“The coronavirus has the world on edge,” says Mauro Gatti, creator of The Happy Broadcast, in a recent Instagram post. “Hopefully this collection of positive news will strengthen our hope.”
In many ways, The Happy Broadcast exists to counter crises like the one we are all living through right now. Mauro designed the account to be an uplifting addendum to an often overwhelmingly negative news feed, highlighting positive ways the world is changing, and introducing proactive methods for making a difference.
“While some people may be more susceptible to becoming ill than others, none of us are immune to the pervading sense of anxiety caused by this pandemic,” Mauro says. “[But] there are things we can keep in mind, and some practical steps we can take to keep coronavirus-related anxiety under control.”
The Happy Broadcast’s coronavirus response post noted that the last two temporary hospitals in Wuhan, China had been shut down due to low levels of infection; that distilleries had begun producing and providing their own hand sanitizer for free; and that a 103-year-old woman in Iran made a full recovery from her COVID-19 infection, among other bits of uplifting news to conjure the hope Mauro aims to foster.
Creating The Happy Broadcast
Things had been going well for Mauro in 2018. He had moved from his native Italy to Los Angeles, California to work as an illustrator and animator; he even won a Daytime Emmy for his work on the Netflix series Ask the Storybots. Despite his good luck, however, Mauro still found himself anxious a lot of the time—and he suddenly realized why.
“My diet was bad news,” he explains. “Sometimes I had a hard time going outside because the image of the world that was being depicted was often bleak and scary and dangerous.” Mauro quickly recognized his news diet was bad for his health. “I wanted to introduce more positive news [to my routine],” he says, “and that’s where art came in.”
That’s when Mauro created The Happy Broadcast, an Instagram account filled with good news to counteract the negativity. Each post features a story from somewhere in the world, paired with an illustration by Mauro to reflect its positive message. “I wanted to try to find a way to offer news with a quick caption and a drawing that is a message of positivity,” he says. “So, whether you read the news or not, you see the image and you already have a smile on your face.”
When it came to actually finding positive news stories, Mauro didn’t have to look very hard. “The funny thing is that most of these stories come from existing magazines and newspapers,” he says. “The problem is that they’re buried. They never make it to the front page.”
Though he made his work available online, Mauro says that at first, The Happy Broadcast was more of a personal project. “I was doing this because I wanted to find good news, and created this kind of exercise routine,” he explains. “The same way I would do meditation, I was doing this.”
Growing a Happy Broadcast community
The Happy Broadcast didn’t stay a pet project for long, however. The account began to pick up steam, with followers from all over the world commenting, tagging their friends, and thanking Mauro for his work. “I get messages from people saying, ‘I was very depressed last month, and reading your profile made me feel better,’” Mauro says. “It’s just the best feeling in the world.”
Soon, Mauro was expanding The Happy Broadcast’s output. “I started to add different formats and talk about topics like cyber bullying and climate change,” he says, “so it’s not just a place where you go to have your quick fix of positivity. There is also information, like pointers about trying to be less anxious.”
The Happy Broadcast’s followers also grew to take on a larger role in the project, submitting their own stories for Mauro to share and illustrate, and participating in lengthy discussions in the comments. That’s when the project became more of a community, and Mauro’s role began to shift. “My job is never really about posting or drawing,” he says of his current role. “It’s really spending hours and hours managing the community, channeling the conversation.”
The goal of The Happy Broadcast
After sharing positive stories and moderating discussions with followers around the globe, Mauro realized that he wasn’t just highlighting good news; he was also highlighting all the good people taking actions, big and small, to build a better world. He quickly recognized that The Happy Broadcast was doing much more than easing his anxiety—it was motivating him to take action himself. With that in mind, Mauro shifted his goal towards extending that motivation to others. “I want people to pick themselves up from depression and anxiety, and also understand that the only way to make change is by doing.”
And while his idea has always been to balance the negativity in the news with some positive stories, Mauro wants to be clear that he isn’t suggesting that we all ignore the world’s problems. “The core of the project is that change is not just going to come out of nowhere,” he says. “Yes, there are bad things. Yes, the coronavirus is scary. But [we can] counter that bleak picture with the stories of millions of people around the world who are doing something to change that.”
For Mauro, that idea is the most positive news of all. “People are going to tell you that there is no hope,” he says, “but there will always be hope as long as there is action.”