Would MetaFilter be a better place without relentless negativity? November 29, 2019 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm increasingly concerned about the effects of insistently negative comments on MetaFilter.

There is a current of relentless negativity in many threads on MetaFilter (especially threads touching on politics, the climate crisis, and justice or injustice) that bothers me more and more. Those comments certainly make it harder for me to participate here. It seems likely to me that they're making things harder for other people as well.

This has surfaced in a few of my own recent comments (pushing back on the idea that no one is ever held accountable, appreciation for a heartening story of change in a thread that thankfully didn't get flooded with pessimistic comments, explaining how blanket pessimism affects me and saps my desire to try to fight the bad stuff), and that made me realize I should probably bring this up on MetaTalk.

I value making room for people to share their anger and their pain over the many terrible things in our countries and the world. But I think there are ways to express those things without saying that things are not getting better and will never get better. I think many negative comments carry implications that efforts to make anything better are futile, and that people who embrace or share positive stories are deluded.

It's my experience that we, as a community, frown on "your favorite band sucks" comments. I'm feeling like "nothing will change for the better" is even worse.

What do you all think? Is this as much of a problem as I think it is? Is there a way we can share our pain and anger over things that are happening in the world without discouraging each other or driving each other away?

What kind of community do we want to be?
posted by kristi to Etiquette/Policy at 12:57 PM (186 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

What do you all think?

I think that an uptick in people expressing negative sentiment is unsurprising and likely healthy, given the significant uptick in negative stuff happening.

Is this as much of a problem as I think it is?

It's subjective, for sure. Likely depends on self-selection bias to a degree also - plenty of threads that are nothing but sunshine.

Is there a way we can share our pain and anger over things that are happening in the world without discouraging each other or driving each other away?

Again, this is super subjective. The thing that might discourage you might not discourage someone else. The lack of the thing that does discourage you might be discouraging to someone else. etc etc etc

What kind of community do we want to be?

I'm not sure this is a reasonable question to answer in this MeTa. That's a super big question. Negativity in threads is nowhere near the top of the issues that this question brings up (see PoC threads for my #1, personally) and so I'm not sure this is a productive bar to set for this thread.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:05 PM on November 29 [16 favorites]


Relatedly, we discussed this issue at some length in this thread from July 29.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:08 PM on November 29 [1 favorite]


It is not unreasonable to suspect that certain threads draw individuals who are in a permanent or temporary state of black-pilling about the future and present. Try to consider them as sick with despair and interact with them accordingly.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:20 PM on November 29 [8 favorites]


The very first comment in one of the threads you linked to is an appalling display of US-centrism with bonus negativity and really set the tone for that thread.
posted by lalex at 1:22 PM on November 29 [24 favorites]


I don't have a lot to add here besides a "hear, hear". This kind of doomsaying – about the US, about the world, about our climate, about our society, about everything – is one of the least attractive tendencies of the culture here on Metafilter.

For a small but vocal percentage of the participants here, there's the sense that You Must Think That Our World is Fatally Flawed In All Facets and Thus Doomed and Must Be All Burnt Down or You Are A Blinkered, Naive Tool of The Status Quo, The Oligarchy, the Powers That Be, the Fill In the Blank and Thus Should Stop Talking™.

I just can't think that way myself, because I've seen how the world has improved, even just in my lifetime. Improved in LGBTQ+ rights. Improved in the number of people not in extreme poverty. Improved in a least the need to acknowledge the environmental impact on our actions. Improved in a lot of qualitative ways that are hard to point to on a WHO or CDC statistical report. These improvements are not linear, and they are not monotonic – sometimes as a globe we take two steps forward somewhere and a step back somewhere else. Sometimes we take a leap somewhere and then tip-toe forward for decades afterwards. But I at least believe that it's possible for things to get better, because it actually does happen, and has been happening. And most importantly – happens because people believe it can happen and work towards making it happen.

To lazaruslong's point – it's hard to form this into some sort of cohesive action point for the community. We all have our voices and our viewpoints, and one person's pessimism is another's pragmatism. I guess if there's one thing to ask – it's that for folks who are about to go Marvin the Paranoid Android in a thread – to stop and think a minute. Do I really think that improvement is impossible here? That the problem is unsolvable? Or is it that maybe my negativity is more for me and how I cope with the world, in keeping my expectations low, my disappointments justified, and that while pessimism is an emotional salve to me, it's an emotional poison to others?
posted by workingdankoch at 1:24 PM on November 29 [61 favorites]


All I'll say is that I've had to take breaks from MetaFilter to distance myself from this kind of negativity.

It is exhausting and I try to avoid participating in this type of negativity myself (though I'm sure I do not always succeed). I will keep trying to post about the things I love (video games & gaming culture) and attempt to try to see the good. I'll continue to avoid the #USPolitics #Potus45 threads because ugh, thanks but no thanks. There's only so much of that I can handle. I venture in once every few months but mostly I stay away.

Giving my brain space is how I deal with it. I wish that weren't a necessity on MetaFilter, but here we are. I don't know. I don't know how we fix that. Maybe we can't. Maybe we just all deal with it in our own way. Maybe that's all we can do.
posted by Fizz at 1:31 PM on November 29 [54 favorites]


I cannot engage in climate threads for this reason. It isn't that I enjoy ignorance; it is that I am too aware of the shape of things. My therapist tells me this every time.

Also, if I never see another politics thread with "Trump's gonna get reelected, isn't he?" it will be too soon. Maybe he will, but today is not that day, and no one gets awards for being right on the internet.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:45 PM on November 29 [32 favorites]


I think this got some coverage as a concept in the "Is it time to retire "outragefilter" as deletion reason?" thread. My comment there still reflects my thinking, more or less; I've ducked in and out of reading the comments on MeFi lately, but mostly out.
posted by sagc at 1:47 PM on November 29 [4 favorites]


Post different stuff. No policy change will resolve this. Only member of the community who want to see something different. The policy change is that jerk comments get deleted some of the time.

I mean, you can decide for yourself if there's a cabal, but if there is one they aren't scouting out nifty threads; that's our job.

I also try to encourage and praise people who make quality posts.
posted by theora55 at 1:52 PM on November 29 [12 favorites]


I think there are people who enter every single thread with their political hobbyhorse at the forefront, and they engage in every discussion as a chance to Spread The Good Word. Where "Spread" means "shove it in your face and berate you if you don't agree", and The Good Word is a very specific view of US politics (because these commenters are always focused on US politics) that hinges on seeing everything as terrible because they're afraid that anyone believing anything is good anywhere will interfere with their crusade. It is deeply exhausting and it reminds me of that analysis someone did that showed a small handful of Mefites were leaving the majority of the comments in the old PoliticsFilter threads.

Also, this MetaTalk discussion was literally started by a post that was explicitly focusing on the positive in the world until a few commenters decided to shart on it. So "post different stuff" is not really a solution here.
posted by schroedinger at 1:57 PM on November 29 [65 favorites]


The very first comment in one of the threads you linked to is an appalling display of US-centrism with bonus negativity and really set the tone for that thread.

That is a profoundly terrible way to start that thread, and am very curious about whether it got flagged at all, because I would be very surprised if a mod saw it but didn't remove it. They're usually fairly responsive to taking down those kind of opening salvo awful comments.

It is probably difficult to draw a line between these, but I think there has to be some nuance between detailed and specific yet negative comments and "we're all doomed" general comments. Like, in a climate change thread, someone coming along and pointing out that "according to this specific data over here, it's too late, and we can't reverse this trend and we're all doomed" is fairly different than "we're all doomed so none of this matters anyway!" as a stand alone comment or even "I have read that we're all doomed, so it might be that none of this even matters."
posted by jacquilynne at 2:06 PM on November 29 [4 favorites]


I'll admit that I'm susceptible to those comments - they make me miserable. And I know it's stupid and I should just deal with it and move on to something I can do something about, but - there I am, freshly reminded that Doing Good Things doesn't matter ultimately, unless you can find the Good Thing that solves every problem everywhere and then maybe you can sit back and take a breather and be happy about something for five dang minutes before, who knows, you won't because you can't fix everything, nobody can, people are terrible and we should just keep hoping a meteor hits us, we all suck so much.

And I agree that not every thread based on a link saying "hey, less of this negative stuff is happening in the world overall!" gets bowled over with "not ALL the negative stuff EVERYWHERE so it doesn't matter we're doomed" comments. But that just means that when I click on something with any optimism, I can't predict if I'll close the window significantly sadder than before.

[I actually signed up for MeFi a little bit after that July thread, and in part because of it. I liked that this sort of ... dark cloud comment pessimism was being discussed, liked that a site that might so easily don the Cynicism Central style wasn't just running into that full speed ahead, deal with it sensitive snowflakes, life is hard and if you don't like it leave. It's popular for a reason (easy + tough to really fight back), so it's everywhere on the internet, and I liked the look of a site that seemed interested in working harder than that. I know it's not the site's job to protect me from sadness, by the way.]
posted by Tess of the d'Urkelvilles at 2:21 PM on November 29 [11 favorites]


It's probably important to note that the user who posted the post that many are discussing has disabled their account. I can't help but think that it was likely due to how relentlessly negative most of the comments were.
posted by primalux at 2:30 PM on November 29 [29 favorites]


Homo neanderthalensis has buttoned. Hopefully temporarily! I love their updates in the meta-talk-tails threads, especially, as well as their other contributions around the place.

That thread went particularly poorly, I felt- any time anyone held up anything positive it got spat on and trampled by others determined to have a bad time.

Sure, there is a need for objectivity and looking at the many sides of an issue- metafilter sometimes does this well! But there is an aggressive way that this is done sometimes that isn't pleasant.
posted by freethefeet at 2:33 PM on November 29 [28 favorites]


Oh no! I really liked them. I'm sorry to hear that.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:34 PM on November 29 [13 favorites]


That is a profoundly terrible way to start that thread, and am very curious about whether it got flagged at all

I did, and I understand that a couple of comments had been removed already, but that one made the cut somehow.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:36 PM on November 29 [4 favorites]


I think one of the hard parts of sorting through this is that generally speaking no one is coming to the site with a purely negative (or for that matter purely positive) attitude. There is a great deal of subjectivity and personal variance involved, which is something I think for all of us it is easier to recognize in ourselves than in others.

So I know what my mixed bag of feelings on any given day is, what I'm feeling down about and hopeful about, where my optimism vs. pessimism levels are and how they're distributed among the dozen things on my mind, how that state of mind is different today from how it was yesterday or last week, and so on. My sense of my own worldview is detailed and complicated and full of a lot personal context.

Whereas I only know how (generic) you are feeling when I see the specific thing you've written in the thread I'm reading, and while I understand at an intellectual level that you're having just as much of a complicated and contextualized set of feelings about a dozen different things, it's easy for me to instead just take what I'm reading as the start and end of it.

Which isn't great in a couple different directions: it means that I may not end up extending as much empathy and generosity to a reading of the thoughts I actually get to see written down as I ideally would, and it means that the impact of what you write on me may be very different from what was contextually driving you to make a comment to begin with.

Take that and multiply it by the size of the MetaFilter commentariat, and by the MetaFilter readership, and that becomes a very difficult web of unspoken context, unintended impact, and oversimplified interpretations.

Which is all in service of saying: I think the way and the extent to which negative or doomy stuff manifests on the site is often a problem, but also I think it's something that arises mostly because of a complicated intersecting set of things, rather than just because e.g. some specific set of commenters is Too Negative. I doubt anyone sees it as literally their goal to be a negative presence on MetaFilter or to only be here to make sure people don't feel good about stuff. It's just that the way that everybody's individual inclinations and commenting choices come together can trend at times or in certain contexts toward a kind of running string of, or critical mass of, negative sentiment on the site that outstrips any given person's intentions or the complexity of individual folks' thoughts and feelings.

At a personal level I struggle a lot with what can feel like reflexively if not relentlessly negative engagement on MeFi. I think we can as a site do a really good job with difficult discussions, or discussions of inherently fairly negative or bummery or hard-to-see-the-upside-of topics and situations and I think that's valuable and worth fostering where it happens in healthy ways, but...it can also really feel a lot of the time like folks are ending up habitually and collectively opting to take a negative tack on whatever thread they find themselves in not so much because it will make the discussion better but because it's what they had to say in that moment and they were gonna say it.

For my part I mostly wish it felt like that kind of approach was taken with greater care: more of each of us stopping at any moment and saying, why am I adding this, and what is it going to do to make this conversation better for everyone who is not me? Because sometimes negative stuff is a useful and substantial part of a conversation. Sometimes it's core. But it's also so, so easy to just kind of lapse into a negative comment not so much because I see a clear path from my commenting instinct to a better conversation for other people but because I had something to say and prioritized that over thinking about the impact on everybody else.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:38 PM on November 29 [15 favorites]


On a more positive note, I felt that clawsoon's contributions in that thread were pretty good- not relentlessly negative but still addressing the complexity of the issues.
posted by freethefeet at 2:40 PM on November 29 [1 favorite]


And yeah, a couple notes on that specific thread:

1. H.n. mentioned taking a break, something they've done a couple times before. Folks need to be able to take breaks when they want to or need to, so I'd like to leave it at that and they can follow up on their own later if their inclination and circumstances align.

2. That thread is a hard intersection of a whole pile of things: the question of whether folks are bound by the framing of a post to comment in a specific mood (which not really, no), the difficulty of agreeing on condensations of big-picture topics, the specific tricky tightrope of framing stuff around thankfulness (even wholly genuinely, which is where I think H.n. was coming from) on a day that's fraught both within the US and internationally with a lot of baggage about the politics and propaganda of American Thanksgiving, the current sense of protracted awfulness in US and international politics in general, the way all of that is landing on people on the site variously this weekend, etc.

I was moderating the site for most of yesterday, including the onset of that thread; what I can say about it is I really don't like that it was such a bummer in there, but I also don't feel like it was my place to impose a No Bummers mandate on the thread, so mostly I just felt pretty unpleasantly about the conversation folks wanted to have even though I recognized that folks are gonna want to talk about what they want to talk about and beyond that recognize that even much of the more negative stuff was at least being put forth thoughtfully.

I removed a couple things from early in the thread that weren't even trying, left that comment about US suicide rates (which wasn't the original first comment, yeah) with misgivings, am nixing it now on nth thought because that's where I am this morning and I've been trying over time to be less beholden to "well, it was up for a while already" as a blocker for taking action on something after the fact.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:51 PM on November 29 [3 favorites]


In retrospect, my comments feel like, "Isn't it interesting when you dissect a dead goat, though?"
posted by clawsoon at 2:53 PM on November 29 [2 favorites]


(And apparently "writing 'this morning' at nearly three in the afternoon" is where I'm at this afternoon.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:57 PM on November 29 [5 favorites]


If there’s one thing that I think I could definitely stand to remember and improve on (tho there’s def more than just one) it is that thing cortex et al described regarding taking a beat to explicitly consider the “what is this comment adding to this thread” question. Not necessarily meaning that I am always adding new or valuable information, because goddamn buttslol is a valid af comment many times. But maybe in terms of “is there a good chance that someone else will read an emotional valence in my comment that I did not intend and that is not appropriate for the thread” kinda way.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:19 PM on November 29 [7 favorites]


I half-expected this thread to be a bad-faith pile-on against the OP by commenters conflating "things are terrible and I'm angry" comments (which I think are fair, healthy, and reasonable) with "there's no point in trying, everything's fucked" comments (which aren't necessarily unreasonable but are not fair or healthy).

Anyway, I'm glad that hasn't been the case--but my trepidation at clicking through to the comments on this thread is definitely telling me something about my relationship with this site and how my expectations of discourse here have soured.

Despair isn't a sin, but performative nihilism is a luxury most of us really can't afford to engage in given that we have to find a way to live in this world.
posted by sugar and confetti at 4:09 PM on November 29 [46 favorites]


It's my experience that we, as a community, frown on "your favorite band sucks" comments. I'm feeling like "nothing will change for the better" is even worse.

This articulation resonates with me.

Some related issues came up in some MetaTalks this year on disability (including depression, anxiety, and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria) and I hope we can especially make space here for neuroatypical people to share their answers to kristi's question.
posted by brainwane at 4:09 PM on November 29 [2 favorites]


For a small but vocal percentage of the participants here, there's the sense that You Must Think That Our World is Fatally Flawed In All Facets and Thus Doomed and Must Be All Burnt Down or You Are A Blinkered, Naive Tool of The Status Quo, The Oligarchy, the Powers That Be, the Fill In the Blank and Thus Should Stop Talking™

This is a variant of the negative comment that is particularly irritating. Sometimes it feels like a subset of users reach for negativity as a way to prove that they know more than everyone else. It’s easy to spot, but it’s hard to ignore because it’s like someone coming into a pool and walking around slapping water at everyone’s faces, just provocatively hostile.
posted by sallybrown at 4:39 PM on November 29 [60 favorites]


I was having this same thought a few days ago after reading around the site a while. Honestly, I don't think it's just MetaFilter. It's in the zeitgeist that the only way to feel good is to feel bad and feel good about feeling bad because everything is so bad. There are a lot of things wrong with that way of communicating, but one of the main things wrong is that it's the kind of thing that creates a cycle of misery by normalizing and reinforcing it, making people who didn't start out feeling dramatically bad feel like their worst fears about the quality of life and the world are true and justified. It contributes to a general toxicity.

Posting different stuff isn't a full solution, because it's not just about what people post - the response to positive/uplifting posts can easily be negative and turn the whole atmosphere.

For those of us that aren't looking for more things to be down about in our lives, it's definitely something that makes coming back here for more less appealing. But because it is part of the zeitgeist, I'm not sure there's any MeFi moderation or culture work that can stop it. Calling it out doesn't work, because there is always, always, a serious and morally-high-groundish reason for being negative, and that reason can immediately be recruited into a repudiation to the caller-outer.

It's a pretty crappy dynamic. Don't know what there is to do about it except at the individual level, where you just try not to participate in the downer posting and make it worse, and try to support and engage posts and comments that take another tone.
posted by Miko at 5:12 PM on November 29 [24 favorites]


I think sugar and confetti really nailed it with the phrase "performative nihilism." What seems to be happening here is a highly specific type of negativity that pervades many of the more disappointing Metafilter comments. You can despair, you can even have a wholly pessimistic outlook, but the "fuck it, why bother" throwaway comments are harmful at best.

Also, it would appear that more often than not, the most cynical comments are from individuals in possession of such privileges as being white, cisgender, etc. Privileged peoples often (not always, but often) tend to shout louder, and exhibit a lot less stamina for the racist, sexist, ableist and otherwise generally oppressive bullshit that less privileged individuals have had to deal with on a daily basis for their entire lives. I don't say this as an absolute truth. It's just an observation I am making at a general level about who tends to make more of the cynical, hopeless, unproductive remarks that neither instruct nor enlighten.

If you aren't contributing to a discussion, and are instead just blowing off steam for your own satisfaction, perhaps keeping a personal journal would be one new suggestion for addressing this? Rather than bleeding out on Metafilter?
posted by nightrecordings at 5:29 PM on November 29 [44 favorites]


Thank you for bringing this up, kristi. I don't post all that often on the blue regardless, but I do read many of the threads, and when I saw hn's thread yesterday I chose to avoid it because I expected it to be full of predictable negativity. Like, I actively thought "oh geeze, turds are going to be dropped all over that thread." Glancing through it now I'm disappointed to see it played out pretty much as I was expecting.

On preview, nightrecordings' comment about performative nihilism seems very spot-on. Personally I find that it discourages me from wanting to read, let alone participate in, threads where I expect screenfulls of comments insisting that we stare at the awfulness, stroke the awfulness, roll around with the awfulness and don't ever for one second forget everything is steeped in awfulness. It's not that I want every thread to be full of saccharine Disneyesque happiness, but the negativity can feel just as blankly performative and unhealthy.

We talk about good faith a lot here; maybe one aspect of that is to trust that our fellow readers do in fact know and care that there is a lot wrong with the world right now, and many are even doing what we can to fight against it, even if they/we are not talking about it at every possible moment.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:47 PM on November 29 [15 favorites]


nightrecordings: Also, it would appear that more often than not, the most cynical comments are from individuals in possession of such privileges as being white, cisgender, etc.

As a white, straight, cishet man, it would've been easy for me not to be aware of what happens to everybody else if I were an optimist who liked to be surrounded by optimism. A morbid cast of mind has helped me learn about everything that's wrong with the world, but, as you point out, it has also mostly left me sitting in do-nothing cynicism.

Hmm. Maybe something for me to work on.
posted by clawsoon at 7:55 PM on November 29 [2 favorites]


FUCK, YES.
not you clawsoon✌️

Seriously folks, best advice is to not start. If your here for awhile and one finds the energy to fight and all that entails, stop. It makes one do uncool shit. Trust me, time and space does work. Photonic laxity if you will.
I fought with any-every one. Didn't care like wing chun keyboard half a brain and flubbly lexicon gets one so far.
Languagehat kinda convinced me of that...and where the hell is he... Dude, I still have the Hat-Light™ code...and I'd Fucking us it.
posted by clavdivs at 8:20 PM on November 29 [5 favorites]


I would be a better person without all my negativity so by extension yes.
posted by klanawa at 8:21 PM on November 29


I do a lot more of “here we go again“ then closing of the window & a lot less participating these days, yeah. It’s hard enough for me to get one foot put in front of the other as it is most days without everyone shouting that it’s a waste of time, so I tune out.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:32 PM on November 29 [13 favorites]


The very first comment in one of the threads you linked to is an appalling display of US-centrism with bonus negativity and really set the tone for that thread.

Yes; I saw that comment, eyerolled, then remembered why I've really cut back on creating FPPs since around April of last year - especially positive ones. It feels futile, a pointless waste of time putting the effort in, knowing that there's a good chance that the first comment will be either a DBG (Drive By Gloom) or SS (Shoehorned Sanctimony) one.

What elevates the annoyance is having a look at the activity or history of several of the more frequent DBG/SS commentors and noticing that often the number of actual FPPs they have created themselves is usually in the single digits or zero. Leading to conclude that they are here primarly, or solely, for the writing of negative comments.
posted by Wordshore at 8:59 PM on November 29 [42 favorites]


Despair isn't a sin, but performative nihilism is a luxury most of us really can't afford to engage in given that we have to find a way to live in this world.

QFT, and as Walter Benjamin said,
‚Hope is only given to us for the sake of those without hope.‘

I say that as someone who is very much on the ‚depressive realist‘ end of the spectrum and relishes contradiction and negativity, but seriously, consider what the impact of doomy-gloomy statements will be in a collective sense.
Are you still rooting for team humanity? Or seriously cheering that we‘re about to lose? That view comes awfully close to reactionary ideas about the intrinsic sinfulness and wretchedness of human beings. Is that the team you‘re on now? Serious questions to think about.
posted by The Toad at 9:05 PM on November 29 [4 favorites]


I'm less annoyed by fatalistic one-liners than I am by comments that deem some behavior someone else doesn't like as "performative", but I'd be fine seeing less of both.

I would be fine on seeing less of both things in proportion -- that is to say happier to see a lot less of the word 'performative' used as subliminal pejorative than any said expression of despair. Attempting to control our reactions upon hearing the negative feelings of others expressed trumps attempting to pre-emptively control the expression of such feelings, imho. As La Rochefoucauld once maximized, we all have the strength to bear the sorrows of others.
posted by y2karl at 9:17 PM on November 29 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I'm guilty of this and I think it's because it feels good in a perverse way. It's like a primal urge to let everyone know what's wrong. It's bad for threads in that cumulative way cortex mentioned. I try to resist but it's hard. A better outlet would be better though.
posted by bleep at 10:40 PM on November 29 [2 favorites]


I mean it feels good AND it's the easiest kind of idea to have. It's not easy to resist.
posted by bleep at 10:43 PM on November 29 [2 favorites]


I agree. With everyone. Well, almost everyone. I haven't even read the thread yet, but the headline's enough:

Would MetaFilter be a better place without relentless negativity?

Yes ... ... ... but.
posted by philip-random at 11:19 PM on November 29 [2 favorites]


Really not enjoying "performative" becoming the Extremely Online Overused Word Of The Year. 99% of cases it's being used to invalidate or belittle the contributions of People I Don't Like, and it's... dismissive and gross?

All online commentary is performative. Chivvying the community along to positivity is performative as much as anyone's despair is.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:42 AM on November 30 [19 favorites]


What elevates the annoyance is having a look at the activity or history of several of the more frequent DBG/SS commentors and noticing that often the number of actual FPPs they have created themselves is usually in the single digits or zero. Leading to conclude that they are here primarly, or solely, for the writing of negative comments.

That's quite the conclusion to draw from just their FPP count. Maybe they answer lots of questions on Ask. Maybe they make a lot of comments, and they aren't all or mostly negative. Maybe they read a lot of posts and threads where they don't comment. You really can't say much of anything about how someone uses MetaFilter from their FPP count, except how many FPPs they make.
posted by Dysk at 2:27 AM on November 30 [11 favorites]


That's quite the conclusion to draw from just their FPP count.

Except that you are being disingenious as I'm not looking at just their FPP count, but the large body of negative comments they've previously left.

Not all commenters are like this, thankfully. But a few who do it so frequently it becomes tiresome.
posted by Wordshore at 3:51 AM on November 30 [7 favorites]


Sometimes reading the threads here makes me feel like taking pleasure in anything at all is the most radical form of resistance in which to engage in these trying times. (To that end... Wordshore, please don't stop making positive posts, I take GREAT pleasure in them.)

I don't know what to do about the doom and gloom patrol, except for maybe digging in my heels and enjoying things even more ferociously. Join me, won't you?
posted by palomar at 6:00 AM on November 30 [45 favorites]


taking pleasure in anything at all is the most radical form of resistance in which to engage in these trying times

Joy is indeed resistance. Here's a discussion of two recent books on that topic from Ross Gay and adrienne marie brown. It echoes the findings of generations of hardcore social justice activists. Why would we want to play into the narratives of powers that want to suck joy out of everyone else's daily life and reserve it for a fortunate few? Why would we become their mouthpieces, do their work for them?
posted by Miko at 6:13 AM on November 30 [46 favorites]


Really not enjoying "performative" becoming the Extremely Online Overused Word Of The Year.

Especially since it muddies the water when people are using the word in its technical sense to discuss things like gender. And the colloquial use of “performative” seems to suggest the feelings are fraudulent. I suspect, in most cases, the sentiments are genuine, but the relentless expression of them works as a feedback loop to not only steak the space of having that sentiment, but to reinforce the sentiment by stating it. With really negative feelings, I think this becomes a sort of self harm, constantly coming back to the feeling and reinforcing it, and then coming back to it again. Unfortunately, it also damages other people.

For myself, there are a lot of threads that I won’t go into or leave quickly because I don’t want to internalize the negative sentiments being expressed; I have enough things to deal with on my own. Which is not the same as refusing to read bad news; there is a duty there that needs to be navigated. However, it is affecting my participation on the side when I read the thread or two, nope out, and then go read something else. Maybe I need a good long rest.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:30 AM on November 30 [7 favorites]


That thread was a great example why I read the blue less now. This constant everything involves America. That if America isn't fixed it doesn't matter if things are improving elsewhere. And I'll miss the OP as I really liked their posts. The US centred posting here is spreading everywhere and isn't a good look to non US posters.
posted by kanata at 7:38 AM on November 30 [15 favorites]


For myself, there are a lot of threads that I won’t go into or leave quickly because I don’t want to internalize the negative sentiments being expressed

Me, too -- personally, it's the climate change discussions that usually make me move on, but there are other topics, too. But it's a useful reminder that my own comments on certain subjects probably make other people feel that way (maybe including my own comment in the thread that is the subject of this post); it's a hard line to walk correctly and I am sure I could do much better. Engaging critically with the subject of a post is a good thing, but so is reading the room and engaging in ways that foster discussion rather than argument.

These things are true generally, but more so this time of year. Many people find things particularly difficult during the "holiday season," for all kinds of reasons (family, less daylight, etc), and this is a time of year when feelings can run closer to the surface and people aren't necessarily going to read things charitably.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:16 AM on November 30 [3 favorites]


I think the US centrism was just baked into the article itself. The title was "9 charts to be thankful for this Thanksgiving" and the first line was "For most Americans, these feel like bleak times."

A post linking to an article about how "Extreme poverty has fallen" would have gone differently and US centric comments could have been flagged and deleted.
posted by great_radio at 8:24 AM on November 30 [8 favorites]


By the time I was able to settle down and read the thread, it had become so overwhelmingly negative that I couldn’t find a toe-hold from which to insert a positive comment. There’s no point in flagging hours old comments. Sometimes I feel like there no point in flagging current negative/derailing comments.

When I see certain users appear in the comments I know that no matter what the spirit of the post and previous conversation was, they’ll wrest control and steer the whole thing right toward despair. All of the time.

There are enough despairing threads here. Not all of them have to go that route.
posted by kimberussell at 8:27 AM on November 30 [16 favorites]


I'm one of the posters you're probably thinking of with the "what's up with all this negativity huh?" and I really don't appreciate the armchair psychoanalysis in this thread regarding the reasons why someone might post a "negative" comment. This is assuming such framing is accurate, which I also disagree with.

Posting factual shit that's going on in our world, updates on the current status of some matter of global concern, or simply being the voice of a marginalized community seems to be what most often gets labeled as "negative" commentary. I'm not here for that.

I'm a targeted minority existing in a time of cataclysmic change. It takes everything I have to just exist in the world that seeks my literal death at every turn. I live a very fulfilling life with loving friends, chosen family, beautiful children, and other such rewarding things. I have fun hobbies. I play games. I laugh a lot.

I also seek out a place where I can simply talk about the facts of the world. Climate crisis is an actual fucking crisis. That's not my fault. Democracy is actually under attack the world over. We're on the cusp of a global depression. None of this is my fault. I'm not actively going out of my way to bring up any of this. But, in a thread where such matters are germane, it's bound to come up unless I'm specifically going out of my way to put a rose-colored spin on anything I contribute. I'm not going to do that.

I'm going to comment about what's going on. I really truly appreciate everyone else who does so as well, because it helps us all calibrate our sense of what's normal, what's exceptional, and what's important.
posted by odinsdream at 8:28 AM on November 30 [28 favorites]


I don't understand why, when this topic comes up over and over and over again, the consensus seems to be "We should be more mindful when leaving negative comments" and it never seems to be "We should be more mindful when reading negative comments to not read more into the comment than the words in the negative comments".

Also, I think Metafilter isn't set up for positivity at all because disagreeing with the premise of the post is allowed AND people don't have to read the posts/links before commenting and that is usually acceptable. Like someone can post a thread about "The best 20 sketch comedy bits in the past 20 years" and someone can ignore the whole point of that post can just post memories about comedy bits older than 20 years old. That's a common dynamic on Metafilter. The same thing happened in the "9 Charts to be thankful for this Thanksgiving" thread: people are going to roll into thread where the premise is "here's stuff to be thankful for" and post comments that disagree with the premise without engaging with the linked content because "being able to disagree with the premise of a post without having read any of the links" is a big part of how Metafilter works.

If you want to have a positive thread there negativity has no place, I don't think there's a good way to do that on Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:56 AM on November 30 [19 favorites]


I don't understand why, when this topic comes up over and over and over again, the consensus seems to be "We should be more mindful when leaving negative comments" and it never seems to be "We should be more mindful when reading negative comments to not read more into the comment than the words in the negative comments".

This.
posted by odinsdream at 9:02 AM on November 30 [6 favorites]


Part of the answer to that is: which is easier, for one person to take conscious care about the tone of what that they post or for thousands of people reading along to be conscious of other people's motivations when they post.

There's a counter-argument to that, of course, which is that the one person posting can't intuit how the thousands of people posting are going to read a different post any better than the thousands of people can all interpret the one person's meaning. But even with that, the person who is putting the thought out there into the world has the first and best opportunity to ensure that what they are putting out isn't negativity for negativity's sake.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:14 AM on November 30 [9 favorites]


I'd argue that if your response to a post about thankfulness is "actually, no, you're not allowed to be thankful", that's not reminding people that, say, climate change exists. 1) there's the implication that if your emotional response is different, you must be blindingly ignorant, which is... Not great, and 2) that's not a response to the topic or framing of the post, that's an attempt to impose a very specific political/philosophical worldview that, again, implies 1 about everyone who disagrees with you.

Odinsdream, I think that the comments you describe are valuable! But it's not like everyone in the most recent thread was saying "democracy is fine, climate change is a lie, there are no bad things in the world". There's got to be space to say "this thing? This one, carefully framed and obviously limited thing? It's a good thing" and not have that shouted down as a moral failing on your part.
posted by sagc at 9:28 AM on November 30 [21 favorites]


which is easier, for one person to take conscious care about the tone of what that they post or for thousands of people reading along to be conscious of other people's motivations when they post.

The first of the two things you listed is easier, but the second the two things you listed wasn't something I suggested. I'm not suggesting that thousands of people reading along be conscious of other people's motivations when they post, far from that. I'm suggesting that individuals who hate negativity take care to engage only with the words the person used to make their comment, and not try to imagine other Mefites motivations when reading negative comments.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:38 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


the person who is putting the thought out there into the world has the first and best opportunity to ensure that what they are putting out isn't negativity for negativity's sake.

... or that it can too easily be interpreted as such. I like to think I've never put out negativity for negativity's sake here, but I'm pretty sure I've inadvertently dropped a few poisonous bombs in my time ... just by not being reflective enough, I guess.

I don't know what to do about the doom and gloom patrol,

I occasionally call someone out on Facebook for having what I call a Denethor moment. I've probably done it here a few times as well. Because it really does get ponderous at times, negotiating somebody else's loud, public declamations that we all, "flee! flee for your lives ...

You Must Think That Our World is Fatally Flawed In All Facets and Thus Doomed and Must Be All Burnt Down or You Are A Blinkered, Naive Tool of The Status Quo, The Oligarchy, the Powers That Be, the Fill In the Blank and Thus Should Stop Talking™.

It's boring. It's condescending. And it's wrong. The future ain't written and all that.
posted by philip-random at 9:45 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


There's got to be space to say "this thing? This one, carefully framed and obviously limited thing? It's a good thing" and not have that shouted down as a moral failing on your part.

Is there a specific comment that hasn't been deleted that you can point to that does that? (Or were some of the deleted comments doing that?) Like, I scrolled through the thread but I didn't see any comments like "You are bad for having your opinions".
posted by 23skidoo at 9:51 AM on November 30


"This one, carefully framed and obviously limited thing? It's a good thing" and not have that shouted down as a moral failing on your part.

Respectfully, I think people who take offense to negative comments believe this is what's happening counter to all the evidence contrary.

I'm not aware of this happening on the site. I am aware of people getting their comments deleted because they are marked as "doomsaying" when they definitely just factually describe one of the strands of our shared reality.

I'm not aware of people bursting into positive threads with "you shouldn't like this" and if that happens I'd support it being pruned for being shitty.
posted by odinsdream at 9:54 AM on November 30 [3 favorites]


The best 20 sketch comedy bits in the past 20 years" and someone can ignore the whole point of that post can just post memories about comedy bits older than 20 years old

I did this this I did.
Forgot my glasses, hot was the tea
Laugh with masses, timing off by three.
posted by clavdivs at 9:57 AM on November 30


Concrete example: In a thread about our current impeachment crisis, a comment describing the matter of Trump doing an extortion is considered germane and worthy of sticking around on the site. A comment about his equally as or more important violation of human rights is considered worthy of deletion.

One is considered "doomsaying" while the other is considered "discussing the matter at hand"... the difference of opinion comes in defining the matter at hand and its scope.
posted by odinsdream at 9:57 AM on November 30 [3 favorites]


And, just to make this really really specific: Targeted minorities are more likely to make comments that are considered deletion-worthy. It is an issue of privilege.
posted by odinsdream at 9:58 AM on November 30 [13 favorites]


I mean, I'm not about to call out users who aren't in this thread, but there are ones that imply we're all just happy because billionaires are getting richer, a reminder that we're all just dupes who are into Chinese authoritarianism, and a running argument about it's actually appropriate to publish or read these stats at all when it distracts from other issues - which is also here in this thread, and - I'm stopping reading here - a comment that calls people who talk about these things "Distractions", which the author obviously thinks is only slightly worse than, gasp, being an optimist. Oh one more - a comment saying that people in the thread are "pinkerists" for saying, again, that hey - it is possible for certain things to improve.

And that's across a pretty wide swathe of users! I'd be surprised if they were, in fact, all universally coming from subaltern positions.
posted by sagc at 10:15 AM on November 30 [7 favorites]


Respectfully, I think people who take offense to negative comments believe this is what's happening counter to all the evidence contrary.

Comments in response to Hn's post included:
  • "People who say, "look on the bright side, things have gotten better" are not optimists. They're distractions"
  • The claim that the statistics in the article were a "happy lie", with the obvious implication that those believing in those statistics believe lies.
  • "the people taking the pinkerist line — “everything is great and getting better all the time!” are not arguing for thankfulness. they are arguing for quietism."
  • "like i would like to remind any futurama fans in the audience that professor farnsworth would say "good news, everyone!" right before telling the crew to do something that would probably get them killed."
These comments do not just offer a counter worldview, they assert people celebrating the positive are dupes at best, active tools of evil at worst. I am not sure what they offer the discussion.
posted by schroedinger at 10:16 AM on November 30 [62 favorites]


odinsdream, I hear you. I'm sorry.

I gave an example of what I don't like to see: "Trump's getting reelected, isn't he?" This is not the same as "I'm worried that Trump will get reelected" or "If [x happens], Trump is likely to win again." In the climate change context, that would be like "The boomers have killed us all" vs. "I'm afraid we're not going to pull this off in time" or "Unless [x happens], the world as we know it is likely to collapse, and I don't think it's going to."

Comments like those do not bother me. They are not optimistic comments, but they are not unhelpful. They express concerns and don't shut down discussion.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:31 AM on November 30 [9 favorites]


Cool ok.
posted by odinsdream at 10:33 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I feel like we have cycles around here, with occasional upticks in negativity countered with calls to do better (like this one!) We lose some people now and then and that makes me sad. But we also nudge some nattering nabobs of negativity into nice people here and there. I'm glad people here are trying to be good and thinking hard on the best way to do that. We don't always have to be winning to make this place, but we do always have to be trying
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:31 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


My response to most comments of this sort is simply, "Cheer up, mate- It might never happen!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:44 PM on November 30


we also nudge some nattering nabobs of negativity into nice people here and there

IMO, while getting some negatively-inclined people to incorporate positivity is one valuable outcome, getting some positively-inclined people to acknowledge the validity of negative feelings and experiences is also a valuable outcome.

The real issue, I think, is that sometimes positive or negative outlooks are expressed in a way that tends to shut down this kind of mutual exchange.
posted by Not A Thing at 12:57 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


These comments do not just offer a counter worldview, they assert people celebrating the positive are dupes at best, active tools of evil at worst. I am not sure what they offer the discussion.

The truth.
posted by polymodus at 12:59 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


To desnark my reaction—just because people are dupes and tools of evil doesn't also mean saying that they are essentially evil. Behaving evilly, and that not being one's fault, is consistent with those assertions. It's like being accused of having a big carbon footprint. The idea of false consciousness is not to lessen or demean an individual, even if it is sometimes received that way. This is one difference between leftist and neoliberal worldviews that sometimes comes up.

To me it's like when some people (i.e., Jordan Peterson types) make the accusation that SJW are creating an ideology that takes away people's agency. Does it take away agency? Arguably not. But how do you even explain that to them? It's a similar dynamic.
posted by polymodus at 1:11 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


To desnark my reaction—just because people are dupes and tools of evil doesn't also mean saying that they are essentially evil.


Great- thanks for that, Voltaire.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:15 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


There's this odd moral bent to this discussion that is disturbing. Not being negative is not "doing better." Trying to be positive is not the same thing as trying to be good. I am absolutely not trying to say that coming into somebody's innocent warm, glowing good news thread and tossing a big wet depression blanket on it is okay. It is not. But neither is shutting down somebody's thread about something terrible that happened because talking about it is "negative." Sprightliness is not morally superior to sorrow and horror.

...we also nudge some nattering nabobs of negativity into nice people

If that's true, that's disturbing, given what that phrase means and where it comes from. The idea that they were not nice people when they were not cheerful, before they were "nudged" into being cheerful is just creepy.

"Nattering nabobs of negativism" was written by William Safire, then Nixon's speechwriter:

"In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H club -- the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."

Per the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2009:

The words that William Safire penned and that Spiro Agnew mouthed actually had enormous impact that has lasted until this day. They helped foster among conservatives and the folks that Nixon called "the silent majority" a growing mistrust of the mainstream media, a mistrust that grew over two generations into a form of hatred. It also started a dangerous spiral of events -- journalists started bending backwards to kowtow to their conservative critics, beginning in the time of Reagan, an ill-advised shift that did not win back a single reader or viewer on the right. Instead, it caused a lot of folks on the left and even the center to wonder why the national media had stopped doing its job, stopped questioning authority.

Today, the vast majority of Americans of all political stripes -- conservative, liberal, centrist -- don't believe the "nattering nabobs of negativism, a.k.a. the mainstream media, in record numbers. In the long run, a New Media is emerging that may ultimately prove to be better than what it is replacing, but in the meantime the cost to America in the journalism that was lost during the run-up to the Iraq war and Wall Street's hijacking of the U.S. economy is incalculable.

We need our nabobs to keep nattering just as we need our cheerful sorts to keep spreading the cheer. We need both, especially now.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:15 PM on November 30 [25 favorites]


Great- thanks for that, Voltaire.

I've never read him.
posted by polymodus at 1:17 PM on November 30


I've never read him.

Ironically, given the discussion, his take on relentless optimism in Candide is a pretty good read.

Or maybe it's not ironic because it's exactly what the original mention of Voltaire was referring to? Who know nowadays...
posted by clawsoon at 1:39 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


To desnark my reaction—just because people are dupes and tools of evil doesn't also mean saying that they are essentially evil.

I’d like to think we can do better here than “I’m not saying you’re evil, just that you’re an idiot” as an acceptable way of engaging with other users. I can’t think what the draw would be of a discussion site filled with dupes and tools of evil—to feel intellectually and morally superior? That’s how the doomsaying comments come off at times, but I don’t often feel they’re intended that way.

I wish there was more comfort here with the idea that people with equal capabilities can come to vastly different conclusions—that someone disagreeing isn’t doing so just because they don’t know any better.
posted by sallybrown at 1:45 PM on November 30 [45 favorites]


The idea of false consciousness is not to lessen or demean an individual, even if it is sometimes received that way. This is one difference between leftist and neoliberal worldviews that sometimes comes up.

It is both hilarious and disturbing that you do not realize how sanctimonious and insulting you are. I'm sorry, who deemed you the arbiter of truth? Who decided that the Right Thing is arguing against basic statistics, and that if you don't argue against basic statistics you are not sufficiently leftist and engaging in evil behavior? People who do not share your doom-and-gloom attitude about the world are neoliberal now? Do you care that words mean something, or do you just enjoy pulling them out of your ass because you saw other people using it as an insult and you decided to do it too?
posted by schroedinger at 1:49 PM on November 30 [35 favorites]


IMO this has to do with coping mechanisms and levels of trauma tolerance.

Some people deal with trauma by wanting to talk about it. Those people need a place to talk about it. To have their experiences acknowledged. To have people to say "this is crazy, right?" and to be reaffirmed.

Some people deal with trauma by wanting to escape it. These people need places of shelter and positivity.

The needs are kind of mutually exclusive in terms of content when looked at with a sitewide scope. But on a thread-by-thread basis, you can be the change you want to see in the world.

I'm mostly in the 'escape' faction -- I'm stressed as hell and I don't really have a robust support apparatus. So when I find something that brings me joy I share it, and in doing so, those threads have been little oases.

I don't think there's any answer to be had in this thread except for co-existence of both, to be honest. People are going to need to go "this is insane". And people are going to need to go "I can't deal, and I need something that makes me happy".

Avoid what doesn't work for you, and use what does.

My $0.02, anyway.
posted by WCityMike at 1:50 PM on November 30 [18 favorites]


I agree with that assessment and would just want to throw out there, as one of the people who want to talk about it, that I absolutely sympathize with the escapist camp and find myself there sometimes, too, but I don't think we should be trying to make metafilter only one way or the other.

Mastodon's content warnings seem to help these two kinds of people coexist a little bit better than Mefi does.
posted by odinsdream at 1:59 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


Who decided that the Right Thing is arguing against basic statistics, and that if you don't argue against basic statistics you are not sufficiently leftist and engaging in evil behavior?

In the thread in question, people were not "argu[ing] against basic statistics," they were debating the presentation of said statistics -- whether they were presented fairly or in a misleading fashion. Those with interests that could be broadly described as "neoliberal" might have reason to present rosily-framed statistics regarding inequality; the discussion in-thread hinged on whether that was happening. "Basic statistics" don't exist in a void as inarguable facts or divine forms -- they are data collected by people and analysed by people and they will inevitably, inescapably, reflect the biases and beliefs of those who are collecting, analysing, and ultimately presenting them.
posted by halation at 2:03 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


At least for myself, the sort of threadshit comments like the Alice’s Restaurant one make me recoil away from the blue. I had a feeling h.n.’s post was going to go that way and just didn’t read the comments at all; I guess I was right, judging by this thread. I assume at least some of this is the “thrashed bathroom” result of a lot of things being out of our control, but the end result is that the relentless doomy fighting is just too ever present for my taste.

I should read more books and less internet, I guess.
posted by tautological at 2:11 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I think it's weird that this comes up fairly regularly and is framed as a problem with "negativity".

I often think there is a problem with bad comments and bad actors, not a problem with whether comments rate as positive or negative.

Society is in danger of collapsing around us. I find the idea that people want to bring up some of these disastrous problems, but "don't bum everyone out" to be odd.

I think we have a way bigger problem with people trying to pretend this shit isn't happening.
posted by bongo_x at 2:12 PM on November 30 [10 favorites]


Well, sure, but the question is whether whining about it on Metafilter is really helping anything or just bumming everyone out without helping anything?
posted by Justinian at 2:20 PM on November 30 [14 favorites]


literally nobody is trying to pretend bad shit isn't happening

simply some people are pointing out that good shit is happening somewhere, and they're being told that they're evil idiots distracting us from the Real Work (and are also neoliberals, because words mean nothing).
posted by schroedinger at 2:21 PM on November 30 [20 favorites]


Like, I know Trump has appointed 1/3 of all circuit court judges now. What does pointing that out do? Am I going to invent a time machine and take him out Terminator style before that happens? No, I'm gonna do nothing except get bummed out again.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


What does pointing that out do?

I don't think most comments on this site have a reason for existing beyond the author wanted the comment to exist. Like, yeah, it sucks to be reminded of terrible things that you can't do anything about, but maybe the point of reading comments on Metafilter isn't to find things which one can do something about.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:37 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


literally nobody is trying to pretend bad shit isn't happening

agreed.

Speaking loudly of the desperate state of things around here is preaching-to-the-converted territory. I could easily copy/paste ten thousand words right now from stuff I wrote more than thirty years ago about climate catastrophe, nuclear meltdowns, the ugly and cynical state of American democracy, yadda-yadda-yadda. We were all born into seemingly apocalyptic times -- everybody on the planet today. It's the hand we were dealt. It's where we are.

I absolutely sympathize with the escapist camp and find myself there sometimes, too, but

a while back, somebody took issue with the use of "performative" to describe what was driving some folks' comments. Well, the descriptive that's bugging me right now is "escapist". I suppose because it assumes I'm somehow just not up to dealing with the THE REALITY of our situation. Maybe I'm just seeing and feeling things differently, drawing different conclusions from the available data. No, I'm not saying 99.9 percent of the world's scientists are wrong about climate change. But yes, as already stated, I count myself a member of the future-isn't-written team. Because I tried that already thirty plus years ago and I was so spectacularly wrong that ... well, let's just say I've learned not to mess any more with prognostication. It's a fool's game. When I play it anyway.
posted by philip-random at 2:44 PM on November 30 [6 favorites]


Those with interests that could be broadly described as "neoliberal" might have reason to present rosily-framed statistics regarding inequality; the discussion in-thread hinged on whether that was happening

I can't think of a better example of the problem this MetaTalk is about than multiple people insisting that neoliberal "dupes and tools of evil" have presented false statistics here and it's MetaFilter's job to stamp out their false consciousness with extreme prejudice on actual Thanksgiving night before anyone might think there's anything to be thankful for.

That doesn't mean everyone must always uncritically accept every bit of numerical data that comes their way, but there's a difference between "this statistic is interesting because of X, but looks different when you consider Y" and "I must deprogram the neoliberal dupes who believe this crap."

It's also just possible for some things to get better while other things get worse. I'm not sure why people are so insistent on the idea that merely acknowledging something somewhere could be getting better amounts to quietism. The thrust of the pro-pessimism argument I'm hearing is almost accelerationist, that we must insist everything is as bad as possible at all times or we won't create the necessary conditions for massive sweeping change to make it better. If that's the way you want to live, all the power to you, but maybe at least acknowledge that others find extreme relentless pessimism to be harmful to their well-being.
posted by zachlipton at 2:48 PM on November 30 [51 favorites]


Ironically, given the discussion, his take on relentless optimism in Candide is a pretty good read.

All that is very well; but let us cultivate our garden.

*pours out a 40 of organic plant food for H.n.*
posted by eirias at 2:51 PM on November 30 [17 favorites]


Society is in danger of collapsing around us. I find the idea that people want to bring up some of these disastrous problems, but "don't bum everyone out" to be odd.

I think part of it is wrapped up in what we think MetaFilter is for. I'm aware of the problems of the imminent collapse of society and/or the environment. I come here because my friends are here and I like to talk to people about the things I care about, which include society and the environment but also other things. I come here for a wide range of viewpoints (which, yes, could be wider) because I feel like I don't have all the answers.

I think there's a difference between someone coming into an AskMe thread about wanting a "place by the water" and saying "Hey be mindful of climate change when you make your decisions" (as someone did, which seemed okay to me) and someone saying "Well society will collapse in the next decade, so don't make plans" (which I've seen get deleted in other threads and falls solidly into unhelpful to me, whether it's in AskMe or MeFi or FanFare). And I know AskMe isn't MeFi, but I think the point stands: people have made choices about the way they've chosen to respond to climate change, big problems in major world governments, and many of the knock-on effects of those things. We can both realize that a lot of the effects of these things are not evenly distributed throughout society and that some people, clearly and objectively, have things worse and better off. Even within the worse/better off populations there are differences of feeling/opinion in how to respond to these things.

And so I get that some people feel some of these things on a minute-by-minute basis more strongly than others, both because they may be being affected by these things more or that they are just more empathetic to the suffering of others. That said, and as a nod to the comment above, I think most of us have "This is when I'm thinking about the major issues" times and "This is when I am doing something else other then actively and directly thinking about the major issues" times. I usually spend my non-major-issues time on MeFi and my major-issues time elsewhere, usually in my offline life (which may be partly why I'm on MeFi less lately). For other people that ratio may be different.

I still have to wake up, go to work, do my things, buy my stuff, interact with people, consume media, go to sleep and then find a reason to do it all over again while whatever else is happening also happens. It's weird and hard and produces cognitive dissonance to try to be optimistic, for me. But this, speaking only for myself, isn't because I'm not aware of what's happening and why it's happening, it's precisely because I DO understand these things and still have to live in the world anyhow. And I have to be okay with the fact that some people think I'm not doing enough and that other people are suffering. It's just hard.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:53 PM on November 30 [42 favorites]


If that's the way you want to live, all the power to you, but maybe at least acknowledge that others find extreme relentless pessimism to be harmful to their well-being.

The point of contention seems to be where, exactly, the line of "extreme relentless pessimism" gets drawn. One person's relentless pessimism is another person's realism; one person's realism is another person's blithe optimism. I didn't even click on the original thread, because I'm aware that I tend toward the pessimist end of the spectrum, so I felt it was clearly Not A Thread For Me -- but some of the comments regarding "doomsaying" and "threadshitting" in MetaTalks like these tend to make me feel that some of the optimist contingent would prefer those who fall on the other end of the spectrum to shut up or leave altogether, and that does not feel great.
posted by halation at 3:02 PM on November 30 [5 favorites]


I don't always adhere to this myself, but I find that any comment that can be summed up as "Nuh-UH!" probably doesn't need to be made.
posted by Etrigan at 3:05 PM on November 30 [10 favorites]


some of the comments regarding "doomsaying" and "threadshitting" in MetaTalks like these tend to make me feel that some of the optimist contingent would prefer those who fall on the other end of the spectrum to shut up or leave altogether, and that does not feel great.

I dunno, the "optimist" contingent is not the side calling the other side evil neoliberal Pinkerist quietists, so I would push back on your concern about who is attempting to drive out whom.
posted by schroedinger at 3:06 PM on November 30 [30 favorites]


I dunno, the "optimist" contingent is not the side calling the other side evil neoliberal Pinkerist quietists

"Threadshitting" is a pretty inherently pejorative descriptor, I would argue, and it gets thrown around a fair bit. To be fair to the OP article, it doesn't fall into the trap that Pinker-esque stats usually do; it does a reasonable job of framing its arguments. But frankly, a whole lot of people hate Pinker, who tends to traffic in data with framing similar to that in the OP article, and there are real and important problems with some of that framing. Wanting to celebrate improvements in standards of living or solar power adoption doesn't make you a "dupe," but those arguments certainly can be used to dupe us. I understand that it doesn't feel good to have this pointed out, but people pointing it out in a comment thread isn't the same as people personally attacking *you,* though I understand it can feel that way.

I'd also point out, gently, that all but one of the quotes you cite from the thread as particularly egregious came from a single individual, who tends to make such comments pretty regularly, but your framing implies that all of the "pessimists" are attacking you in this fashion. By my reading, that claim seems unfair.
posted by halation at 3:23 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


Wanting to celebrate improvements in standards of living or solar power adoption doesn't make you a "dupe," but those arguments certainly can be used to dupe us. I understand that it doesn't feel good to have this pointed out, but people pointing it out in a comment thread isn't the same as people personally attacking *you,* though I understand it can feel that way.


Depending on your viewpoint, positive statistics can be used to dupe people into obedience or inspire the hope necessary to carry on. I would argue that the people in that thread arguing for positivity are channeling the latter (and the fact that nobody has thus far argued the world is puppies and rainbows would back that up). Similarly one could point out that negative news can spur someone into action, or can be used to inspire despair great enough to override any efforts to build a better future. I think the people arguing for "realism" would be extremely offended if I suggested they were secretly in league with the powers who'd rather us all give up. So I am not sure why it is OK to assume the worst about the people presenting positive news.
posted by schroedinger at 3:34 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


That thread was super disappointing, it was chockablock with snarky one liners, it pissed me off quite a bit, no lie.

Me, too -- personally, it's the climate change discussions that usually make me move on

Oh fuck, yes. Often what bothers me in those threads - just like the one mentioned in this post, and for example a recent one on WePay in China are similar characteristics:

- Coming in hot with a really strongly worded comment and ready to rumble with anyone who disagrees
- Cynical one liners of a kind of "duh, everyone knows blah blah"
- And most annoyingly, often people posting this stuff don't know shit and there's little interest in learning

I know a lot about climate change, but basically stopped interacting at all with climate change posts because the comments are sooooooo repetitive and ignorant most of the time. It's demoralising. Push back by trying to inject a little nuance and you get accused (as I have been) of being a capitalist running dog.

I think there can be a widely varying tolerance of community members deviating from the "Mefi-line" on some topics. But, especially as the community is getting smaller - it's pretty frigging rarefied air we're breathing in and it feels like a bit of a circular firing squad instead of an agora of ideas. People can disagree without necessarily being bitter enemies or racist vs enlightened liberals etc.

I guess what I find most depressing is the contempt; it's palpable sometimes.
posted by smoke at 3:47 PM on November 30 [47 favorites]


I think the snarky one liners in a thread like that net negative, and that's a wake up call for me. I don't typically go to places of positivity to try and suck air out of the room, but I've definitely looked elsewhere for a fight and found it. Something for me to reflect upon, because I don't know many other places that have the discussions Metafilter does, and I think a lot of them are important.

I'm fairly new to Metafilter by Metafilter standards, and newer to MetaTalk. I would be surprised if a big part of the frustration voiced here is due to the fact that there are a group of people in a thread where things happened, then there's a differently comprised group of people here talking about it. People here have issues with people in the thread. Will the people in the thread be made aware of those issues? I'm not saying they should or that's anyone's responsibility. It's the internet so some things just can't happen. Among groups of people, though, I've not seen a dynamic like that exist that wasn't pretty dysfunctional. Maybe that's why we're here?

Mandatory attendance in metatalk threads notwithstanding, and at the risk of being too new and not seeing the pitfalls, is it possible for someone who creates a thread to tag it as "uplifting" or some other such? Then people can know that the purpose of the post isn't to bring whatever expertise/vocation you can to bear, but to just not take it as seriously? If gross propoganda posts start seeping in unchecked (e.g. here's my positivity thread on the REAL pitfalls of vaccinations!), then a MeTa here and see what the issue is? Maybe if you want to be someone who makes a post, you agree to participate in any MetaTalks that arise from it? In a perfect world I'd want anyone who signs up to participate in MeTas, but I doubt that's feasible. Would be very healthy though, I think.

Not looking to add work to mods, but it seems that some sort of tag based on OP's intention might lessen cognitive loads as mods will sooner know the purpose of the thread (from the horse's mouth). If the main thread that caused this post were tagged, I dunno, "some good stuff too!," then the mods could see the drive by comments and just delete with impunity with little cognitive exertion. If another MeFite sees the post and underlying sources and wants to make their own [serious] post, they can. Maybe that'll just create a new dysfunction, but at least then it's something one opts into.

Anyway, back to the back row for me. Thanks to those of you who care enough to be having these discussions.
posted by avalonian at 4:16 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


IMO this has to do with coping mechanisms and levels of trauma tolerance.

Some people deal with trauma by wanting to talk about it. Those people need a place to talk about it. To have their experiences acknowledged. To have people to say "this is crazy, right?" and to be reaffirmed.

Some people deal with trauma by wanting to escape it. These people need places of shelter and positivity.


I think this is bang on. I get really frustrated about it, too, because I cope using both methods at different times, but it's hard to work out how to use the site when I am trying to find joy because it's so difficult sometimes to identify places to find joy. For me, this is especially true because "look at cute things" tends not to do it for me, but having a fake argument about something totally inconsequential and not hurting anyone does, although right now everyone is so traumatized and sore that it's hard to find a topic for that. Or talking about historical stories I find really powerful, invoking ways to do better and hope.

Huh. I think for me, both of these traumatic strategies overlap: one thing I find incredibly valuable is discussing things I find traumatic in ways that find hope for the future and help build coalitions with other people. Sometimes that's worked really well for me here; sometimes it has worked incredibly badly and helped me re-traumatize myself all over again. It's hard for me to predict which will happen, except that as smoke points out the contempt has to be taken out of the equation. It's hard when we're all hurting and angry and sore, but contempt just makes everything worse.

I don't know. I want to seek joy more often. I've appreciated Hn's posts a lot as I struggle with a new wave of depression and anhedonia lately. I'm trying to emotionally withdraw from a whole lot of sinks of effort and energy in my life and re-invest in others, and at various times this community has been a hugely positive force for me. I don't think that has to do with subject matter, though. I find that this community is most supportive not when it is trying desperately to avoid the darkness, but when it is focusing hard on being respectful of others: affirming other people's fears or pain or glory or joy; rolling around in excitement over beautiful pieces; asking questions and answering them and respecting the varied lived experiences here.

We have to respect each other, wherever we are at. We can't carry contempt for one another. Contempt kills relationships and communities; it is pure poison for our ability to seek support and connection in one another. And that holds true both for folks going "I want to think about things that make me happy" and folks going "I want to think about things that make me furious and distraught and terrified".
posted by sciatrix at 4:18 PM on November 30 [12 favorites]


I'm fairly new to Metafilter by Metafilter standards, and newer to MetaTalk. I would be surprised if a big part of the frustration voiced here is due to the fact that there are a group of people in a thread where things happened, then there's a differently comprised group of people here talking about it. People here have issues with people in the thread. Will the people in the thread be made aware of those issues?

It's common for a link to a MetaTalk thread spawned by a particular FPP to be posted in the FPP itself so people know the MetaTalk is happening. If you're worried about folks not being aware, it's totally normal for you or someone else to do that in the thread linked, too!
posted by sciatrix at 4:20 PM on November 30 [1 favorite]


because they may be being affected by these things more or that they are just more empathetic to the suffering of others

These are two possibilities, but I think there are more, and that among the others are: they have been sucked into a relentlessly dramatically negative worldview by the general tenor of the time and have internalized it and are replicating it; they have been immersed in a social world in which this is the major form of discourse and have reverted to it as their dominant mode; and/or that they enjoy opportunities to take people they perceive as either having it better or in the midst of a moment of relative peace down a notch or two.

I'm not all denying the existence of the former when I note the existence of the latter. And I can't necessarily tell the former from the latter based on a few lines of text. But I do know, from real life, that these are all contributors to an atmosphere that's become toxic for a lot of people, many of them the very people that attention to the serious issues is supposed to be helping. On the whole, in a life that intersects a fair bit with serious activism in a few critical areas, I have observed that the people most eager to introduce a dark tone into those discussions are definitely not a perfect Venn diagram with the people who are being most effective making change on those topics. In fact, far from it. Yes, some activists bring the complication factor into every single conversation everywhere they go. But not all of them and I'd venture to say not even a majority - because they are focusing their energies and because they, themselves, need rest in order to be more effective in their work. (No shade to people who are so miserable as to have become immobile, but those who are immobile can't be that helpful, another reason I think it doesn't help to be so incredibly discouraging to general audiences. Many people are more vulnerable to hopelessness and it's worth considering that before inflicting it on them).

So, while I understand that some people may feel it more important to introduce the sadder, darker, more negatively predictive content into discussions, by no means am I ready to accept that they are also the more engaged, knowledgeable, and effective people working on or thinking about those issues. Not only is that not demonstrated (or maybe not even demonstrable) here, it's also not reflective of what is happening offline, where behavior that has impact can be observed more clearly. So the superiority/contemptuous component of some of the "evil" commentary comes off to me as really empty.
posted by Miko at 4:20 PM on November 30 [31 favorites]


As long as members are acting in good faith and following the rules they should be able to say what they like. If one wants more positive things to talk about then post or comment as such. If you don't like a thread and the only reason is it is too negative then perhaps move on. If members are not following the rules then flag it and move on.

I'm pessimistic about the state of the world now, and I simply choose not to wade into those discussions. I may start reading a thread, but quickly move on to AskMe or Projects to see if there is anything interesting.

If not, I pet my dog.













My dog is sick of me interrupting his naps.
posted by terrapin at 4:21 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


Who’s supposed to be neoliberal here? Vox? Mefites?

Neoliberalism is a right-wing position that has nothing whatsoever to do with liberalism (as liberalism is understood in the USA, which is the only place where I talk about it). And I know liberalism and leftism aren’t the same thing, but they’re a hell of a lot closer together (at least in the aforementioned USA, and probably everywhere) than liberalism and neoliberalism are.

Ain’t no neoliberals here. Cut it out.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:23 PM on November 30 [4 favorites]


I'm sorta glad I missed the FPP on first pass. I doubt I could have refrained from dropping "ok gloomer" or "ok doomer" after getting annoyed at the trend.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:25 PM on November 30 [10 favorites]


I doubt I could have refrained from dropping "ok gloomer" or "ok doomer" after getting annoyed at the trend.

Oh man now I want to do this but I know I’m not supposed to. So don’t worry, I won’t.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:29 PM on November 30 [7 favorites]


2016 pretty much killed my participation on this site. I've only begun commenting again this year, and pretty tentatively at that. And it's because the site's tone shifted from "generally bleak" (2009-2015) to "non-stop panic attack". I left here, and found a bunch of left-leaning sites that focused less on cathartic fear, more on solidarity and resolve.

I think it's possible to come together, to stare the horrors of the world in the face, and decide that there are ways of facing it that bring a sense of safety and comfort. I do not think that all comfort is necessarily delusion. I remain fiercely skeptical of optimism, and try to question blindly-good-seeming things until I have a more realistic understanding of what they are—but at the same time, there is hope. There is a lot of fucking hope. I'm 29 and still planning to raise a family some day in the middle of a country that's severely struggling and a world that's seen Calmer Times, and the despairing voice in my head that wonders why I'd bother thinking of family in a year like this has mostly quieted to a whisper. But checking MetaFilter makes it flare back up again, and honestly, I don't think that that's healthy.

I think of that old canard about how, when you're severely depressed, you don't think of yourself as depressed. You think, instead, that you finally see the world for what it is: a cold lonely rock spiraling through endless space full of lonely people living purposeless lives in the face of death. And there's nothing factual that'll change that interpretation of events, because none the things that put the lie to that can be plotted on a chart. But that doesn't make that kind of bleakness "truer". It makes it the flavor you find emotionally resonant in your present state.

I love lurking on The Whelk's posts, which are pretty confrontational w/r/t the state of the world these days and the deep mires of shit we're buried in—but look towards understanding and changing that state of affairs, and creating newer and stronger solidarities than have ever existed to date. I have nothing against discussions about oppression, about broken systems, about corruption, about the ignorances and apathies and fears that make up the bulk of all evils. But so much of MetaFilter consists of just, god, wailing. Wailing and being a dick towards people who aren't wailing sufficiently.

I feel a sense of hope and hopelessness in the short term, and hope and hopelessness in the long term. I try to draw the line between the reasonable apocalypses, the ones I think we'll face, the ones that will certainly make the rest of my life a struggle, and the unreasonable apocalypses, which feel more like anxiety attacks painted lurid colors. I think there will be hardship and things will get worse, but I don't think those things preclude the world's getting better too, or the little small comforts that, in their multiplicities, will make life feel soft and warm and worth it. And I think I mostly believe that future generations will have their chance at that too, in part because they'll never comprehend what we lost, in part because we'll never comprehend what they gained.

It's possible to live in 2019 and believe in a future, doom-tremors notwithstanding. Cutting MetaFilter largely out of my diet makes that belief a whole lot easier to maintain.
posted by rorgy at 4:49 PM on November 30 [83 favorites]


Thank you all so much for your thoughtful and thought-provoking responses.

I'd like to clarify that I am NOT asking for no "negative" posts or comments at all. I value posts and comments about injustices and problems: they give voice to the experiences of others, which is one of the things I value most about MetaFilter, and they help me know about things that maybe I could help address.

I had hoped that when I explicitly asked, "Is there a way we can share our pain and anger over things that are happening in the world without discouraging each other or driving each other away?" that that would make it clear that I was not saying "no negativity ever please."

I am not asking anyone to stop sharing their experiences or news about the world.

I am expressing my own alarm about the effect of comments saying, basically, "nothing will ever get better," and also of the kind of aggressive negativity that schroedinger identified in that one thread - comments that don't merely imply that others are deluded, but pretty much come right out and say it.

As smoke and sciatrix pointed out, the contempt is a big part of it - although, for me, the proclamations that nothing can ever get better have less contempt but are also discouraging.

So, with the gift of your many and varied comments to respond to, perhaps I could try rephrasing my questions like this:

What value do "nothing will ever get better" and "you're deluded for celebrating something good"-type comments bring to the community? (both for the community at large, and for the individual members making those comments)

What harm and cost do those comments inflict on the community? (referencing the number of people in this thread who have said they visit MeFi less, avoid certain threads altogether, post less, close windows and leave threads more; and guesstimating how many people who are not in this thread are also doing those things)

If the harm outweighs the value, do we, as a community, want to try to do anything about it?

And cortex, asking just for myself: if I were to flag these types of extremely negative comments, would that be okay?
posted by kristi at 6:22 PM on November 30 [18 favorites]


Wailing and being a dick towards people who aren't wailing sufficiently.


dare I?
posted by some loser at 6:24 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


kristi: What value do "nothing will ever get better"-type comments bring to the community?

This is simply my interpretation. But I believe it is a way that some people express grief, alarm, and unhappiness over multiple severely negative situations stacking on top of each other. I believe it also can be a way that some people, on deep levels, are signaling to others that they are scared and need factual, argumentive reassurance. I also believe it can be a way that people who feel they are experiencing existential threats to their lives, community, and/or safety are trying to communicate that fact. I also believe it can be a way of expressing the phenomenon of hyperarousal brought about by the severely confrontational, antagonistic times we live in.

kristi: What value do "you're deluded for celebrating something good"-type comments bring to the community?

I am not in love with ad hominems, so my first reaction is to say that they bring no good. But I think they can be looked at and understood. For people who are feeling deep threat in their immediate life, who feel their safety is in danger -- think of "this is fine" (full comic a little gross) versus "this is not fine". I think those that are perceiving what is going on as an immediate threat are wondering why everyone else isn't, seeing themselves as the second strip and others as the first.

But I think it all boils down to how people are actually experiencing threat, how they are perceiving threat, and how they are processing that threat. These three variables differ DRASTICALLY for everyone and are going to result in lots of different combinations of reactions.

You seem to outline it as calmly as a logic chart -- if good is lesser than non good, then proceed to community action -- but I don't think it's nearly that simple. I don't think we can do one single community action. I don't think the mods are going to do one single community action either, although I'm obviously not in their heads nor speaking for them.

It'll be people's small, individual actions of tolerance towards individual coping mechanisms, made repeatedly, that make any difference in the site's direction as a whole on this topic. Being kind to one another, trying to be more tolerant when experiencing others' fears firsthand, and to understand that we're all dealing with stress -- we all are just processing it differently.

I think we need to simply accept that difference. IMO at least, there's no right or wrong about how people are processing all of this. The different coping styles need to co-exist. I am hoping that the populations can exist side-by-side, using different thread topics as needed.
posted by WCityMike at 8:20 PM on November 30 [12 favorites]


I think the weird doomsaying comments are frequently distracting from conversations that I would like to read and participate in. I think it's valuable and interesting to figure out whether the metrics in the linked Vox article are good ways to measure human well-being, and to come up with better ones. I think it's stupid to instead talk about whether the metrics are the voice of rich elites attempting to hypnotize you into submission.
posted by value of information at 9:01 PM on November 30 [14 favorites]


I love all of you bitter nerds.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:07 PM on November 30 [8 favorites]


I write bitter letters to newspaper editors. It doesn't do any good.

Thoughtful Mefi posts often stir things I've thought were better left unstirred, but once they were exhumed, I figured out that writing them down in here sometimes gives them a semblance of order. I have tried to stop picking fights: it's more work to follow the argument than it is to characterize the person making it. This isn't the place to go back to school. Anyhow, the comments become the fruit of the post, as they should.

But winter is a dark season for me. I look forward to spring.
posted by mule98J at 10:26 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I appreciate doom in comment, videogame, and metal subgenre forms. German grandma. Don't know what I'd do without all the relentless negativity.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:50 AM on December 1 [2 favorites]


All I'll say is that I've had to take breaks from MetaFilter to distance myself from this kind of negativity.

I have learnt to chalk it down to the current state of the United States and the Anglosphere in general. Sitting in the 'happiest country in the world' allows the challenging conditions to be clearly seen. Otoh a series on the good stuff might be worth looking into as FPP theme.
posted by Mrs Potato at 5:05 AM on December 1


I find the constant need to be positive when the world is on fire, an incredibly oppressive and often naive gesture.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:05 AM on December 1 [8 favorites]


Guys I gotta say that I've largely ghosted MeFi because the constant navel/etiquette gazing feels like splitting frog's hair 3 ways and it is well beyond old. All that energy should be thrown into hyperlocal community improvement - even if it's just trimming a bush that blocks the porch light.

Maybe MeFi should have a Get The Fuck Outside/Get The Fuck Offline day once a week.
posted by yoga at 6:13 AM on December 1 [17 favorites]


When I was a kid, my dad was going through a time and I baked him a cake. It wasn't a very good cake--I was eleven, and overfond of blue food coloring in icing--but I was proud of it. And when he came home from work, I took it up to his room, like, I hope this cheers you up! And he proceeded to tell me that it was unhealthy, that he would never eat it, that I'd therefore wasted all the ingredients because no one would eat it, that I shouldn't eat it because I needed to watch my weight, and there were children starving in the world and I'd just made something that would have to be thrown away because no one would ever want to eat that cake and how could I be so selfish, so wasteful and so foolish to think that an ugly, unhealthy dessert would make him feel better or solve any problems in the world.

I was devastated. It took me a long time to realize (thanks Mom) that Dad really was going through a time. He got better, or rather, he cycled out of where he had been. People deal with stress and hardship in different ways. Sometimes they don't mean to lash out at people. Sometimes they don't intend to make you feel like a piece of shit, when you're just trying to bring them a blue cake. My dad and I (mostly) get along swimmingly these, because I've learned how to interact with him.

That said, I leave threads when people start sounding like my father when I was eleven, shouting at me and the cake. Maybe it's cowardly or escapist, but I'm not perfect. Likewise, it's been thirty-two years since I last baked my father a cake, and though I do lots for him, I'll never do that again.
posted by thivaia at 6:25 AM on December 1 [67 favorites]


WCityMike is killing it here. Agreement with all of that.

I think there's a lot of frustration on this topic also because it's very easy for trauma and past experiences to distort communication about what kinds of emotional valence with respect to despair and joy folks are looking for. People who need to say "this isn't fine! Nothing is fine! Fix it!" usually have experienced other people telling them to focus on positive things rather than negative things and stop paying attention to the perceived (and often very real) threat. It's easy to hear that sentiment again when they see requests to dial down negative comments. People who need to say "there's hope, if we light matches against the darkness; if we forge solidarity, we can make a better world" have often recently experienced other people telling them to quit being naive and wake up to the reality of how bad the world has gotten. Humans are animals who are very, very good at pattern recognition, and this is particularly true of pattern recognition when it comes to identifying potential threats - - and here I think both sorts of people are really prone to identifying those threats, based on real past experience, in the comments of this discussion.

You cannot stop the doomsaying and the perseveration of fear by telling it to go away, is the thing. You stop it by facing it down and doing something about it that lets your hindbrain feel a little safer. Sometimes that thing is saying "I'm really scared and I feel like no one is scared with me!" Sometimes it's direct action, or planning direct action, and what that action is looks really different to different people.

Now, the problem is that it's hard to walk the line with answers to that first question. It's important to validate the fear to feel safe, but it's also really tempting to get caught in a cycle of "We are all drowning together and no one wants to do anything about it, and the threat is so big that I'm just one person and I can't deal with it!" Because, to be clear, that's the scope of the situation we're almost all in right now. The trouble is that you need to figure out how to say I see the danger at the same time as you say I'll try to protect you or there are people here who care or here's what I'm going to do. And that can be a very, very hard target to hit, especially when the trauma brain is on super high alert for potential threats.

I have a whole lot of thoughts also about the role of community support in ameliorating trauma and community rejection tending to compound it, but also it's 830 and I need to get up and shower and engage in some basic self care. More later if someone is interested.
posted by sciatrix at 6:29 AM on December 1 [10 favorites]


I find the constant need to be positive when the world is on fire, an incredibly oppressive and often naive gesture.

Precisely no one has stated that there is a constant need to be positive.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:30 AM on December 1 [18 favorites]


I find the constant need to be positive when the world is on fire, an incredibly oppressive and often naive gesture.

Too-Ticky already pointed out that this is a bit of a straw man argument, since the only people who are harping on the need for constant positivity are people arguing against the value of positivity. But here's a counterpoint for you: a little positivity in the face of the world being on fire is part of what keeps me from sliding so deep into depression that I will cause harm to myself. And I'm 100% certain that I'm not the only MeFite here who can say that.
posted by palomar at 6:41 AM on December 1 [22 favorites]


And if saying that makes me oppressive and naive, well, good job getting your licks in I guess.
posted by palomar at 6:46 AM on December 1 [3 favorites]


Too-Ticky:

They very much are:

There is a current of relentless negativity in many threads on MetaFilter (especially threads touching on politics, the climate crisis, and justice or injustice) that bothers me more and more. Those comments certainly make it harder for me to participate here. It seems likely to me that they're making things harder for other people as well.

Krisit

I don't have a lot to add here besides a "hear, hear". This kind of doomsaying – about the US, about the world, about our climate, about our society, about everything – is one of the least attractive tendencies of the culture here on Metafilter.

Working Dan Koch

It is exhausting and I try to avoid participating in this type of negativity myself (though I'm sure I do not always succeed). I will keep trying to post about the things I love (video games & gaming culture) and attempt to try to see the good.
Fizz


This is a variant of the negative comment that is particularly irritating. Sometimes it feels like a subset of users reach for negativity as a way to prove that they know more than everyone else. It’s easy to spot, but it’s hard to ignore because it’s like someone coming into a pool and walking around slapping water at everyone’s faces, just provocatively hostile.
Sally Brown

Despair isn't a sin, but performative nihilism is a luxury most of us really can't afford to engage in given that we have to find a way to live in this world.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:55 AM on December 1 [1 favorite]


i guess qouting other people is a deletable offensive, for fucks sake.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:05 AM on December 1


Please don't insult other members. Calling people performative nihilists is an insult; picking people out to apply this to is a direct insult.
posted by taz (staff) at 7:07 AM on December 1 [3 favorites]


Peformative nihilist was a direct quote! Not by me! By others!
posted by PinkMoose at 7:18 AM on December 1 [4 favorites]


Sorry. Because it was not attributed, it looked like you were turning it around to insult the people whose quotes you did attribute. I will undelete your comment, but I don't think that any of these are examples of a demand for "constant positivity."
posted by taz (staff) at 7:27 AM on December 1 [10 favorites]


None of the quoted comments are calling for "a constant need to be positive." None of them are even talking about what they want or expect other people to do; they're all talking about what they personally experience, describing what they try to do themselves, or pointing to the type of aggressive negativity this MeTa is about.

If you're getting "a constant need to be positive" out of those comments, it's because you're reading it into them.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 7:49 AM on December 1 [20 favorites]


It's really hard. Once you start seeing the negativity (and, yeah, it's there) as a problem that needs fixing, you can start describing it as "relentless" and you get sucked into the vortex of negativity yourself because then you're harshing on other people's communication styles. I think there's room for multiple communication styles and goodwill between us, but we have to weed out bad faith and abuse.

Some folks above have described a pattern of behavior by a few particular users (unnamed in this thread) who seem to be abusing the goodwill of the site. I hope folks who see this kind of behavior drop the mods a note about it. The mods seem willing, in general, to give users time-outs or even bans when they become abusive.

I know it can be hard for them to draw firm lines on what counts as bad faith and abuse, and historically really vile and hateful comments have been totally allowed. It's been really clear through the people-of-color threads that the mods are not really trained to enforce community standards and do everything on an ad hoc basis, and while most everyone agrees that's not good enough anymore, the mods are not really prepared to change that except in the tiniest increments. So if particular people are a problem, it seems like the only way to get the mods to do something is for people to take note and point fingers and contact the mods.

That's not great. It makes this place feel more tense and kind of McCarthy-esque. Too much of it will tear this site apart. But maybe enough of it will convince cortex that if he wants the site to continue, he really really does need to put resources into training the mods and developing a code of conduct and all the things that are currently years and years away from happening, though we really really need them now.
posted by rikschell at 8:04 AM on December 1 [1 favorite]


Uhghghg, if you hate negativity and you don't engage in it, maybe stop trying to understand the motivations of people who don't hate negativity and who do engage in it. The phrase "performative negativity" is shitty, and in conversations like these, people who endorse positivity are able to get away with talking about those who post negative comments in the worst way possible. "Performative" is a word best used when describing your own actions, when you use it to describe others, it's needlessly shit-stirring and drama-causing.

This tradition Metafilter has of describing comments they don't like in very negative ways creates drama. Centering your own opinion in a snarky repeatable catchphrase creates drama. If you hate negative comments on Metafilter, cool cool. But phrases like "performative negativity" and "Dead-goat comment" and whatever other snarky catchphrases appeal to Metafilter are a form of negativity that makes people not want to engage with the site or with other members.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:42 AM on December 1 [5 favorites]


There is a lot of light between wanting everything to be positive, all the time... and wanting things not to be completely negative, all the time. I see people asking for the latter, but no one asking for the former.

Despair is not a sin but neither is hope.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:47 AM on December 1 [18 favorites]


And honestly, it gets old to see people who express hope being painted as naive, ignorant or Polyanna-ish. Some people can simply not afford to give up, and we all need to do what we need to do to keep going. This will not be the same for everyone. Whatever gets you through the night.

If we can do that without making it harder for others, so much the better.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:08 AM on December 1 [21 favorites]


There is a lot of light between wanting everything to be positive, all the time... and wanting things not to be completely negative, all the time. I see people asking for the latter, but no one asking for the former.

Despair is not a sin but neither is hope.


Okay, but Metafilter is already not completely negative all the time, not by any real metric. There's tons of positive content on Metafilter, so the fact that people are asking for something that already exists makes me think that the topic of negativity is so broad and ill-defined that it's going to be very hard to walk away from a discussion with any real sense of accomplishment.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:20 AM on December 1 [5 favorites]


It's interesting to see how attitudes play out in the Big Oil/Big Data post. The framing of the FPP is dystopian already, with a headline that would seem to invite declarations of doom. Out of the first 4 comments, one user posts twice about how naive the author of the article must be and how "countless" articles get posted to MF about how Big Data = War Machine, and that the internet (and MF itself) must therefore be evil. It's not clear if the poster is being sarcastic or not. Out of the next 3 comments, two are reacting to this extreme take. Can the conversation right itself, or is it going to be all about the hot-tempered user rather than about the post. Too early to tell yet, but it's clear someone came in to start a fight.
posted by rikschell at 9:26 AM on December 1 [2 favorites]


23skidoo, people have posted some pretty specific examples of what sort of negativity they think is harmful, what isn't. We're not asking for an increase in positive comments, just a reduction in a specific sort of negative comment.

At the very least, that's what I'm taking away from this thread. There are people who want to be able to post that they're feeling positive, and not get called 'distractions' for daring to profess optimism. That's it. It feels like a pretty small ask.
posted by sagc at 9:43 AM on December 1 [8 favorites]


23skidoo, people have posted some pretty specific examples of what sort of negativity they think is harmful, what isn't. We're not asking for an increase in positive comments, just a reduction in a specific sort of negative comment.

Yeah, I don't think anyone's calling for increased positivity, and I don't think anything I said should have given you the impression that I think anyone is asking for an increase in positivity. I disagree that only one specific sort of negative comments are the only negative comments that people are expressing their disapproval of in this thread. Like, my read of the reason for this MeTa was that a user felt that the frequency of negative comments was too high. Others are bothered by specific kinds of negative comments. Others still are bothered by what they perceive to be the reasons behind why someone might want to leave a negative comment on Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:58 AM on December 1 [1 favorite]


I was mostly referring to your most recent comment, where you describe people as asking for something that already exists - ie, positive comments. I took that to mean that you think people are calling for increased positivity!

I guess I'm hoping that people can engage a bit more in the idea that yes, there are ways of expression that both help speaker and do harm to the readers, and there's got to be some acknowledgement of that on both sides.
posted by sagc at 10:04 AM on December 1 [3 favorites]


There are people who want to be able to post that they're feeling positive, and not get called 'distractions' for daring to profess optimism.
Yeah, and there are people who want to post about big oil fueling big data being an unassailably huge problem and not get dragged into MetaTalk about it and called "extreme." How did that couple of comments in the big data post harsh anybody's thankfulness buzz and where did the poster say MetaFilter is "evil?" If those comments exemplify harmful negativism then this is definitely too broad and ill-defined. Sometimes I want to join in the collective wail about modernity being a goddamn drag, and that does not make me a bad person. The patriarchy and racism and the garbage gyres and microplastics and Trump and all the other mindbogglingly huge problems of contemporary existence are painful and complaining about them together is therapeutic and should be an approved community activity. So, obviously, should rejoicing together about good things. Nobody should come into a utopian post and drop a deuce, but if somebody wants to catastrophize in a post that is about a catastrophe, they should be able to do so.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:13 AM on December 1 [1 favorite]


I appreciate doom in comment, videogame, and metal subgenre forms.

I find the constant need to be positive when the world is on fire, an incredibly oppressive and often naive gesture.


as I noted a long time ago, I agree ... but. The "but" being one of those multifaceted doorways that goes any number of places. One of which is a sort of "Hooray For Everything" happy-shiny soulless, brainless oblivion of colors and shades that are just too f***ing bright.

I'm pretty sure that nobody's arguing that Metafilter needs to go even slightly this way. Not with a straight face anyway.

And yet, if you're coming at things from a certain perspective (one I've certainly known in my time), I can see how it might feel that way. I mentioned my headspace of thirty-plus years ago a while back. In particular, I'm thinking of what some of us (in my small circle of artist types) called The Winter of Hate ... because it was the latter part of the mid-1980s, twenty years on from the Summer of Love, and we were all music and noise making types, DJs and musicians and writers, and the kind of people that hung out with them. And the zeitgeist was most definitely with us, ten years on from the scorched earth eruptions of Punk Rock etc ... a rebellion that had quickly blown itself out in many regards, yet various embers remained active, alive, feeding small yet pernicious fires of not nihilism but certainly negation ...

Those two words don't mean the same thing by the way. Nihilism is an ideology, a deep rooted commitment to, as the thugs in Big Lebowski rather enthusiastically put it, NOTHING!!! Negation is simply a tactic, which may seem harsh but can definitely serve a positive end. Rather like in gardening when you sometimes need to turn the soil, start over again, or forestry when a planned burn is required ... for the greater health of the whole ecosystem. Either way, sometimes you just need to clear some f***ing ground for reasons of sanity if nothing else.

Anyway, we Winter Of Hate types weren't that worried about such definitions or polemics. Because we were too busy just living it, howling the apocalyptic doom that was our birthright (or so it seemed). This was the later-mid-80s after all, the Cold War world wound unbearably tight, the threat of nuclear armageddon and anihilation palpable ... and verifiable. We very likely were ALL GONNA DIE and soon. And yet, in throwing in with this reality but not so much drowning in it as rolling with it, riding it, surfing it even ... we ended up having a shitload of fun. And not just because there was a certain undeniable pleasure in upsetting the HOORAY FOR EVERYTHING types. Nah, we were playing, we were in the game, the action was hard but we were up to it. The nexus was a radio station, a few connected shows that ran Tuesday night deep into Wednesday morning -- The Tuesday Weld, we called it. Eight hours of whatever we felt like, from rockabilly and swing to hard core punk to cool old RAWK, dub from Jamaica and beyond and ultimately, deep into the night, the deepest, darkest, most baleful and nightmarish industrial drones and dirges, sometimes conjuring them ourselves, working tapeloops, samples, whatever seemed necessary. Also drugs, one of our crowd being a rather high level dealer, mostly hemp related and/or psychedelic (none of that cocaine bullshit), the energy spilling in all kinds of directions. We had parties, we laughed, we danced, people even fell in love. So from my angle, it was ultimately positive. Because it was neither wallowing in doom and despair nor denying such currents existed. It was working those currents as a surfer might, not so much understanding them as riding them to points beyond ...

But that was then.

In time, we went our separate ways as close knit groups of young adults tend to -- work and career and family commitments and whatever else drawing us in disparate directions. Somebody moved to New York and had success in the fashion world, others went back to school, somebody became a bus driver, somebody contacted HIV, faked their own death and disappeared for over a year (that was a weird one -- they're still alive, I'm pretty sure). The drug dealer ended up going into the film biz, doing okay. There were two marriages (one still going strong). And I sold a screenplay. The key point being, the world didn't end as we imagined it might. Life went on despite what the experts had been saying.

I look back on all that sometimes and wonder if what we did, our actions, our tactics (unconscious as many of them were) the energies unleashed and directed against the great monsters of our time -- I wonder if we might just have altered things a bit, played a useful part in what I've now come to realize was Marshall McLuhan's World War Three (still ongoing), the "... guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.”

I do wonder. Because I do think that's where we still are. McLuhan's World War Three. And I mean everybody. The whole world. Whether we want any part of it, or not. That's why we call them World Wars. And, of course, there's negativity in war. There must be. Because that's the fucking truth of war.

But morale is also pivotal.

Way back when, my 1980s, it didn't feel like there was any argument or room for niceties. And maybe there wasn't. But I'd argue things are different now. Certainly, they are here, this particular community. Because like the Leonard Cohen song says ...

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes ...


But what exactly do we know? Ole Rabbi Cohen ended up living another almost three decades after he wrote those words. Did he see that coming? I doubt it. And now I better stop ... before this turns into a memoir.
posted by philip-random at 10:48 AM on December 1 [16 favorites]


everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost


philiip-random: You rode that wave until it made a shore break. I rode in on the wave before you, from 1963 to the late seventies. I already was on shore, exhausted, when you came crashing down. Your Trump was my Nixon. Our revolution cloaked my naivete, and I thought it would get better. Maybe it did; everyone says so. I thought the Bad Moon Rising was a silly metaphor. Little did I know.

I have a persistently positive attitude, probably because treading water comes more or less naturally to me. Nowadays most people are younger than me, and, it seems, smarter. Understand, though, that my positivity is borne of resignation, inspired by surprise at having lived this long, not in anyway to be associated with the notion that things will turn out well.

My nabobs don't natter. I'm cheered by making music with my friends. We play at different venues several times a month. I learn new licks every now and then. Some publisher just bought one of my short stories. I should have gone down this path forty years ago, but I squandered my youth having adventures, now I'm stuck between greased rails, sliding headlong into geezerhood, with more memories than dreams (I forget where I heard that, but whoever said it: thanks). Having looked into the abyss, a few hits of negativity is sort of like Water Back after a long pull of Maker's Mark.

I have read most of the above. I understand what raining on a parade is all about. That's probably why I choose to write my comments in the first person. I suppose I don't often enough give thanks to the Effect of The Blue for the inspirations.

Hey, Blue: Thanks.
posted by mule98J at 11:56 AM on December 1 [15 favorites]


complaining about them together is therapeutic and should be an approved community activity

Thanks for expressing this in words - I think the problem stems from the fact that this experience of co-complaining is decidedly not therapeutic for everyone. For many people, it's exactly the opposite: no therepuetic but traumatic.

As for naivete, I'm glad to see some other oldsters piping in here, because nothing seems more naive to me than extreme statements about the world being "on fire" in some way that is uniquely awful right now. The world has always been a place replete with suffering, and cycles of intense danger to human rights and physical safety have waxed and waned over time, sometimes as bad or worse than now, sometimes less so, and for some populations, always critical. I'd argue that much of our present horror results from the mere fact that our standards have risen, a good thing, and also that some of represents relatively privileged people (globally and historically speaking) confrotning the limitations of progress and its rhetorics - but the notion that the world has diverted from some former or natural path of justice, happiness and safety is mistaken. I'm as engaged in the crises and disheartened as many others, but instead of saying "it's never been worse" it's more like "here it is again." The perspective of immersion in history is helpful.

Anyhow, whether or not you agree with me, there's more than one way to look "naive" about current events.
posted by Miko at 12:30 PM on December 1 [43 favorites]


Maybe the reason some people keep yodeling that the world is ending is that after the discovery of fire and agriculture, the pace of humancaused ecological change got fast enough that it was visible in a single lifetime. Maybe the "end is nigh" Cassandras of prior decades weren't wrong and and extreme and laughable, they were just early adopters. Today's Cassandras are getting lumped in with the Cassandras of yore, who didn't have near the data we have today, and it's frustrating because we really do appear to be waxing inexorably toward planet-wide ecological collapse, and it is discomfiting to read arguments that the world has been as bad as or worse than it is today in the past and that therefore pessimistic readings of things like, say, ocean acidification and the death of the coral reefs are naive.

In fact, the world now is inarguably the worst it has been from the standpoint of human habitation because now we are crashing not just relatively small and contained ecosystems like the Cuyahoga River or Easter Island but the oceans and the atmosphere. Rather than either ignore this or despair over it, I like to mix a little bit of that therapeutic whining I mentioned with a general zooming out to geologic time, taking a misty, barely informed Alexander Pope view of the whole deal, namely that Whatever is is right. So what if we're causing a mass extinction and we're overwhelmingly likely to be wiped out in it, ourselves? There have been mass extinctions before and the earth survived them and the new creatures that came along were lovely and had ingenious life ways and fun times. It's too bad we won't get to see what happens after us, but something undoubtedly will happen after us. We're not going to kill every single thing alive because there are those nifty extremophiles.

I don't think anybody is responsible for feeling any particular way about doom. I think if you feel better taking an optimistic tack, great, and if the opposite is true, also great. Will a colony of mold consuming a piece of bread be better off or worse off if it becomes aware of itself and feels either bad or good about what it's doing to its breadslice? Nope. I don't know why we, unlike mold, had to be cursed with self awareness, but it seems pretty obvious it's not going to benefit us in any way or keep us around any longer than we'd be around without it. It's pretty clear we are gonna do what we are gonna do, so we might as well find a way to feel as good as we can while we're around.

Every several millennia the earth seems to shrug and shake itself like a dog and head to the salon for a makeover. Sometimes its a big asteroid that causes it; this time, maybe it's us. I'll buy organic and reduce, reuse, and recycle and limit my car and plane trips and avoid factory-farmed meat and eggs and vote for progressive candidates and picket and throw money and hope for the best, but even worst case, it'll still be okay.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:50 PM on December 1 [6 favorites]


Okay, I said I'd come back.

One thing I think is incredibly important to bring up is the role of perceived social support with respect to helping people cope with traumatic events. By this, I mean that just other people being present isn't enough: people who are trying to be helpful but who are actually minimizing a traumatic experience can actively make things worse. The important thing is actually how the person struggling perceives the amount of support available from their own communities, not the amount of support that a community thinks it's providing, or even necessarily the level of support the struggling person is actually using. What matters is the gut-level belief that people here have my back on this.

Now, this seems like an obvious thing that would make coping with trauma easier, but it's hard to overstate just how important it is. Perceived social support reduces the likelihood of developing PTSD after a traumatic event, and it also reduces the severity of post-traumatic symptoms.

Here is another thing: many repeated traumas to the same kinds of topics can create damage as surely as one big trauma can. Chronic stress fractures are not necessarily easier to heal than acute fractures as a result of sudden trauma, and this is in part because there is less social support for resting for someone who "just" broke a bone a little bit by running on it too hard than there is for someone who broke a bone when they were, say kicked by a horse. The habits of the runner will make it easier to fall back into the same kinds of stresses that broke the bone for the chronic stress fracture, too: giving up running might be comparatively easy to do if it's a matter of recreational running, but if chronic stress fractures are being caused by a patient's occupation in an Amazon warehouse, support for retraining or finding a new job might not be as easy to come by.

Now we take this model and apply it to overarching structures of marginalization. Marginalization causes exactly these kinds of repetitive stress traumas to the mind and body, and like the hypothetical Amazon worker, it may not be possible for any given person to fully avoid things that cause these small, repetitive traumas. It also trains marginalized people that many people in their surrounding community cannot be trusted to be supportive of stresses related to axes of marginalization, reducing that perception of social support. And it can be very hard to reach out and see if that support might be there this time when you've learned that reaching out results in contempt or judgement.

One last thing that I heard two weeks ago in a talk about gender equity for biologists which blew my mind completely. We know that people tend to overestimate the frequency of risky things and underestimate the frequency of protective behaviors. I knew about this research in the context of estimations of underage drinking and drug use in teenagers, but I did not know to start with that it is also true of estimations of risky, threatening opinions held by people in the social environment itself. For example, both people who have been assaulted and people who have never been assaulted overestimate the proportion of their peers who hold harmful beliefs about rape. We overestimate the potential hostility of the people around us, and we underestimate the degree to which people want to be helpful and benevolent to us, even if it's hard.

Note: everyone needs a hug. That is never more true than when times are bad and people are in pain and lashing out. It's always important to listen here, carefully, and see if you can find points of agreement in conflict. Trauma and the greater context of pain and fear make it hard to do that, and if no one else listens back, it can be really hard to cultivate an atmosphere where reaching forward through the conflict and making it clear that you empathize and hear, too is possible to do. I think we are, as a community, at our best when we can manage to do that. I think we are at our best when we say I see your pain and I wish you well, even when we are in pain ourselves and confused or scared or uncertain about what, exactly, it is best to do in any given moment.

We have to minimize contempt wherever we can and try to communicate through trauma reflexes if we are going to be able to build solidarity through the fear that permeates life for many of us right now. Contempt can be a protective reflex, but long term it makes things far worse. We need to be able to pause and listen, and for that to be collectively achievable it must be something that everyone tries to do, or people will give up on trying and we'll be right back where we start.
posted by sciatrix at 1:57 PM on December 1 [23 favorites]


So there is a thing going around Social Media right now - someone's account of an unusually vivid dream they had about being in Harry Potter World and how Robin Williams was the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher (not Robin Williams playing a part, but Robin Williams HIMSELF was the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher), running around and magicking and shouting "Expecto Patronum" as he punched Death Eaters and stuff.

At some point in this person's dream, Robin Williams said something that they transcribed in their post - a quote so arresting that another comment said that "I think that this wasn't a dream, and that Robin Williams actually visited you from the afterlife to tell us this". It seems relevant here.
Listen, children, I'm not saying all this bad shit that's happening isn't scary and that you shouldn't be concerned - because you should! - but I'm telling you this now for free. Life is a boggart, it's the biggest boggart of them all. You never know what it's gonna look like from one moment to the next. And sometimes you just gotta laugh. It's okay to laugh. It's part of the grieving process. You need to grieve before you can heal. But it's okay to laugh while you're doing it.
The post is attributed only to a person named "thebibliosphere" on Tumblr.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:38 PM on December 1 [20 favorites]


Anyone else get to the end of the article halation referenced? Looks like we're not the only folks struggling with the issue, Pinkers next book is titled: “Don’t Go There: Common Knowledge and the Science of Civility, Hypocrisy, Outrage, and Taboo” .
posted by sammyo at 7:25 PM on December 1 [1 favorite]


The thing about relentlessness is not necessarily relentlessness but maybe seeing a certain thing apparently repeated. People repeat themselves all the time. Plus there is a lot to despair over. We could all stand to be more thoughtful but really... I will repeat myself. Complaining about other people's perceived unintentional unkindnesses is stepping into the Unfunhouse mirrors. It's unintentionally unkind turtles all the way down.
posted by y2karl at 8:16 PM on December 1


Well, there you go. Hit Post when I meant to hit preview. tldr: the phrase performative despair really rubs me the wrong way. These are trying times.

The phrase Omit needless words comes to mind. There are plenty of those to go around already.
posted by y2karl at 8:35 PM on December 1 [1 favorite]


I was mostly referring to your most recent comment, where you describe people as asking for something that already exists - ie, positive comments. I took that to mean that you think people are calling for increased positivity!

The "thing that already exists" that I was refering to wasn't "positive comments". The "thing that already exists" that I was refering to was "a site that's not completely negative, all the time". All I was saying was that Metafilter already is a site that's not completely negative, all the time.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:03 PM on December 1 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: not completely negative, all the time




sorry
posted by philip-random at 10:03 PM on December 1


I have nearly the exact opposite opinion. The thing I've found most frustrating about metafilter in the last few years is the insistence on positivity and shunning criticism.

There are plenty of times when pushing back on negative comments makes sense: racist, sexist, classist comments and anything that punches down deserve a call-out. As does diverting every conversation toward the US. Shouting "disco sucks" or shitting on an unknown film student because she didn't perfectly execute her idea is garbage and deserved a harsh response. But, the number of mefites who are shocked that anyone would criticize internationally famous, hundred-million-dollar media products that they happen to like is surprising. The recent MST3K thread and the older Rothko thread spring to mind. I hate 90% of what my spouse, my best friends, and mefites like. I imagine you mostly hate more than 90% of what I like. That's interesting and I'd like to know about it. It's a lot more engaging than hearing about how much we like the same things.

When it comes to politics and activism, nearly everything in the world is dumb and wrong, even when advocated by smart people of good will. History makes this very clear. If nobody calls out the silly bits, we'll never find the ideas that might work. I want to know why the membership org I support isn't doing a good job. I'm even more excited to know about alternatives. Given a choice between thoughtful skepticism and uncritical optimism, I'll take the former any day.

I think metafilter needs more negativity. Especially when it's thoughtful and targets things I've always taken for granted. That isn't to say I don't also want to hear about good things and watch cat videos. (I agree with the comments amount the constant drive toward US-focused politics, though. The world is far bigger and more interesting than the US presidency.)
posted by eotvos at 2:08 AM on December 2 [9 favorites]


I would argue that the word “performative” attached to any emotion is an insult. No one posts on here for their own consumption. Discourse is by definition performative. Calling people “performative” is itself performative. Can we retire that word unless it is used to describe speech act theory?
posted by spitbull at 3:56 AM on December 2 [10 favorites]


I think metafilter needs more negativity. Especially when it's thoughtful and targets things I've always taken for granted.

Except the kind of "negativity" you're talking about has always been welcomed. "Negativity" has never been unwelcome - if you do it in a way that invites discussion instead of shuts it down.

"Disco sucks" is not "thoughtful". "That band is dumb" is not "thoughtful". Those comments do not invite discussion. On the other hand, "I've never really been into disco because I've always been bothered by how the big corporations were trying to repackage a more grass-roots music movement" would be an entry into a fascinating conversation.

"I've never really been into disco because...." has always been welcome, "Disco sucks" is not. Both those comments are "negative". Only one is problematic here, and not because it's "negative">
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:58 AM on December 2 [15 favorites]


I can see not caring for stuff, but if you ACTIVELY HATE 90% of what your friends like, and they hate 90% of what you like, either you're into some really weird shit or maybe you take stuff way too seriously. It can't be good to hate that much stuff.

MeFi has always been more about the conversations than the posts, and that means people are attracted to dropping into a thread to say "I hate this." But it rarely makes the conversation better, even when it's couched in terms to make it just legit enough not to delete.

More FPPs do help, I think. On days where there are a handful of posts, people who are just looking for something to say (and I speak as someone who does that sometimes) have fewer targets and a greater chance of missing the mark. On days with twenty posts, it's easier to find an appropriate outlet. But maybe the MOST appropriate place to go would be MetaChat. I resolve to try to make sure I'm not just commenting to hear the sound of my own voice.
posted by rikschell at 5:31 AM on December 2 [6 favorites]


Given a choice between thoughtful skepticism and uncritical optimism, I'll take the former any day.

I'm more inclined to thoughtful optimism* myself.




* Except I generally try to avoid to optimism as much as I do pessimism. Both are predictions and my batting average with predictions is low indeed. I think hope is a better word. It's more of a feeling that, if I don't give in to the apparent negativity of the situation, something of value will come of my choice and subsequent actions ... somehow, eventually, somewhere beyond the horizon. The opposite of despair.
posted by philip-random at 8:09 AM on December 2


Is this a good place to point out that none of the people vehemently defending their right to to call people neoliberal Pinkerists and shit doom all over the place because they're just so goddamned righteous and the rest of us are full of sin and wrongthink posted anything about the plight of indigenous peoples on Indigenous People's Day, despite the fact that pessimistic FPPs would have been entirely seasonally appropriate. Kinda sounds like some of y'all just want to bitch and tear people down instead of informing or convincing anyone?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:32 AM on December 2 [13 favorites]


"Posts Not Made" doesn't seem like a fair metric to judge anyone by.
posted by great_radio at 11:27 AM on December 2 [10 favorites]


I am casting my vote in favor of negative comments. I don't think being relentlessly negative is always/often constructive, but I'm glad that people show up in threads like the one under discussion to point out some of the pitfalls of the "cheerful infographic" outlook. I value RNTP's contributions even if they're politically unpopular. On the other hand, I also thought the OP's comment in that thread was also really valuable and offered important perspective.

I'm sorry that negative comments harsh some people's mellow some of the time, but I don't want them to go away because often a sober dose of reality is just what the doctor ordered. I can empathize with having your depression exacerbated by Metafilter gloom--this is why when I'm in that state of mind I avoid political threads and go straight for the cute animal threads or reading about what people on AskMe are considering eating.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:41 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of La Leche League's motto. Take what you need and leave the rest. That's what I do. There is no way in hell that I can control what other people say, nor would I want to. I can only control what I look at and read and take in for myself.

I can't really get into drilling down into individual comments and the nuances of what they mean. People are reacting in the moment on how they feel. I may find it interesting, but if I don't like a conversation or a subject on the Blue, I just back out of it and move onto something that fits my vibe more.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:53 PM on December 2 [7 favorites]


I frankly think the positive vs. negative issue being discussed here is almost as if we were trying to hash out politics itself here, i.e., trying to answer the question of which is "right" (Republican v. Democrat, Labor v. Conservative, etc.). The fact is, both can be argued with elements of factual support and subelements about them ad infinitum, and no resolution can really be found, because they are at their heart methodologies of dealing with the world -- they are framing.

Just the way that I tend to look at the world in the last couple years, I tend to see arguments more now as to whether they're useful to have or not. I think people don't change their mind that often. And I must confess that this thread doesn't seem useful to me. It's not that I begrudge anyone their right to talk about any of this stuff, but I don't think anyone's going to move their position, they're just going to enjoy their moment at the soapbox. (Even I am enjoying typing these words, if I must confess. There's a joy you can find in simply expressing your ideas in the written word.)

I think what all of this is really about is how you deal with the world, and how you frame the world. I think the only real core element to be thrashed out here is how the two methodologies can coexist -- and frankly, we're a lot closer to that sort of resolution than the sides in, say, the political example I started off with.

I would suggest that it's basically just an issue of each side, when encountering the other, recognizing that said person's coming from a different viewpoint, and not forcing them to change, or seeing them as an existential threat to their own way of coping.

I think that's honestly all we can do, in terms of anything productive to result from this thread. Otherwise, it's just going to be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing, a lot of stretting and frutting during our hour upon the stage.
posted by WCityMike at 4:28 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


I can empathize with having your depression exacerbated by Metafilter gloom--this is why when I'm in that state of mind I avoid political threads and go straight for the cute animal threads or reading about what people on AskMe are considering eating.

Take what you need and leave the rest. That's what I do.


From my POV, the kind of negativity that really gets me is precisely the kind that pops up with some frequency where you DON’T expect it. There are threads – on the blue, on the green – where it is pretty obvious that you have to be somewhat psychologically sturdy in the moment to deal with the discussion – almost like the topic of the post itself is a trigger warning if you are having one of those days.

But what is really difficult to deal with to the point that I’ve felt that engaging with the site is truly dangerous to me (real life hasn’t been easy for a while personally, not just politically, so that doesn’t help) is where a post that seems to be more neutral, purely informational, or even ‘positive’ (maybe the phrasing is humorous, maybe the poster takes a celebratory tone, etc) becomes swamped with exclamations of despair or contempt or what have you.

In sum, for me it’s not the negativity per se that matters, but the fact that you cannot escape it anywhere and that it also appears frequently in knee-jerk reactions (so, odinsdream, what you are talking about would never qualify as ‘negativity’) rather than in considered sharing of information, opinion, etc.

This is absolutely not to berate anyone who has this as a coping mechanism – I’m also someone who has both negativity- and positivity-chasing as strategies at different point.

Speaking for myself, I’d be equally bothered by an insistence on mindless, reflex positivity everywhere on the site.

For me, however, not having the occasional niche carved out where I can give free reign to some joy or even mildly positive feelings such as interest, maybe a bit of playfulness, that kind of stuff – makes me wonder: what is even the point of it? Given that everything is shit, as I’ve just been reminded in this unexpected fashion, why even try? Why go on? What keeps all of us going is a belief, however slim, that in theory at least life is worth living, that there is some peace to be conceived of, some joy to be had. Without this hope, why even bother?

I’ll also say that I, too am bothered that each time this is brought up, one party accuses the other of being way too privileged or too dumb to realize that their way is wrong. Few of us on this site know what the others are going though; it seems prudent to leave assumptions about who is pampered vs whose life is in danger at the door.
posted by doggod at 5:22 PM on December 2 [27 favorites]


By signifying, nothingness becomes something; sound and fury, pith and zip lock rage with search function and a stop button which is small and looks like this 🛑🤡 🔄.
posted by clavdivs at 10:06 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


The Web, and before it, Usenet, is chockablock full of one-upping, YDIW(You're Doing It Wrong), 'splaining, pedantry, and other less-than-effective and terribly annoying practices. MeFi is generally a bit less worse than a lot of the web, except when it's not. And unkindness is usually a tad more erudite here, at least that's what we like to think.

Anonymity makes it easier to be a dick to others. Snark is a component; I loved snark when it was young, but a whole culture of it is wearing. Listen to Conan O'Brien's Goodbye Speech, read the transcript.
All I ask is one thing, particularly of young people. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism; for the record it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen.
Be a bit less cynical. Cheerlead good posts and comments. Be kind when people state things less than perfectly. Ask for clarification. Try to see other MeFites' points of view. If you're just scoring points, consider shutting up. It all comes down to Don't Be An Asshole. Try very, very hard not to be an asshole.
posted by theora55 at 12:56 PM on December 3 [12 favorites]


I can empathize with having your depression exacerbated by Metafilter gloom--this is why when I'm in that state of mind I avoid political threads and go straight for the cute animal threads or reading about what people on AskMe are considering eating.

The thing that prompted this complaint, however, is that people are trying to do EXACTLY THAT, but then this happens:

* FPP is about a baby goat that learned how to walk on its hind legs. Comment #2 is "Yay all you have to do is teach it how to make bread and then join the circus, and it will be the perfect way for all y'all to distract yourselves from Global Warming!"

* AskMe is about someone asking about which of two cookies they should bake for a neighbor. Comment #4 is "making cookies for a neighbor isn't going to make a dent in the food shortages faced by your other neighbors, do some real good."

* FPP is a link to a Youtube video about Tom Hanks reading and responding to a tweet from @WeRateDogs about a dog that is rescuing koalas from wildfires. Comment #3 talks about how Tom Hanks is a shill for Disney, one of the metacorporations that is making global warming a thing in the first place, so they're going to boycott him.

It's easier to avoid the shit and stick to the nice when the shit sticks to its own pen. This is a complaint about how the shit is invading the nice.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:09 PM on December 3 [28 favorites]


Fair enough, I didn't see those examples. I think gloomy comments are to be expected on a post that promises 9 uplifting infographics, though, which is the impetus for the thread.

But to dig into those examples--The goat comment is threadshitting and should be deleted. The AskMe response isn't answering the question and should be deleted. I think critiquing Tom Hanks in a Tom Hanks-related post is okay and doesn't strike me as oppressively gloomy.

I mean, "negativity" is being used in this thread to condemn obnoxious threadshitting that's never been okay, people being exceedingly pessimistic and despair-provoking in relevant contexts (which is what I was responding to), and people just offering up a critical perspective about topics that people don't want to see criticized. Three separate phenomena, IMO.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:15 PM on December 3


I think gloomy comments are to be expected on a post that promises 9 uplifting infographics, though, which is the impetus for the thread.

....But....why is that "to be expected"? If the advice for those who are wanting to avoid negativity is to "stick to the threads that will make you happy," but if you also think that it's perfectly okay to have gloomy comments in threads that promise happiness, then how are those who want to avoid negativity to REALLY avoid it?

But to dig into those examples--The goat comment is threadshitting and should be deleted. The AskMe response isn't answering the question and should be deleted. I think critiquing Tom Hanks in a Tom Hanks-related post is okay and doesn't strike me as oppressively gloomy.

Accusing Tom Hanks of being a shill for global warming based solely on the fact that he read a tweet about a dog rescuing koalas and said "that's cute" isn't oppressively gloomy?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:32 PM on December 3 [12 favorites]


It just seems like one of the first responses people are going to have to 9 cheerful infographics is to dissect, analyze and deconstruct about how they might not be so cheery after all. It's like an obit post--people are either going to say, "I'm sad," "I had an experience with this person's work" or "this person is bad." "These infographics are misleading" is just one of the natural places that conversation is going to go. Totally predictable, IMO.

I haven't seen the actual Hanks comment, but you said it characterized him as a shill for Disney specifically and global warming by proxy. I would see it as oppressively gloomy if it said "The inevitable progression of global warming will kill every koala bear." Just saying "Tom Hanks is a Disney stooge and is therefore part of the problem" falls totally within the bounds of acceptable discourse without being a total despair-inducing downer.

I think a better reason to trash that post would be that We Rate Dogs whitewashes foreign-sounding dog names for pageviews. But is it too gloomy to point out that a source of adorable dog content is racist? It's certainly not going to warm any hearts. But it's also true!
posted by zeusianfog at 1:37 PM on December 3 [3 favorites]


Wait, are these actual threads? Those examples read to me as hypotheticals, in vein with past "Dead-goat-ing" discussions.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:39 PM on December 3 [2 favorites]


Zeausianfog, the examples I provided were made-up examples of the sort of comment being discussed in this thread. You will not find comments like that to my knowledge.

However, I'm continuing to be surprised by your perspective when you ask whether it is "too gloomy to point out that a source of adorable dog content is racist" because "it's not going to warm any hearts, but it's also true".

So let me ask - do all truths about a particular thing need to be said in EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION about that thing?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on December 3 [6 favorites]


Well, I am not personally in the business of making gloomy comments, so I'm agnostic about if they need to be said. But I think it's going too far to say they shouldn't be said at all because some people don't like it when Debbie Downer shows up. I love that Metafilter is a place where I can almost always find a critical perspective or another way of looking at things.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:45 PM on December 3


So let me ask - do all truths about a particular thing need to be said in EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION about that thing?

We’d be doing pretty well if those Hard Truths only got said once in every single conversation, instead of several times.

The corollary to this is that every single English-speaking political figure who has ever walked the earth is an evil war criminal supervillain who must be denounced at every occasion.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:15 PM on December 3 [1 favorite]


do all truths about a particular thing need to be said in EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION about that thing?

To me this gets at what part of the schism is. You can see people's tendency to this in AskMe but the rules are clearer and so it works out better. You can't have people in an AskMe adoption thread coming in to suggest abortion and vice versa. I think we mostly agree on this.

But in a thread on the blue about veganism we can certainly have people come in talking about all the meat they like, and threads about barbecue can sometimes have comments about the negative climatic effect of all the beef we eat. And the question becomes, how much of that is okay? Obviously a thread on one of those topics which filled up with comments about the other topic wouldn't be okay. But it's certainly fine to point out that lifestyle choices have consequences. Or is it? And I very much understand the stickiness that people having about making sure people understand some deeper part of an issue. But some of those tics kinda need to be managed by the people who have them, and some of them need to be accommodated by the people who read them. And some of it is MeFi-at-large's place to decide.

Because, look, the old "I'd hit it" MeFi of yore was partly about that. Why couldn't threads about an attractive woman (who was being discussed because of an accomplishment that had nothing to do with her attractiveness) have someone point out that she was attractive, to them? Well, because it made it feel to many people that MeFi wasn't a place for them. And I think there is part of that here.

MeFi doesn't feel like a place for me if light threads turn into heavy threads because people can't not tell people the bad news about a topic. That said, I fully understand that other people are also saying that MeFi doesn't feel like a place for THEM if some people insist that topics that feel light to them are actually heavy in some respects and they're not allowed to talk about that. Having people talking about and owning their personal feelings about some of this is part of how we figure out how to move through this. I certainly don't have the answers but I think being more clear about how a lot of this, more than we might think, can be sort of relative, is part of how we learn to talk with one another about things in general.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:22 PM on December 3 [31 favorites]


Not that I'm keen to go digging for previous examples, but I'm SURE this isn't the first meta calling for more positivity and improved discourse that has been absolutely stuffed to the gills with hyperbolic, look-what-those-jackasses-are-like, close to vitriolic, often entirely made-up examples of the worst of the behaviour that those seeking more positivity wish to correct.

It sets a weirdly aggressive tone, and feels awkward given that what's being sought is a better quality of interaction? idk
posted by ominous_paws at 3:22 PM on December 3 [1 favorite]


If you look through the linked threads in post, I'd say that there are some good examples that are, honestly, not too far off the hyperbolic descriptions here.

signed,

a quietist, distracting dupe
posted by sagc at 3:31 PM on December 3 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: in a thread on the blue about veganism we can certainly have people come in talking about all the meat they like

That's mostly gone now, too, thank goodness.

I blame you.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 5:43 PM on December 3 [2 favorites]


I love that Metafilter is a place where I can almost always find a critical perspective or another way of looking at things.

So in short:

* People who wish to avoid negativity - and let's assuming that someone is doing so in the interest of preserving their own mental health - are being advised to avoid the obviously-heavy threads.

* However, those with "a critical perspective" are at liberty to bring that critical perspective into the the threads about lighter topics, thus turning even the purportedly lighter-topic threads into heavy discussions.

* So....where are those who are trying to avoid negativity supposed to go then? You understand that the next logical outcome is for them to just leave Metafilter entirely, right?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:16 AM on December 4 [8 favorites]


Having people talking about and owning their personal feelings about some of this is part of how we figure out how to move through this.

I agree with this. One of the drivers of Debbie Downering, at least for me, is the underlying notion that I *must* speak up for a thing that is morally right, always and everywhere, and vanquish WRONG everywhere. Moral rightness is something I care a lot about, but the point that it can have its own toxic effect. It's important but it's not the only consideration for discourse with other people about a topic. So one of the individual behaviors I would like to aim for as a norm would be to ask myself not "is this the MORALLY RIGHT thing to say" but "is this bit of moral rightness fostering a better, more meaningful, more inclusive and more constructive conversation right now and here?"
posted by Miko at 5:32 AM on December 4 [16 favorites]


I just want to thank kristi for starting this thread. It's made me think a lot more about my own tendency toward negativity - online and in life. I'm not sure that Metafilter should have any kind of official policy, but I think this is something that's good for individuals to be mindful of.

(My mother was the queen of coming up with the worst case scenario for any situation, to a point that was so extreme it was comical. She was definitely the person to tell you how you would end up murdered because of some decision you made. It was not a fun or useful way to grow up, and it still affects the way I think.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:55 AM on December 4 [3 favorites]


Empress, to clarify my perspective, I think that critical comments are okay in lighter threads but that people in those threads should carefully walk the balance between offering a critical perspective and wallowing in despair. I think in heavier threads a heavier level of despair makes sense. I mean, it's also not helpful that your examples of people ruining lighter threads with gloom n doom were all hypothetical. I don't actually see a lot of people shitting all over the cute animal threads and random ask threads with revelations of the end times, but I don't read every single thread so I'm sure it happens once in a while.
posted by zeusianfog at 9:44 AM on December 4


to clarify my perspective, I think that critical comments are okay in lighter threads but that people in those threads should carefully walk the balance between offering a critical perspective and wallowing in despair.

I agree. However, it seems that where we disagree is on what "wallowing in despair" actually looks like, and I think that we would also seem to disagree in general on which comments are "critical discussion" and which are just "shitting on things".

Conveniently, I have a current example. The topic of the thread isn't puppies and bunnies - it's an incident that recently happened on a gaming podcast, where a comedian of Native American descent was invited onto a gaming podcast - but discovered that he wasn't invited on based on the strength of his comedy, but rather that he was invited because he was a Native American, and that the topic was a game that treated Native Americans shoddily. He called the hosts out for their perceived "hey let's get a token Native American on the show for this one" behavior, and the hosts realized their error and apologized.

However, instead of commenting on the incident in question, a recent comment states that the whole premise of the hosts' podcast is itself useless. I am unclear how such a comment actually adds to a discussion of Native American represenation or the issue of "tokenism" in mainstream media; therefore I would call that comment "threadshitting". I'm interested to hear whether you would agree.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:52 AM on December 4 [5 favorites]


So that is definitely a negative comment! I would be more likely to label it threadshitting if it were a post intended to celebrate the podcast instead of to explore this particular incident. I think it would be a shitpost worth deleting if it were posted in a Fanfare thread about the podcast. As it stands I think it's marginal.

What it's not, though, is the kind of wallowing in despair comment I've been talking about. That would something like "White people will never, under any circumstances, be able to have a productive discussion about this issue." Are there going to be inherent blind spots and flaws in most attempts? Sure. But making statements like "always" and "never" and other pronouncements about how things are doomed to fail and will never, ever get better are the kind of "toxic" negativity that I've been thinking about in this thread.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:03 AM on December 4


This is genuinely becoming a kind of intellectual exercise for me, for the record. :-)

So that is definitely a negative comment! [...] What it's not, though, is the kind of wallowing in despair comment I've been talking about.[...] making statements like "always" and "never" and other pronouncements about how things are doomed to fail and will never, ever get better are the kind of "toxic" negativity that I've been thinking about in this thread.

Those kinds of comments are definitely out there, but I grant you that there's a difference between "things will never get better" and "this thing you're talking about sucks". My original comment still stands, though, that the advice to posters who want to avoid negativity is to stick to lighter fare FPPs, but those very lighter-fare FPPs get "this thing you're talking about sucks" comments, so that doesn't work either. So now what?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:10 AM on December 4


Well, okay, as someone who has experience with depression being worsened by toxic negativity on Metafilter, "things will never get better" feeds the fire in a BIG way and just being told "This sucks and you suck for liking it" is annoying but easier to dismiss as Someone Is Wrong On The Internet. The problem is that there's good reasons for thinking that things might never get better, especially when you're depressed! So it feeds into that cycle in a really vicious way.

I suppose you could make a fair case that being told you suck for liking a podcast will also make a depressed person feel more depressed. Generally telling other people on Metafilter that they suck is bad. That was the worst part of the original thread and it's clearly rankled a lot of people. But I would argue that's separate from just saying "This sucks and here's why" in an over-the-top, negative way when everyone else in the room is trying to enjoy the vibe. That's also not great behavior but as people have said it can be valuable if the thing really does sort of suck.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:15 AM on December 4 [1 favorite]


So I am feeling this performative nihilism. I love the dark humor and cranky metafilter. Listening to my Father John Misty loud while I do the dishes. I want crappostcomment holiday sweaters to harass individual family members who aren't on social media. A holiday card that's just Krampus on the toilet. My facebook feed this week has been a steady stream of 'friends' with their hands out for all the various pet causes they fluff themselves up with, which, as far as performances go, are the fucking Olympics in my suburban/urban social circle. And I just want to jump in there and go off about how this xmas it's all about the presents. Treat YO SELF! Charity ain't about to fix anything, but it sure looks good, and oh most of the money spent is taking these generous funders out to the sports ball game.

But I am not going to. And it's not that it would burn all those social connections - in fact some would even get a chuckle out of my shenanigans, even though I really want to just yell fuck you right in their face. Because I am so lucky to have some great friends. But the real thing is that I'm anxious, I'm worried, I'm freaking out, and the darkness is real. I could use a break, I need that cash. It's a sham to pretend and just politely ignore their causes when I feel like I'm sitting here with no skin at all, just raw.

So. Threadshitters. Stunt posters. Assholes. Nihilists and flayed humans. I also feel very bad. I feel angry and alien. I struggle with it. But I just refuse to be that. And because I feel compelled to share I write this sort of thing out and then I delete it. Maybe I'll do that here. Or I revise and I redirect those initial hot takes. Yea it's slow and I often end the thread, but why live a first draft life.* I believe that choosing empathy, building empathy, isn't just about witnessing and understanding someone else's pain, empathy makes my own burden something that others can witness. I actually read that here on metafilter. YOU need the hugs, but you need to consent to it.

*it's a work in progress.
posted by zenon at 11:20 AM on December 4 [2 favorites]


Oh, man, I feel you so hard on the "My facebook feed this week has been a steady stream of 'friends' with their hands out for all the various pet causes they fluff themselves up with, which, as far as performances go, are the fucking Olympics in my suburban/urban social circle." If asked I always claim that I quit facebook because of cambridge analytica and zuck being an inhuman fiend and blah blah blah, and that's technically true, but I've stayed quit because of this exact shit you so beautifully describe.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:26 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


The James Bond thread from today appears to be the most recent iteration of this behaviour. I don't understand why some find it necessary to comment when the thread clearly is not for them. Predictable, trite, grumpy comments make this a rather dour place at times.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 6:26 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


Predictable, trite, grumpy comments make this a rather dour place at times.

Oftentimes it's the predictability almost as much as the negativity that gets to me. As I'd said earlier, initially I hadn't even bothered going into the thread that sparked this conversation because I expected it to be full of just the kind of negativity that - lo and behold - it ended up being full of. These comments seem to be much the same each time a particular topic is brought up, and often offer information that I would assume most members already realize already. I'm not saying that more neutral or positive comments aren't just as predictable sometimes, but that combination of information we already knew/may even had read from the same posters in other threads + negativity in threads that seem to be framed in a more positive manner is especially off-putting to me. I really like Miko's take: "is this bit of moral rightness fostering a better, more meaningful, more inclusive and more constructive conversation right now and here?"
posted by DingoMutt at 7:09 PM on December 4 [13 favorites]


Don't think a post of mine has ever inspired a MeTa. I suppose that's a milestone I've just reached. Look. I am in no way a positive person. This is a problem. Because when I get those good good Autism Ruminations (tm) not much can snap me out of them. Maybe 80% of my posts on the blue are serious fucking business. We have to discuss those things. But we also have to acknowledge the good things or else our conception of the world is incomplete. On thanksgiving while making the turkey it became really apparent that dad's stroke last year is effecting him cognitively. Honestly I'd been seeing it all year but just lying to myself that it wasn't that bad. But seeing him struggle to grasp words when he wanted mom to get the turkey platter, and how much of the cooking steps he needed me to step in for... Well. This is the beginning of the end isn't it? So turkey day found me in a really bad mood. I checked the usual sites for something to post, in the hopes that sharing something here might buoy me. I didn't even seek out a positive article, I just stumbled across that one and read it and thought, well- this is appropriate for thanksgiving!

And then the firehose of shit turned on. Look- we have to be able to be critical about things. If the comments on that post were just critical or even handed or if there had been a robust debate about IDK p-values or which of the charts were the most accurate that would have been metafilter typical and a good discussion. People could have contributed more charts, non-US mefites could have had their say in a post that was decidedly not really about the US. But instead- well. Apparently sharing mildly good news about the rest of the world makes me a deluded evil Pinker-ist neoliberal shill. I removed myself from the site before my anger made me type something I would regret- or would get me permabanned. I am trying so fucking hard to assume good faith in people both on this site and in meatspace, and let me tell you with my history? That's an uphill climb. All I ask is that people try to not reflexively shit in other peoples faces as a reaction to their own trauma. Because when you start swinging your fists at innocent people's noses, it doesn't matter how marginalized or traumatized you are, you're just a jerk swinging your fists, and your targets are almost certainly just as or more marginalized or traumatized as you.

Going forward I'd ask that if people think they're gonna turn on the firehose they ask themselves if this is the sort of post that deserves it. Cause lord knows I've gone all righteous fury in threads that deserved it- and that's not a bad thing. (most of the time) Also even in threads that deserve it- think if you're accidentally going righteous fury on a poster rather then the post. Barring extreme shittyness by a known mefite bad actor which is thankfully rare, we really shouldn't be attacking each other. Also in that case it's usually banning time. I'd also ask the mods if a thread starts going like my one went, maybe that's the time for some mass deletions and a mod note to re-rail. I know in the past the mods have tried not to do this, but considering everything... I also get that it was thanksgiving and most of you were most likely a little distracted, but this is the sort of thing that is causing us to hemorrhage members at a time when we can't afford it.

Tl;dr: Being critical about a thing that deserves criticism is one thing, but turning on the firehose of shit is another. Y'all know my feelings on poop.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:39 AM on December 6 [46 favorites]


Thank you for your thoughts, Homo neanderthalensis, and you and your father are now in mine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:44 AM on December 6 [2 favorites]


It is both hilarious and disturbing that you do not realize how sanctimonious and insulting you are. I'm sorry, who deemed you the arbiter of truth? Who decided that the Right Thing is arguing against basic statistics, and that if you don't argue against basic statistics you are not sufficiently leftist and engaging in evil behavior? People who do not share your doom-and-gloom attitude about the world are neoliberal now? Do you care that words mean something, or do you just enjoy pulling them out of your ass because you saw other people using it as an insult and you decided to do it too?

This is so off-base and so strong a reaction, I don't know how to respond to it. You think it's okay to be this aggressive is exactly the shitty stuff that white people keep doing to PoCs when PoCs speak out. Your comment is out of line. My comment referenced multiple things in the context of prior mefi content posts (about Pinker, about Peterson), references which maybe you are not aware of, and for your response to ignore that and instead attack me, has harmed me.
posted by polymodus at 4:02 AM on December 8


I will respond in substance to the crux of the differences here. Consider the framing of:

People who do not share your doom-and-gloom attitude about the world are neoliberal now?

Part of being neoliberal is the compartmentalization of the serious versus the happy. As a leftist, and a multiple minority, everything is serious for me. I cannot afford to not be serious about things, to entertain an expectation where some content or part of my lived world is free of that. The insistence that ideas and discussions can be compartmentalized thus is a neoliberal consequence. Thus the OP's title, about negativity, is a conflation of different concepts. I hope that's enough to show that I'm not just making stuff up and misusing important terminology; there are real differences in views and my views are shared by other actual leftist authors and scholars. It is material that I spend time learning about, outside of my own work.

I'll put it differently. I know it sucks to be told you are (your behavior is) prejudiced in some small way. But the point of being on the left is to know how to take that in stride.

But if my pointing out that people here have different conflicting views is enough to trigger an outburst, that's not going to work.
posted by polymodus at 4:22 AM on December 8


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