the other day, an interesting discussion took place on twitter. i tweeted a link to the death in prison of omid reza misayafi, the iranian blogger who had been sentenced to three years in prison for blogging in ways that the iranian government found threatening.
one of my fellow tweeters found that this was a negative tweet.
“do you think unpleasant events that you can’t do anything about is worthy of your attention and thought process?”
the way i understand it, this tweeter feels that i can be of best service by using social media in ways that are encouraging and bring positive news.
let me get some of my objections out of the way before i turn to how this discussion was helpful.
- the vast majority of societal improvements, from the end to slavery to gandhi’s salt walk to the 5-day weekend, happened because people got really loud about what was wrong
- bad things that are ignored have a tendency to fester
- “bad”, “negative” and “wrong” can be moral judgments, and as such may or may not be helpful; but they can also be descriptions of undesirable, unhealthy or unhelpful aspects of situations or people (e.g. george bush is not a bad man but his tolerance of waterboarding is wrong). in that approach, so-called negativity loses much of its toxicity
- the criticism of paying attention to negative news stems, i believe, from the idea in the law of attraction of “what you focus on expands”. there is a lot of truth to that but a) it’s not a straightforward line (there is no law that states that as you focus on X to the power of 3, it expands – whatever that means – to the power of 3) and b) the quality and type of focus also plays a role
- i think it’s useful to give more “positive” messages than “negative” ones – but 100% positive and 0% negative seems a bit unbalanced
- and jung says “ignore the shadow at your own risk!”
ok. now. here’s what i found helpful in the discussion.
i do want to be encouraging and uplifting, and i do want my messages to bring good news. if that’s what i want, i need to continuously hone my language and my message.
the buddhist concept of right speech is important to me, and my twitter friend’s comments made me think of that. does what i tweet improve on silence? alas, i believe that often it does not. it is just idle chatter. now some part of idle chatter is probably important for greasing human interactions. but it’s easy for it to become too idle and too chattery. this is especially true for “negative” tweets.
i do find it useful to muse on the question: what if i/we/the world focused only on what’s good, kind, healing? or, to make it a bit more manageable, i feel encouraged by this conversation to try again to follow what i believe is a suggestion by napoleon hill: see what happens if i work for a stretch of time – an hour? a day? a week?- to “cancel out” every negative thought i encounter. (eg, “oh, isabella, what a dumb thing to do” cancelled out by “oops, that came out differently than you expected isabella. thanks for trying. move on.”)