Forced Positivity and The Internet
Today's topic is "Forced Positivity." I've been thinking about this a lot for the past few days...mostly because my Facebook has been attacked by motivational quotes, exercise advertisements ("I lost 10 lbs in 60 seconds!"), and Tour-My-McMansion Youtube videos.
Also, Pewdiepie talked about this here and it got my brain juices flowing.
So, what's "Forced Positivity"?
Well, it's exactly what it sounds like. It's when you pretend to be positive because the world tells us that happiness is our natural state. It's putting a big damn smile on your face, posting positive quotes on your Twitter and IG, and pretending that life is JUST SO FABULOUS even when it's really fucking shitty sometimes. It's doing that FB crap where you post photos of yourself doing something that looks fun, even though it was actually really boring and you wished you were still at home in your sweatpants.
I think our society has this obsession with happiness. Happiness is supposed to be our neutral emotion and any deviation from that is BAD. We're always supposed to see our mistakes as "learning opportunities". We're supposed to be kind, graceful, rich, wonderful, smart, funny, beautiful, and most importantly, happy at all times. We cover up our ugly parts, because society tells us that we shouldn't have any ugly parts. We have to pretend to feel "GREAT!!!11!!" all the time, because we figure everyone else feels "GREAT!!!11!!!" all the time.
We all keep buying into this fake world that's being spread around on social media and it's not realistic. It's a race to see who's the happiest and it's a goddamn lie. We're not happy all the time - we just pretend we are online because no one wants to show their 6000 friends that they've just been dumped. It's so much easier to put up a cute selfie with a motivational quote underneath than to admit that you've been crying in the shower for the last hour.
And don't get me wrong, I buy into this shit ALL THE TIME. Do you know how many self-help books I've read? Hundreds! You know what I listen to on the Skytrain going to work? Self-help podcasts! I like IG quotes, I retweet motivational quotes, and I have a picture on my wall that says "INSPIRATIONALQUOTE.JPG" (Ironically....I think?). I'm not immune to this fallacy by any stretch. I'm in the trenches right there with you guys. And yeah, sometimes I'm like, "Well...fuck, I'm not super positive. If I was more positive, I'm sure my life would be better." Sorry, but it doesn't work like that. In fact, I think that all this forced positivity has the opposite effect on us.
I think we should strive to be happier - to make our lives easier and more fulfilling. And I think that a lot of people are unnecessarily sad because they focus on the wrong things - money, power, social standing, material possessions, society's beauty ideals, popularity, etc. But forced positivity plays a big part of that. Money is supposed to make us happy - power, beauty, lots of friends, a good job, too. So if you have those things and you're unhappy, you feel guilty because....damn, you have it all, and you're still not happy. So you fake it. You pretend that your life is the best thing in the world, when it's really not. Your house is burning down around you, but as long as you don't acknowledge it, it won't hurt you, right?
We're allowed to feel sad sometimes. We're allowed to have bad days, weeks, and years. Sometimes, you can roll your eyes when you read a motivational quote and give the TV the finger when someone bubbly comes on. You can cry while watching a Youtube video and stay in bed all day. You can feel like things will never get better. It's allowed. It's normal. Hiding it...pretending it's okay when it's not...that's abnormal. That's what hurts you and that's what's hurting society.
If you feel negative emotions, you're human. The human condition is not positive 24/7. Don't expect yourself to fit into that mold.
But what's the difference between real happiness and forced positivity?
Think back to a time when you were really happy. Maybe it was when you were a kid and you were playing on the monkey bars. Maybe it was last week when you hung out with your friend and had sushi. Maybe it was that time at work where you finished that really challenging project. Maybe it was right after you gave birth to your beautiful child.
I'm going to assume that the last thing on your mind was, "Man, I need to show everyone on FB how happy I am right now!" "I need to tweet about this!" "I need to sit in front of my computer and tell everyone how great my life is!"
Instead, you were just happy in the moment. You didn't need to tell people, "I'm happy!" because you weren't trying to prove anything to anyone. It was just a great feeling - one that you probably soaked up. You had a big smile on your face and that warm glow in your belly that you get when you're happy. And then....a few hours or days later, you weren't happy anymore again. You were just you again. Back to baseline.
That's natural happiness. Natural happiness speaks for itself.
Forced positivity...not so much. That's when positivity feels like a challenge. That's when you think, "I bet other people would like this," and you upload whatever to whatever platform, with the hope people will like it and therefore, "like" your life. That's when you're "AMAZING" every day of the year - even when you're not really. That's when you kind of gloss over all of the other emotions online - pretend that you're a robot with only one setting, "Happy!" That's when your online persona is a fabrication and your real self feels guilty because sometimes you get negative and down and angry and you don't know why. That's forced positivity....and that's bullshit.
I guess what I'm trying to get at with this post is just to tell you that it's okay. Whatever you're feeling - it's okay. You don't need to pretend. You don't need to show everyone you're happy all the time. You don't need to be positive all the time. We all feel shitty sometimes and you can feel shitty, too. It doesn't make you less of a person. It just makes you human.
And trust me - if you're feeling shitty and you're honest with people, they'll understand. If you've got a good group of people around you, they'll even help you feel not-so-shitty. There's a lot of support out there, they just need to know you're not "HAPPY!" all the time. So instead of putting on the facade, call up a friend and tell them you're having a rough day. Reach out instead of burying it all deep down inside.
And lastly, look around at the people online and take what they post with a grain of salt. Their lives look glossy and perfect and happy - that's a finely crafted illusion. The same way we create our online lives to look fantastic, they do the same thing. So check your jealousy at the door. They've got their own problems too, they're just different problems from yours.
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