Negativity Isn’t Always Bad… Only Mostly Bad

Welcome back, now let’s continue our discourse on negativity online. Contrary to popular belief, negativity and outrage online is not always a bad thing, at least when it is well-directed. I was shocked when I first heard this from James Sterling, review editor of the Escapist Magazine,  but to quote his video “Toxic,” “there is nothing inherently wrong with outrage.” I thought it was absurd that any of the negativity that comes out of the internet could go to a positive end. I admit though that, at least ninety-five percent of the time the levels of bile and negativity that are generated by most the negative people on the internet are completely unjustified against their target. Outrage and negativity can accomplish good things for some people some of the times.

Sometimes great change can be brought about by loud, focused complaining. People say that there is no use in complaining about problems, when history shows us that just the opposite is true. Would the American colonies have successfully seceded from the British Empire if no one complained about the taxes? Would women have gained the right to vote if it weren’t for years of yelling, screaming, and complaining? In a sense, negativity can be an element of change in the right context. Sterling even says that toxicity is “a powerful weapon indeed.”

The right context must have a singular goal in mind and be focused in one direction with many participants. This is usually has a group of people who are wronged by some organization. A good modern example is the controversial ending of Mass Effect 3 that left many fans dissatisfied. There were floods of outrage and anger from the fans. Twitter was flooded with complaints, petitions were sent to the game’s publisher and developer en masse, and you didn’t even need to have an interest in the game to have possibly heard of the fan outrage. What was the response? The publisher and developer made some free extra content that would help fix the ending, and while still not good, left people more satisfied than they were before.

Naturally the wrong context is when all of that negativity and bile is released onto an individual subject. A problem that negativity can fix is likely too big to be attributed to a single individual acting alone. Going back to Sterling, he says that “Social media makes it easier than ever to target individuals” (2013). While yes, social media can a be a wonderful source of communication and understanding in the world and on the internet, it can also be easily abused for just the opposite.

With social media sites blurring the lines between professional and personal it is very easy to shift blame to the wrong place and unfairly single out individuals for abuse. This can quickly devolve into gross over simplification of a problem. Namely, blaming an individual for the decision of a collection of people. Sterling says, “When expressing rage, one shouldn’t single out individuals in most cases” (2013). Even if the one person was the spokes person of a poor idea or something found bad by most people. It is rare when any organization makes a bad decision that is the fault of a single individual and no one else. So remember, even if your rage at something seems completely justified, even if others agrees with you, remember to stop and ask yourself, does this one person really deserve the grief I’m giving them? See you next time.

Toxic Video here.

See more of Jim Sterling here.


One comment

  1. I agree with this post and definitely see social media being more and more of a breeding ground for arguments and self-destruction. Recently, this breeding ground has been Facebook. I think too often someone posts an opinion on something that creates a rise out of their friends and followers who may disagree and think that post is offensive to them even when it had no personal intent towards them. I think social media makes it easier for bullies to target others because it allows people to show who they are in a more public way. For some reason when people are exposed to this they feel a need to react to it, which most of the time is not necessary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s