Yes, I know, we're already close enough to February to make a new year's resolution at this point seem a bit silly. But from a mathematical standpoint we're only ~6% into the year so I'm willing to make an exception.
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You know the old adage, “If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all”? That's what my 2015 resolution is all about. If I had a personal "mission statement" for this year, it would go something like:
Eliminate as much cynicism and negativity from my life as possible.
That's it. No, really. I want to be a nicer, more optimistic person, and to have the most positive year ever. Hope that's not too much to ask!
You could totally stop reading here if you wanted. The rest of this piece will be a longer explanation of where I'm coming from and what led to this resolution. If you're not interested in that, then by all means go spend time with your family or drink too much wine with friends or whatever it is you like doing.
Enjoy your weekend :)
If you're still here...hi. I brewed some coffee, you're welcome to it. Ethiopia Sidama Homacho Waeno, lovely stuff.
What was I talking about again? Oh, right—cynicism. You know, the kind of baseline negativity some use as a lens with which to view the world, and directed towards others whether or not it's deserved. It's an attitude I've found is far too prevalent on the web.
Now, negativity between internet strangers is nothing new. I myself have produced a great deal of cynicism and contempt online over the years (to my deep shame and regret) and we've all witnessed various forms of it, whether or not we are personally involved or choose to speak up about it. One might say it comes with the territory of being a web denizen—after all, "anonymity is a double-edged sword."
And it doesn't end with our online interactions. We've all been cut off in traffic by someone, or been on the receiving end of some other rudeness from a stranger, that triggers an instantaneous reaction within us. We are (or at least I am) frighteningly quick [NSFW language] to place low value on the other person's intelligence and even their overall worth in the world. We do this knowing we have committed those same acts ourselves. It's always the other person who is clearly a criminal of society and deserves the harshest punishment.
That's not an attitude I wish to harbor anymore, nor is it the kind of legacy I want to leave. I don't want to soil my interactions with kneejerk cynicism, needless aggression, or constant second-guessing about everyone else's intentions. That's the stuff of adolescence, and I'm going on 30. More importantly, I want my son to grow up having a positive outlook on the world. I can't very well help him with that if I'm going around being negative all the time.
Negativity is one of those energies I feed on way too easily, and that's why I'm going to stop allowing much of it in my life, starting right now.
The Six Commandments
I'm going to need some ground rules to help me out with this, to prevent myself falling back into old, cynical habits:
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Mute judiciously. — If someone I follow on Twitter decides to go on a rant about something, they're getting muted for a while. Repeated instances of this behavior will result in me unfollowing and/or blocking them. It's not about whether or not they're making valid points, or even if I otherwise like them as a person; I just don't want rage in my timeline.
Same goes for RSS feeds and podcasts. If a writer or podcaster decides to take a trip to Pessimism Town, I'm unsubscribing. Life's too short.
Stop responding to trolls. — If I, or one of my friends—especially including my teammates at Tools & Toys and The Sweet Setup—writes something that attracts overly negative criticism from angry readers, I will not respond to (or interact with) those trolls in any way. I unfortunately take too much glee in shutting people down on the internet, only to feel bad about it later. No more. They are to be blocked or muted immediately.
In cases of constructive criticism—and yes, I am objective enough to know the difference—I will try to respond as kindly as possible and thank them for their feedback, whether or not I agree with them.
Be proactively positive. — More than reducing negativity and cynicism, I want to proactively push in the opposite direction by injecting more optimism and good vibes in my interactions. If somebody says, makes, writes, publishes, or otherwise produces something I enjoy, I want to go out of my way to show appreciation. My goal is to complement more people this year than I ever have in my life.
On a similar note, if I have a criticism of something another person has made, I will only share it if I can do so constructively and positively. Help people up, not stomp them down.
Encourage positivity in others. — Where possible, I will encourage others to be positive, or at least lead by example. Generally speaking, I want things I say on Twitter and here on The Spark Journal to come from a place of happiness and positivity, and I don't care how hippie that sounds. "Be the change you want to see in the world" and all that.
Remain a critical thinker. — I will maintain a healthy skepticism about some things, but never assume I have all the answers or that I absolutely know what's right.
No mobbing up on people. — I will not take part in any public shaming of individuals or companies. People make mistakes sometimes, and for once in my life I'd rather try to forgive them than engage in "mob rule" mentality.
Some of these rules seem simple on the surface, but to anyone who knows me, I'm going to have a hard time adhering to them. I am doing away with a lifetime of terrible attitudes and habits here.
I also realize that these new habits may inadvertently result in me shutting out the many outrages of the world, valid or no. I'm not necessarily aiming to use my first-world white privilege to ignore everyone else's problems, but I don't feel I have a place in most of those kinds of conversations anyway. I spent far too much of 2014 outraged by things like the events in Ferguson, yet feeling powerless to do anything except rant on Twitter—and that's no help to anyone. I still believe there are things are worth fighting for (civil/marital rights for everyone, reducing greenhouse emissions, single-payer universal healthcare, etc.), but I'm not going to take part in causes unless I feel I can actually do some good.
I hope everyone reading this will join me in this resolution throughout 2015 and beyond. Let's all do our best to celebrate positivity and encouragement, rather than pull one another down.
And, if you ever catch me being cynical, please do reach out and encourage me to do better. I'll need all the help I can get.
Further Reading & Listening