Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Is Negativity the New Default?

In some circles, it’s trendy to trash everything and anything — regardless of its merits. Things have been that way for as long as I can remember.

But these days, it seems that negativity has become the default reaction to just about every announcement, every pronouncement. In some cases, that negativity (or just a bit of skepticism) is justified. Most of the time, though, all the negativity that’s washing over the world seems like people venting or projecting their dislike of the world or of themselves outward. Or they’re falling into the trap of believing that if something isn’t right for them, then no one else will (or should) like it.

You see that a lot in comments on articles, blog posts, and forums. Often, it’s a knee-jerk reaction. But that knee-jerk reaction that issues from the keyboards of professional journalists and commentators, too.

Two examples come to immediately to mind. The first is the story of Leo Grand. In 2013, Grand was was living on the streets of New York and was befriended by programmer Patrick McConlogue. McConlogue made Grand an offer: give him $100 or teach him how to code. Grand went for the latter. McConlogue set Grand up with a Chromebook and some books on programming, and the two went to work.

When news of what Grand and McConlogue were doing broke, the condemnation was swift. Some commentators castigated McConlogue for his supposed arrogance in trying to help another human being. Some wags even suggested that there’d be a laptop for sale on the streets of New York in the coming days. But Grand and McConlogue showed them. Grand learned how to code. He released an app. And while he’s still living on the street (which highlights how difficult a problem homelessness is), Grand is still learning to program. His life has changed, though not in the way that many people hoped.

The second example is Pono, a music service started by Neil Young. Young initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the service and the creation of dedicated media players to go with it. That Kickstarter took in over six times its goal. Pretty impressive.

But that didn’t stop the naysayers. They proclaimed the players to be vapourware. That the service relies on an outdated business model, that the people who backed the Kickstarter are lemmings.

While it still remains to be seen whether or not Pono is viable, the success of the Kickstarter shows that more than a few people think the idea has merit. If it fails, it fails. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I get the impression that the spike in negativity that we’re seeing is the symptom of a deeper problem. Of people becoming more jaded, more skeptical, more dissatisfied with the world, with consumerism, with their own lives. There are a lot of unhappy, deeply unhappy people out there. They don’t know how to deal with their unhappiness except by lashing out.

To be honest, I don’t have any solution to this problem. While the constant negativity in our environment does get me down and makes me worry about humans as a species, I try not to let it get to me. I try not to let it gain a hold on me. I try not to fall into the trap of making negativity my default reaction to everything. It’s not easy, but in the words of Jules Winnfield I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.

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