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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Culture of Pessimism Conformity Part 2: A Response to T.X. Watson

Following is a much appreciated comment from a reader and fellow blogger to my last post and my response.

T.X. Watson: November 1, 2013 at 4:39 PM

I disagree.

Well, I don't doubt your experience that there's a lot of pessimism in the social networks you participate in. Cultures and cycles of pessimism definitely exist, and you're right that they're dangerous and destructive.

The point I mainly disagree with is that the culture of the internet, overall, is pessimistic. Insofar as the internet has a culture and a morale (I think you can make the case, but I don't think it's very relevant to this discussion -- a point I will return to) I feel that its most defining morale trait is a sort of techno-utopianism, or at least absentminded revolution. (Mike Rugnetta made something like this point in his talk at this year's XOXO festival, here:

Pessimism strikes me as fundamentally inconsistent with the major functions of the internet: connection, learning, speaking out, and so on.

I think what's more relevant here, though, are the internet's subcultures, and that's where I think you'll find a lot of pessimism. The atmosphere you find on tumblr, twitter, facebook, etc. have more to do with the people you choose to connect with than the overall atmosphere of the website. You said yourself that you've got experience with a cycle of negativity -- it makes sense, then, that the communities you most immediately have access to tend to reinforce that kind of attitude.

So, there's good news and bad news.

The good news is really good: there are communities out there that have basically none of this pessimism floating around in them! And, since the internet is all about connectivity, you can totally access them! It's not necessarily easy, because communities aren't the sort of thing you can just pull off a shelf, but there are positive influences to surround yourself with on the internet.

It's also kinda good news that there's no great pessimism overhanging the whole of the internet. (If you believe me, which you may not.)

On the other hand, that's kinda bad news, too, because it means that pessimism isn't one big problem that, with a sufficient burst of effort, can be vanquished off the internet forever. It's pockets of behaviors in small groups all over the place: the same, difficult problem, over and over and over and over and over. If your goal was to save the internet, it can make you feel pretty pessimistic.


To T.X. Watson: I appreciate that you responded. It’s nice to be responding to something other than my own posts on this blog.

I agree that the purpose of the internet is for, as you say, “connection, learning, speaking out, and so on.” 
However, I still hold firm to my belief that pessimism, even if only in the subcultures, is a damaging issue.

Looking back on my first post, I feel as though I misrepresented myself by sounding overly cavalier in finishing my post with, “Do not be lulled into complacency. Do not give up hope. Join my campaign to increase positivity on the internet in any way you can.”

Such is the product of my overly-excitable personality.

I meant more to target the “sub-cultures” with my post, because I do believe each individual person affects the overall morale of the internet, even if in just small ways.

Being a Nerdfighter (I believe you are as well), I also recognize the phenomenal range of benefits the internet provides to its users. However, I am wary of the negative effects the individual can have on the whole, even if it is not in an obviously striking way.

Personal communication on the internet is what I meant to specifically refer to; the act of having friendships and sharing personal information online. Spreading negativity can make the consumer of the negativity continue the trend, hence the spiral of pessimism conformity.

On a related note, the presence of negative content on one’s social media can cause future employers and potential future friends to feel wary, and may damage the image of the content producer irreparably.

One’s online persona is becoming increasingly tied to one’s real world persona.

I’d like to credit that last paragraph to a discussion held with my Mass Communications class and professor.
So, while I agree that the larger purpose and morale of the internet is healthy, I do believe more attention and care needs to be paid in an individualistic sense.

I enjoyed reading your positive balance to my ironically negative view, and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said in your response. However, I hold firm to my original statement. Although I was a little over-dramatic.

Check out T.X. Watson’s blog at
Link is in the blog reel. It’s good stuff.
Bean’ collaborative

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