Beliefnet
Inspiration Report

Lately, the news has become a major source of anger and sadness for many of us. With the shadow of war, ongoing political strife, destructive weather, and shocking violence making up the majority of what we read and watch on the news, it’s no wonder we’re overwhelmed by it all.

Maybe that’s why the internet went nuts when a decidedly cute, yet mysterious, message appeared on news outlet NPR’s Facebook feed, written by editor Christopher Dean Hopkins. Normally, NPR is a strong, steady outlet with responsible, thoughtful pieces on current events and cultural trends.

However, this particular post reads as follows.

“Ramona is given a new toy: Smiles, examines for 20 seconds, discards.

Ramona gets a hug: Acquiesces momentarily, squirms to be put down.

Ramona sees three cats 30 feet away: Immediately possessed by shrieking, spasmodic joy that continues after cats flee for their lives.”

About twelve minutes later, Mr. Hopkins posted a retraction, which read, “Edit: This post was intended for a personal account. We apologize for the error.”

But it was too late. The damage was done. People were happy, and they didn’t want an apology.

The cat was out of bag. They wanted more Ramona.

Over the next few days, the post received tens of thousands of likes—over 87,000, to be precise. To put this in perspective, NPR’s Facebook posts normally have likes that are limited to the hundreds.

Speculation ran rampant, with most assuming Ramona to be an adorable cat. But Hopkins quickly dispelled this. Ramona turned out to be not a cat, but the next best thing—his own squirmy, cat-loving baby daughter.

The enthusiasm continued on, unabated.

“This is so much better than the depressing news lately. Can Ramona update be a new NPR feature?” wrote one commenter. “This was a great mistake,” wrote another. Still more commenters wrote variations of “Where do we sign up for future Ramona updates?”

Even the Houston Zoo got in on the action, posting a picture of a couple of cheetah cubs above the question, “How’s Ramona this morning? Asking for a friend.”

As cute and funny as this fortunate accident was, it points to a major deficiency in our news coverage right now—we need happiness. We need the respite, laughter, and inspiration that can only come from the “shrieking spasmodic joy,” of sweet figures like Ramona.

Many of us have found ourselves glued to the screen or the page over the past months, and perhaps this is just the wake-up call we’ve needed—the ringing bell that announces that “Hey, there really is still some good in the world.

The power of cute, happy images and well-described stories is well-documented. One Japanese study, published in the journal, PLoS ONE, demonstrated that exposure to happy images, including cute puppies and kittens, has a huge effect on not only mood, but also on concentration and attention.

Over the course of 132 experiments, they found that participants’ performance improved on detail-oriented tasks after looking at these images. So, for those of you who need a more practical reason to smile, the physical and psychological effects are wonderful.

The effects of constant stress? Not so much—therein lies a host of health problems that far too many of us deal with.

Life is serious, but you don’t have to be. NPR’s Ramona post may have been a mistake, but you can intentionally continue to bring that kind of happiness into your life by seeking it out. There are, in fact, inspirational publications out there that fill the happy niche—places like the Good News Network, Happy News, and of course, Beliefnet.

We need happiness. Joy isn’t a distraction, or a weakness, or naiveté. It’s simply a necessity. The instant response of over 87,000 people clamoring for more Ramona speaks to this much better than words or statistics ever could.

So, serious news-watchers of the world: free yourself. Look up those cats. Watch that video of Shia LeBouf screaming at you that “you can do it.” Take a few moments each day to give up the constant influx of nightmares that the news has become, and give in to the happy.

For now, NPR’s post has been replaced by Hopkins’s apology, the original words that charmed so many, gone. But the question remains: will we be seeing more of Ramona?

“I suppose if people keep promising to pledge to NPR and it doesn’t distract from the very good work our NPR journalists do, we’ll see,” Hopkins wrote.

Seeing that at least one commenter, whose comment received over a thousand likes, wrote “I’m increasing my donation,” it’s safe to say that we may very well see some news of a happier sort on NPR in the near future.

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