Don’t be a negativity elitist

Column by Hallie Beard, Junior from Louisville, Ky.

Do me a favor: log into Facebook or Twitter and take a quick gander at your feed.

Ignoring the abundance of list pieces about twentysomethings and BuzzFeed GIF reels, take inventory of how many destruction-related articles you see, shared by your friends or yourself.

Whether they’re about the destruction of bodies, the country or the human psyche, you can count on each one sounding more jarring than the last.

“What could be worse than this?” you might think as you mindlessly scroll through a story on mass murder in Europe, only to stumble upon a story on mass murder in the U.S. seconds later, which suddenly seems much worse.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “if it bleeds, it leads” in journalism, referring to the strange, yet undeniable, magnetism of violence in media.

But what keeps this cycle alive?

What continually motivates millions of Facebookers and Tweeters to share such sobering articles, often accompanied by heated opinions?

Though I’d like to believe our Facebook friends are sincerely interested in Greek politics, African wildlife or American poverty, I’m not buying it.

What motivates a decent chunk of these articles, I’m sorry to say, is competition. Think about it – if you shared an article about Caitlyn Jenner, you were then shamed for not sharing an article about wounded soldiers. If you shared an article about wounded soldiers, you were shamed for not caring about Cecil the lion, etc.

It’s a negativity competition, and you’re always one step behind.

Each friend or follower you have on social media – whether they realize it or not – competes for emotion and reaction via likes, shares, retweets and good ol’ fashioned guilt trips.

If I, utilizing my social media presence, can shift your attention from one issue to another that seems vastly more appalling, I’ve proven two things: I am up to date with the latest news stories, and I am concerned with more important issues – equipped with better information than you. 

Slyly accused of apathy and ignorance, then, you question your own concerns and interests – suddenly insecure that you’re paying attention to the wrong news sources, the wrong part of the world, the wrong Facebook link.

In one click, your sense of empathy is scolded and thrown to the wolves.

Don’t let this absurd competition, this negativity elitism, get you down, though. Rather than letting your social media timeline feed you bite after bite of sour arrogance, take some time to chew before you swallow.

If you find yourself getting particularly click-happy about horrible things, slow down and check yourself. Ask why you’re sharing the article.

If the motivation stems from true activism, progress, or illumination, proceed. If it stems from the desire to trump your high school bestie’s latest negative post, reconsider.

I’m not saying we should pay any less attention to the destruction or conflict in our communities – those stories, though solemn and uncomfortable at times, often make us more compassionate.

Having a grasp on what suffering means on a local, national and global level helps us look at problem solving in new ways.

However, there’s enough disaster to go around without the help of bad attitudes, and the Internet will never be without its daily dose of carnage.

So, please: don’t be a negativity elitist, and don’t let yourself consume that culture.

Stand firm in your beliefs, push for progress and spread some love.