Written by: Cat Butrick
Art by: Alyssa Luongo
I’m fucking tired of being positive. I’m tired of trying to find the silver lining of every situation. I’m definitely tired of being the rational and optimistic person in every argument. I want to be angry. I want to drop my ice cream cone after just buying it and be able to say, “fuck this shit” instead of telling myself “this won’t matter in ten days, ten weeks, or ten years, so it’s not worth your anger.” I want to be a pessimistic, “the holidays are just an excuse for people to be greedy,” “your New Years’ resolution isn’t going to last two weeks into January,” “stop telling yourself they are going to call, you just look desperate at this point” bitch, and I don’t want to feel guilty for it. But here I am, laying in bed with “Sorry” by Beyonce playing (the original demo obvi), knowing that this complaining is doing nothing but perpetuating my misery, and if I don’t cut this shit out, I’m going to end up in a deep ass negativity hole that will take me far longer to climb out of than if I pull it together right now.
Now I’m not a ball of rage because it’s the beginning of hell week as I write this and I’m dissociating and I just started my period. I’m angry because I spent the last week trying to be the poster child for positive thinking and mindfulness. Yep, you read that right. I spent Thanksgiving break, aka the week notorious for being confrontational, trying to approach every situation without allowing a single negative thought to stay in my brain for more than five seconds. So yeah, I’m drained.
They don’t tell you about the mental exhaustion that comes with mindful thinking on those cute little instagram graphics that your random follower shares on their story. They don’t tell you that people will constantly berate you for your choice to be more aware of your thoughts and how they affect you. They don’t tell you that you will want to scream in someone’s face because you can’t comprehend how they can live their everyday with a cloud of self-induced self-pity hanging over them. Noooo come on. That would negate the purpose of the warm yellows and oranges and pinks that dominate the photo. We’ve all heard of color theory at least once right? If not, please look it up because you are being manipulated on a daily basis but that’s an entirely different story.
No, the precious social media graphics only show you the basics, the easy positives. They don’t tell you how to stay optimistic when arguing with a family member for the eighteenth time on a topic you two can’t (and probably won’t) ever agree on (although you probably should). Instead your feed is flooded with quotes like “You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind” and “The number one tool to reach your goals is to train your mind to be positive.” Okay life coach. Thank you, that was not helpful at all.
So if these suggested techniques and wannabe inspirational tools don’t really work, why do they still dominate social media?
You’ll never guess folx, it’s all a marketing technique. In 2013, Facebook conducted a study that analyzed the effect of emotion on posting habits. By examining over three million posts on users’ news feeds, the company discovered that positive posts influenced people to post positive content, negative posts influenced them to post negative content, and an absence of emotion in a post led to less posting overall. This study supports the notion of “emotional contagion” explored by James H Fowler and Nicholas A Christakis in 2008. Humans have a proclivity to embody the emotions of others. Ever wonder why you want to smile when you see someone absolutely beaming? Or why you feel the urge to cry when others are tearing up? No? Alright bitch, we get it; you think being non-empathetic is a personality trait and an excuse to be a shitty human being. Moving on.
With this concept in mind, let’s turn back to social media. What is the main goal of social media? To share information. And how do we measure how many people are roughly exposed to the information we share? With the number of followers we have. So obviously, as humankind has done for all of history, we have taken this simple concept and transformed it into a complicated phenomenon that has resulted in competition and insecurity and superiority complexes. The psychologists analyzed it, and then the marketers picked it up and filled our heads with subliminal messaging before we even realized it was happening.
In this case, the messaging comes to us in the form of those fucking positivity quotes. As we have already decided, everyone hates these and they do absolutely nothing to actually improve our lives. And yet, you know you are going to see at least one on your feed today because as Facebook so graciously revealed to us after manipulating our feeds and harvesting our data for personal gain, positivity=popularity, so yeah. You are going to see that annoying ass quote or graphic because these posts spur engagement and we all want more engagement with our profiles, so even though we probably don’t practice what we preach and have absolutely no business sharing half of these things, we are going to retweet them or put them on our stories and the black hole of “positivity” will continue to devour every ounce of legitimate joy in this world.
Now y’all know my Aquarius ass could stop right here and then get offended when you tell me I can’t complain without providing a solution. But I’m trying to be more “evolved” and less of a know-it-all, so here we go:
Just like every middle class, white suburban mom hangs up a “Live, Laugh, Love” sign in her house, these positivity posts are based on good intent. Experiencing emotions is cool and something I hope you are all doing (but I totally understand if you’re not hmu), and changing your mindset can actually benefit you long-term. But having a “positive” mindset isn’t going to get you anywhere but frustrated. Practicing a growth mindset is where it’s at.
A growth mindset, unlike a positive mindset, is usually reflection based. Whereas a positive mindset will invalidate your current emotion, a growth mindset will acknowledge it and then ask what changes can be made so you don’t feel that way as frequently. A growth mindset can also be referred to as a warmth mindset.
Now recognize altering the way you think on a daily basis ain’t easy, especially if you aren’t taken care of physically. William James is famous for the question, “Are you crying because you’re sad or are you sad because you’re crying?” He breaks down life into four staples that, if standards are not met, will lead to feeling shitty: food, movement, touch, sleep. Now here is time for some self reflection. Are you actually eating well? Are you doing something outside for at least thirty minutes a day? (I say outside because you gotta get that good ol’ fashion sun juice to trigger daddy serotonin). Are y’all even interacting with any other humans? ARE YOU SLEEPING? I know most of y’alls answers anyways, so here is what I have to say to you: Get your shit together. Go outside. Hug someone. Please sleep. Stop eating like a gamer. And recognize that any mindset is like climate. Yes, overall Burlington winters are cold and dark and sad, but can we have the occasional fifty degree sunny day? Ya of course #thxglobalwarming. Climate vs. weather. Look it up people. You are allowed to get upset and get angry or have a complete breakdown.
Own your thunderstorm! Remember, though, if it storms everyday then you are going to have some flooding and pretty severe property damage, so try to reel it in. Feel your feels. Embrace them, but don’t dwell on them. Reflect. What is causing these emotions? How can you make changes in your life to avoid feeling this way as frequently? Practice some goddamn introspection for once before you go blaming every other person and thing in your life for your unhappiness. And for all the people making you genuinely upset, send ‘em my contact info. I’d say give them my address, but I’m in Spain as y’all are reading this, and we all know my little white ass can’t fight for shit, and I need time to formulate my comebacks. Luv u all <3
Reminder: Many people do suffer from legitimate mental conditions such as depression and anxiety. This piece is not meant to act as a long-winded “just stop being sad” post. Anyone who says that is a coward AND a fool. This article is for all y’all (myself included) who have been a bunch of negative biotches for too damn long and are trying to improve your mindset and overall well being. I am not a medical professional, and I suggest you be concerned if I ever become one. Thank you. Good day.