The Cynicism Blanket: Toxic Negativity in the Online World

I wrote a post on Toxic Positivity because that is what I find very prevalent in the spiritual world. A lot of rah-rah-We-so-happy-clappy

But I found a bit of dissatisfaction with the post; though the spiritual world is sickeningly positive, the wider world is constantly and toxically negative:

  • Most social media is full of constant attacks, attempts to “cancel” the other side and spreading of fake news
  • Most commentary/reviews of books are harshly negative. I’ve stopped watching movie reviews on YouTube as they are full of useless nitpicking, trolling or attempting to start a “culture war” over a minor 10 second scene in a 2 hour movie
  • News, especially on TV channels, is full of constant The-sky-is-falling scare mongering, or constant demonising the other political side. Much of it isn’t even news anymore but opinion masquerading as facts.
  • Most companies/work places have a very doom-and-gloom outlook, a culture of blame and pushing problems under rugs.
  • Relationships, especially romantic, are full of blaming and expecting the worst.

The last two things are particularly harmful. So many relationships fail due to a very negative and entitled opinions of both partners. And people blame their work environment for all their problems, not realising that by just complaining and moaning they are a part of the problem.

(Related: It isn’t your job’s role to make you happy [LINK])

The harm of this negativity to our society and health

The harms to our society are very clear in the social media age: People spend their time moaning and bitching online but don’t take any steps to fix the issues.

And people living in first world countries in all the comforts now feel they are living in the worst of times, how there is no hope for humanity etc etc

And this is leading to mental problems like depression, low self-esteem, insomnia, substance abuse. And it is leading to new problems like the incel culture.

The Cynicism Blanket

And that’s when I saw this great interview of Chris Williamson. He introduced me to the concept of the cynicism blanket– like babies have a favourite blanket, most people use cynicism as a blanket to hide behind the world that so scares them.

Below is an excerpt:

Key extract: If I tell myself everything is shit then I’m excused of ever having to try anything. Hope is pathetic, optimism is delusion

I recommend watching the whole thing.

And this is the problem with most of modern negativity– it’s an excuse not to do anything, not to try anything risky, just hide behind cynicism. Ooh, it’s all shit, so why bother doing anything?

Roosevelt’s quote is also very relevant, though he said it more than a 100 years ago:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Toxic Negativity and Toxic Positivity are the same thing

Both of these mental traps come from trying to ignore our emotions. Toxic Positivity cannot stand anything negative emotion so tries to pretend it doesn’t exist. But as the saying goes If you don’t live with reality, reality will come and live with you

Toxic Negativity, on the other hand, only sees the bad in everything and everyone. It fails to see the beauty in the human mind and will, our hope in the face of overwhelming odds, and how many humans face insurmountable challenges every day and still thrive. It really is a childish comfort blanket people can hide behind when they don’t want to face the truth about themselves.

Both of these deny genuine emotions, trying to replace them with a simple-but-stupid mindset that only leads to depression and grief.

I believe the Toxic Positivity in the spiritual world is a reaction to all the cynicism in the world, but taken to an idiotic extreme. So instead of Boo the world is ending everything sucks we jump to a Yay! Everything is puppies and flowers, don’t talk about death it depresses me

Practical Tips for Avoiding Toxic Negativity

1st of all, watch this video:

No, seriously, watch it. Hans Rosling is a great speaker and makes excellent points about how the number of people living in extreme poverty has halved. That’s not the interesting thing– the interesting thing is the majority of people he interviewed thought it had doubled.

And this is the negativity bias– for all the questions he asked, people assumed the world was getting worse, when in fact, it is getting better. Extreme starvation level poverty is down, vaccination and education is up; and yet, most people including the media think the opposite and keep repeating stories of doom and gloom.

And this is one of the rules of thumbs he teaches– when in doubt, assume the world is getting better, not worse.

Take the White Pill

I learnt this term from Michael Malice– he said we should take the white pill:

If you haven’t seen the Matrix, Neo is asked to choose between the Red and Blue pill. The blue pill keeps him imprisoned in the Matrix while the Red pill wakes him up.

Similarly, the black pill is the doom-and-gloom view that everything is fucked, the world is doomed and we can do nothing about it.

The White pill is the hopeful position, that there is hope even in the face of extreme depravity and evil. And this is what separates the White Pill from Toxic positivity or spiritual bypassing. You see the evil in the world, you even accept it, and yet you are still hopeful for the future.