Lately I’ve been trying to be less antagonistic on the Internet, and there are times when I look at my own Twitter feed and feel like it’s gotten boring. This got me thinking – do I just find negativity interesting?
Aside from petty bullying, I think negativity is very interesting, and also necessary. Here are three reasons why:
1. Negativity is sexy when you’re young
Teen angst has a purpose. When you spend your high school years listening to Kurt Cobain, cutting yourself and reading Nietzsche, you’re accomplishing a couple things. First of all, you’re learning how to empathize. Never in your life again are you willing to go out of your way to make yourself depressed, but when you do this as a teenager you go down the abyss a bit, and it changes you. You decide what you believe in and what you don’t. You learn what sadness is and how to commiserate with other people. The second thing your angst accomplishes is helping you get laid – er, lose your virginity. People are attracted to moodiness at that age because you know the moody people are really thinking about things. Negativity loses its sexiness somewhere in your twenties. By then you’re supposed to be over it and into weed rap.
2. Negativity has high standards
In college, I worked in a notoriously mean Arts & Entertainment section of a newspaper. Our editors were all bloodthirsty students who saw PR people walking around with target signs on their backs, so whenever we got a call from a near-tears band representative begging us to take down an article, we were simply given proud smiles. We were so negative that we actually drove a singer-songwriter out of town (he made this clear on his Tumblr). Since writing at other places, I’ve realized that is absolutely not the standard in this town. Since Minneapolis is so small, our journalism scene is essentially a bunch of writers fist-pumping our local music scene, since they’re all buddies with the people in the bands anyway. I have to say I miss the innocent negativity of my first journalism job, because we were saying what we really thought. How is our local music culture going to evolve and get better if everyone is too nice to say that mediocre music is mediocre music?
When positivity rules in all the outlets of cultural criticism, people start liking bad shit. Negativity helps to weed out the boring stuff so we can care about what matters.
3. Negativity is cathartic
Why do you think people love Tyler, The Creator? To some extent, we envy his ability to just be angry when he’s angry. Psychoanalysis is all about the complexes people create when they turn their anger inward, but Tyler gets his daddy issues out in the first verse of his first album. When it comes to reading, people like negative writing because it says something that they’ve been thinking but haven’t known how to express without consequence. People are unsatisfied. Pretending to love everything just makes you emotionally constipated.
If this was an Atlantic article, Jay Gabler would step in right now and say, “This argument is flawed, because you can’t say that something is objectively more interesting than anything else.” Very true, hypothetical Jay Gabler. Some people may find positivity more interesting. I bet they are really good at writing in bubble letters and wrapping presents.