The ’90s and now, part 4

Articles that challenge conventional wisdom frequently go viral, especially if such wisdom is unsubstantiated, as part of the recent backlash online (offline, people are less intelligent and more impressionable, which is why people still shell out thousands of dollars for useless Tony Robins seminars) against sentimentalism and bullshit. As an example, a recent the article Social media is spreading ‘toxic positivity’ and we seriously need to avoid it for the sake of our mental health, went viral. Even though the magazine is targeted to women and the author is (presumably) a democrat, any high-IQ person regardless of gender or politics can relate, making it a shared narrative. People of average-IQ, who often fall into the normie/NPC/bugman category tend to be the most receptive to such vacuous affirmations.

…What if that forced mindset is not only really unhelpful, but also potentially damaging to our mental health too? I’m talking about toxic positivity, where as defined by, this means enforcing the “if you just stay positive, you will overcome any obstacle” mantra to such a degree that natural emotional responses are invalidated and so is the person experiencing those feelings.

Having had endometriosis since my teenage years, I’m regularly confronted with the above. Racking up countless hospital trips and health complications, I’ve lost track how many times people remind me of the power of positivity. Suggesting that anybody needs to remain positive in the face of adversity is quite frankly, a little bit patronising.

Even a gun-toting, truck-driving The_Donald voter and supporter can relate to this. We’ve all been in situations where no amount of positive thinking will change anything, and it’s unhelpful because it fails to acknowledge the unique hardship felt by the sufferer at hand and comes across as preachy and moralistic (as part of the backlash against judgmental conservatism), except rather than admonishing someone for not going to church, it’s for not exuding ‘positive vibes’, but also it’s sometimes perceived as insincere and a way to absolve one’s guilt for not doing more to help. This backlash explains the online appeal of Jordan Peterson, who is like the anti-Tony Robbins.

A similarly themed article “Be yourself” is terrible advice also went viral and is demonstrative of the rise of ‘advice culture’, which is the tendency of millennials and gen-z to impart their knowledge and advice to others through blogs, social media, and YouTube, whether it’s about self-improvement, economics, masculinity, career advice, and so on. Decades ago, this information either didn’t exist or was only accessible in libraries, but now an abundance of it is online, often with a slight contrarian bent: Vice, Thought Catalog, and Daily Elite articles written by smart people about how conventional wisdom may be wrong, and how political correctness and coddling (which I agree) are incompatible with the harsh realities of the ‘real world’.

Also, this is tangentially related to the rise of so-called secular Calvinism. The common theme is that society and people are inherently ‘fallen’, irredeemable, and unethical, and the viralness and appeal of articles that affirm such themes is perhaps symptomatic of a society that has less trust in itself, in others, and its institutions (such as church and government), than ever before.

Decades ago, in the ’80s and ’90’s, when church attendance (as well as overall civic participation) was higher, people were much more receptive to affirmations to ‘be yourself’ and ‘think positively’, but now a sort of cold, incredulous cynicism has taken hold. Given two unending, multi-trillion dollar Middle East wars (one of them on false pretenses), the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil, a financial crisis which lead to a massive bank bailout and the bad actors getting off scot-free, two recessions, mountains of student loan debt, unaffordable healthcare, two stock market crashes, low rates of home ownership, nosebleed rent prices, as well as millionaire megachurch pastors and child-abusing priests and cover-ups, it’s understandable why millennials have very little confidence in most major institutions:

Convention is also being challenged in how (related to the Tim Pool video in Part 1) young people are delaying family formation, delaying marriage, and living with their parents longer. Some of this is due to economic factors such as an increasingly competitive economy and job market, high rent, and difficulty of attaining home ownership, but also due to social and cultural factors, too, such as a society that increasingly rewards self-actualization and individualism, which online are perceived as high-status, versus family formation and civic participation, which online are perceived as low-status. For gen-x, in the 90’s, the New York libertine lifestyle as portrayed by sitcoms such as Seinfeld, was high status. Nowadays, everyone aspires to be a worldly, self-sufficient, self-made flâneur who dispenses with observations and wisdom from the vantage point of YouTube and Twitter (sorta like Tim Pool, who embodies such an archetype), who has a lot of social media followers, is child-free, and lives life on his own terms than anchored by any sort commitments or obligations. Or like Mr. Money Mustache, as another example.