Sometimes I stare at my Twitter feed or my Facebook stream, and wonder what would happen if our descendants (I imagine them all to be fabulous archeologists and historians), while doing their research, stumbled across the social media footprints we left in the early 21st century. What would they think of us, and how we viewed our lives? Because from what I can tell, the messages we put out into the ether seem to skew towards being fully exasperated by our children, incensed at their teachers, annoyed at the general public, hating our political leaders (or those who dare try to unseat them), irked at our incapable partners and just generally spending our days experiencing some form of outrage.
But here's the thing: I don't buy it.
I don't mean to suggest that there aren't people who are experiencing real, deep pain, loss or struggle -- I'm not that cavalier, and will always feel empathy with those who are making their journeys the best ways they can. Those serious issues aside, however, I do believe that at some point in our culture, it became cool to complain. That somehow, we became convinced that sharing how miserable our lives are -- with a wink and a wry smile, if we can manage it -- makes us more attractive. That expressing our disgust and dismay at things, with complete hubris and without considering how that expression might affect our friends, family and loved ones, is somehow "brave" and "authentic." That public suffering and humiliation is entertainment.
So I'm officially going to call bullshit on this -- and I'm going to do it for two reasons:
1) As tough as life is, I don't believe that life is simply miserable moment followed by miserable moment. I do believe, that even during the toughest, most soul-sucking times, there are moments of love, and kindness, and generosity, and understanding. And I also believe that tending to ignore those moments while we're in the throes of challenges doesn't make them cease to exist.
2) I think expressing our anger, disgust, dismay and annoyance publicly and incessantly just breeds more anger, disgust, dismay and annoyance. I think our general outlook is similar to our bodies: our ability to look at the negative, if exercised like a muscle, gets stronger and more robust, to the point where all we can see is negative. (And I think this is true, even if we try to wrap up these expressions with a wink and wry smile, even if we think we're being funny or entertaining. Negativity is insidious this way.) And if all we see is negative, then happiness and joy necessarily make their departures.
The good news, I think, is that the same is true for our ability to look at the positive: if exercised, this capability gets strong and more robust, to the point where we are able to find hope and gratitude even in the toughest situations. To be clear: I am not saying that we shouldn't express frustration or anger or annoyance -- I'm simply saying that perhaps it makes sense to be circumspect when we do. Relying on trusted friends for help is never a bad thing. Asking for assistance -- even on the internet! -- is often a good thing. But I think there's a stark difference between seeking comfort and assistance to get through tough times, and bitching on the internet for the sake of bitching. And I think the latter, while possibly giving us a shot of immediate solace, is far more damaging to our psyches in the long run than we can even begin to understand.
So this week, I thought I'd focus my top 10 list on how to exercise that positivity muscle a little bit. For me, Chookooloonks has primarily been a place where I try to make sure I focus on the positive, and having done this for a while now, I find that the practice has spilled over into my offline life as well, generally making feel a much happier person. And I do love to share the happy.
top 10 ways to put more good out into the world
1. Wish people a good day, or a happy moment on Facebook or on Twitter. Just because.
2. Write a post or a Facebook update about a moment in your day that you were grateful for.
3. Share a video that has an awesome message or a positive story.
4. When you're out in public, sneakily (yet respecfully) take a photograph of someone who you think looks amazing -- great style, say, or simply glows. Share it on Twitter. In other words, gossip the good stuff.
5. Share the blog posts or Facebook updates written by someone who has taken the time to share positive content.
6. Find positive news stories in the mainstream media (CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, New York Times, etc.), and be sure to share them and link to them.
8. When a celebrity does something you think is noteworthy or amazing or selfless, compliment them publicly online (so many of them have Twitter accounts). So many celebrities either get rabid fanmail or criticism: sending them a public note of encouragement for inspiring behaviour will definitely be noticed and appreciated.
9. If you do write something online because you are bothered by an issue or are otherwise experiencing something difficult, be circumspect: for example, posit a solution, or invite sincere assistance. Be wary of inadvertently encouraging the gathering of torches and pitchforks, unless you are honestly trying to galvanize those who read your post for the specific purpose of creating positive change.
10. Take a photograph of something beautiful. Share it online.
And finally, even though I've shared this video before (and relatively recently, too) someone reminded me today about it, and I feel like it's worth sharing again: Shawn Achor makes my point better than I do, I think.