Monday, August 11, 2008

Is Negativity Our National Default?

As a blogger and a YouTube poster, I am constantly opening myself up to all kinds of criticism from outside sources. And since everyone has the ability to post comments on this blog, or to rate my videos, I am often the target of nasty or negative attacks that have little or nothing to do with me or the media I create. More often than not, I think negative commentary has more to do with the person writing it than the actual subject matter they are supposedly writing about.

And before you begin to think I imagine myself above criticism, I humbly admit that I am not. In fact, I think I am probably on e of my harshest critics, with a terrible tendency to review my older postings or earlier videos with such stern scrutiny that I eventually forget what made me think they were ever any good to begin with. Instead of instilling them with some kind of nostalgic naiveté, and forgiving myself for any blatant lapses of judgment or taste, I instead pick apart my errors like a vulture picks apart the bones of a dead buffalo. Or a dead antelope. Or Tara Reid, who is actually not dead, though her career certainly appears to be.

The point is, in today’s tumultuous times, there seems to be a growing tendency to respond to everything around us with unbridled negativity. As if that has become the new attitude of choice, or a natural default, when it comes to giving our opinions. After all, it is so much easier to be negative and sarcastic than it is to be constructive or positive. Even I employ the use of sarcastic humor throughout my writing, so I am not claiming to be exempt from this issue. I do, however, have a very good excuse. My parents were both born and raised during the Great Depression, so they lived their lives with a fear of impending disaster that clearly rubbed off on me. And yet I also somehow acquired a very optimistic and positive inner self that always believes “everything will work itself out.” And so far, it has. I really have no complaints.

Except one. Negativity. Everyone suffers from it at some point in their lives. Either through words or actions, everyone has experienced the brunt of someone’s negativity. More often than not, you’ve probably also suffered because of your own negativity. (I know I have.) But it’s when someone’s consistent attitude is negative that I find it hard to tolerate.

I once worked with a woman who was so negative about everything (including the original “Willy Wonka” movie, which she thought was “just stupid), that I began avoiding any kind of contact with her. I once even tried to subtly point out her “slight” attitude problem, only to be given a ten minute lecture on why Meryl Streep always plays the same character with different accents. I’m still not sure what one had to do with the other, but it was certainly clear that my subtle suggestion had done nothing to penetrate the thick wall of obstinacy.

This is especially sad when it creeps into the attitudes of our tweens and teens, who appear to be some of the worst offenders when it comes to negative commentary. As if it is more fun to put something down than to embrace it. Or perhaps they are just exposed to so much information at a much earlier age, that they integrate those negative attitudes and stereotypes into their psyche without ever discovering for themselves whether or not they’re actually true. It’s sad to think we might be raising a generation of cynics, although I can’t say I blame them given the current state of our country. Or even the current state of the world.

And yet I remain optimistic. Why? Because I want to. I choose to. Because without optimism, I would be choosing to live an unhappy life. One that is sure to continually disappoint and disparage me. And I don’t intend to spend my time on this earth surrounded by a cloud of gloom. Even if the Government and the news media continue to perpetuate an atmosphere of fear and impending doom, I will strive to rise above it.

But that’s just me. What do you feel about the current state of negativity in the world?


Daisy said...

You are so right! I think we can choose to be positive and happy. I am lucky and have not gotten too many negative comments, but sometimes I am shocked at what I read. I mean, if you do not like cats, just read a different blog!

Mo said...

I do think we can choose to be positive to an extent.
Daisy and I have some blog friends - Merlin & Dragonheart, who are Sphynx hairless cats. The amount of awful comments that blog receives sometimes just astounds me.

I'm glad you're still optimistic. Today, I feel like a wrung-out sponge. I'm functioning, but also counting down the minutes 'til I can close the shop and not have to deal with the public anymore today and just be alone with the cats.

Lux said...

This is Luxor's mom: I think people have forgotten the Golden Rule. There's a lot to feel negative about these days, no doubt, but that's not the fault of most of the people around us. And certainly not the fault of someone posting on YouTube, etc. My hubby and I talk about this a lot, how mean people can be. One just wonders why ... ?

Debbie said...

I choose to go to the positive. Always have, it is how my brain functions at this point.

When parents hear about how well behaved their child is and respond with something to the effect of "you should see her/him at home", aren't they training that child to go to the negative? Perhaps we can start with our little ones.

Henson Ray said...

Daisy--I've been lucky too, in that my blog doesn't get too many negative responses (or really, any, that I can think of). But the videos on YouTube, which are exposed to many more people, sometimes gets a few less than desired comments, and usually they are made my teenagers or twenty-somethings...and usually by males that are into video games...not trying to generalize here, but those are the ones that seem to have most "issues" with my videos.

mo--the public can be a harsh critic...but don't give up on all of them. Even cats can't replace the need for human contact/interaction. At least for me.

lux--I agree. Not sure why all the anger and need to vent on innocent bystanders. But it certainly is prevalent whenever you get people together on the Internet. Someone will eventually want to rain on your just have to get a stronger umbrella, I guess.

debbie--you are so right. Often parents forget that things they say in front of their children can often unintentionally influence behavior. Even when they are little, they can still hear and feel and react. I remember a lot of "mature" issues I overheard when I was younger...and I certainly knew things about some of my neighbors and parents friends that I probably shouldn't have. Like the Sondheim song says "Be careful of what you say. Children will listen."

Carol said...

My personal favorites are those who pretty much ignore you/don't have much to say unless they believe you to be wrong on some minor point. Then they're oh, so happy seize the opportunity to point out just how wrong you are and why.

There's at least one in every crowd. And it's much easier to take pot shots from behind a computer screen.