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 Year’s 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 it out, I’m going to end up in a 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 every day with a cloud of
self-induced self-pity hanging over them.
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, folks. 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?
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. 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, me too babes), 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
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
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 the 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? #thxglobalwarming.
You are allowed to get upset and get angry or have a complete breakdown.
Remember, though, if it storms every day 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.
Reminder: Many people 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. Love you all <3