I made a decision this week to be a nicer person. I think I’m a pretty nice person already (but, don’t we all?) however the primal side comes out sometimes when I feel competitive or insecure or angry. But I’ve been up close and personal with a lot of people’s anger and it’s like going to a meat factory and seeing how sausage is made. Seeing anger up close, seeing tearing someone down up close, it just makes it so off-putting.
What kind of person let’s themself carry such ugly shit around inside until it boils over at someone? It can’t possibly be the same kind of person who has a happy, full life — and that, above all, is my goal.
I love discussion and disagreeing with people and even playing devil’s advocate, and that’s not inherently unhappy-making, but it can put you in a lot of situations where it’s so satisfying to be less than charitable and knock down a straw person version of whatever you’re arguing against or slip into an ad hominem. But what’s the point there? To feel better about myself? To have the satisfaction of “winning”? Whatever it is, it’s not progress. It’s not getting closer to The Truth. It’s not changing anyone’s mind. It’s just ego feeding. And again, if you were confident in your position you’d apply the principle of charity generously.
The internet can be a very sick place. It always has been, but that’s a hard thing for me to admit because I’m such a champion of technology and what it allows us to do. But working on the internet, living on the internet is so bad for a person’s mental health. What we do on the internet is mirror our rawest human emotions: hate and vitriol and schadenfreude. And I’m not blaming anyone, the people who write it are just filling a demand, what our human nature asks for, what we ask for by clicking on it and reading it.
The way to stop the problem isn’t to blame the symptom (the fact that these articles are written) it’s to fix our nature — what makes us want to read and write these things. What insecurity is it that feels better when I read about another person making a fuckup and getting fired for it? When someone is raked over the coals for an innocent lapse in judgement? What darkness is it that causes me to want to read about the failure of my industry-mates — to the extent that I would be a consumer of someone who posts another guy’s dating profile for all to see? The impulse for all of this is dis-ease with who I am, the desire to rise by default, when others fall.
A truly happy person wants everyone else to be happy. They don’t slam the door shut behind them out of fear the people coming behind them will take up all the happiness and leave nothing for them. They are secure in knowing their needs are met. They know happiness is not a zero-sum substance. There’s enough for everyone.
I used to be kind of a messy person and now I am an extremely clean person. The trick was that I got rid of almost all my stuff. I couldn’t keep everything in order when there was so much more to keep track of. Now I have a manageable amount — so, I am able to manage it. I think this kind of applies to everything in life. It’s why I’m fanatical about not keeping secrets. Being embarrassed about a secret is nothing compared to the poison of keeping a secret.
I can’t change the internet but I can change how I talk about what I talk about. I want to get rid of everything that doesn’t serve me to make it so that I only contain things that benefit me. Jealousy, anger, outrage — these are just emotions that eat away at a person. If I hate a person, it doesn’t affect them at all — whatsoever — but it costs me a whole lot.
You can’t hate other people into becoming less shitty and more loving. I’m not convinced you can love them into it either, but at least this way my health is better.