wink and a nod" by people who are privileged enough to have access to it, University of Southern California professor Robert Hernandez notes. "Let's … acknowledge that saying 2016 is the worst on Twitter says more about the tweeter, and the medium, than perhaps about the year itself," Sanders says. His full take here. (Read more opinion stories.)

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