Why is negativity so popular?

When I started this blog, to which I make very irregularly scheduled posts, I never really expected to get much if any traffic. In fact, I was surprised when someone read one of my posts and liked it. Since then, I occasionally look at the site stats out of curiosity, and I’ve noticed something. The posts that tend to get views all have a bit of a negative connotation to them, while posts that are meant to be informational or just positive go unread.

Now, since I don’t actively promote this blog (not even to my friends on Facebook), I don’t have a lot of data to go on just yet, but combined with more general observations, I think it’s pretty safe to say that negativity is popular. Hell, Donald Trump is probably enough conclusive proof that negativity is very popular, and speaking of politics, those negative campaign ads that everyone professes to hate are used because they are the most effective. Sit down and watch the evening news and most likely, aside from the one uplifting story at the very end it is quite likely just stories about crime, war, disease, poverty, etc. Those are all important things to talk about, but when that’s all we hear, it’s easy to see why even though crime rates, poverty, and disease are at historic lows and in many cases improving, people tend to thing the world is falling apart.

So, why are we obsessed with negativity?

I’m sure we’re all somewhat guilty of it. After all, I know I’ve probably written more negative reviews than positive ones in my life. Part of my reasoning is that I want others to avoid the experience, so in a way if feels like I’m doing a good thing. I’m warning people about bad restaurants, or hotels, or cable companies (Cox Communications, I’m looking at you), or online merchants. But why do we only want to warn people about bad things and not praise the good ones? Is it easier to get angry than to be happy? Is it that we just expect everything to work all the time and so it’s only when things don’t that we think to tell people about it?

I honestly don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m sure many psychologists have offered potential explanations, and perhaps it is limited more to the internet (have you ever read the comments section of a youtube video?) where the anonymity afforded makes it easier to express your righteous indignation. But what does that then say about humans as a whole? Given the opportunity to criticize someone or something without having to say something to a real persons face, we’ll be extremely vocal, but if we actually have to see another person while saying these things, suddenly whatever we were so infuriated by is no longer a big deal? Again, I don’t know the answers, these are just some observations about the world.

In the end, I think most people would agree there is a lot of negativity in the world, particularly on the internet. I would like to see that change. There are some people, actively trying to that very thing. Hank Green proposed that people comment on positive youtube video comments with plus signs, so that the positive comments bubble to the top and the negative ones get lost. The idea being that if the negative comments become less and less visible, maybe those making them will stop. After all, they are likely just trying to rile people up and if they get no reaction, they will probably get bored.

As for product/company reviews, negative reviews are necessary and if you have a bad experience you should definitely post a bad review. However, you should also post positive reviews when you have good experiences. After all, it is probably far more common for you to have a good, or at least acceptable experience that a terrible one. For example, a few months ago I purchased a new laptop to replace my aging 5 year old HP dv6-6135dx. I ended up going with the Lenovo Ideapad y700 Touch-15ISK, and after a RAM upgrade have been quite happy. The portable hard drive I purchased a few months before that has been great. I’ve been to numerous restaurants and had very enjoyable meals. Once Cox Communications actually took the time to track down the problem with my home internet connection, it has been pretty good. Yet, I’ve only written a positive review about one of these (the laptop) and for some reason Best Buy never actually published it on their website (probably because I pointed out that the system specs were wrong and it can actually support 32 GB of RAM not just 16 GB as stated).

So, I should be better about posting positive reviews when warranted, as I think we all should. In fact, this weekend I’m going to make it a point to spend a little time writing some positive reviews, and from now on, even if it means even less traffic to my little blog, I’m going to try to post mostly positive things here (there will still likely be some rants when something really irks me).

What do you think? Are we obsessed with negativity? Should we try to make the web a more positive place? Post your thoughts in the comments below!

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