A couple of years back, we ran a post called “The 10 Things That Are Killing Indie Music in 2011.” It discussed various ways in which the world of indie music could be better, and generated what amounted to a heap of attention for Flavorwire at the time, also stirring a healthy debate in the comments section (all of which sadly got nuked when we switched over to Facebook comments). Inter alia, several commenters took me to task for being “negative,” asking why I didn’t write something positive about the world of music instead of criticizing it. And, y’know, sure, why not? A couple of weeks later, I wrote “10 Things That We Love About Indie Music in 2011.” It generated precisely one-tenth of the traffic the first post did, proving neatly that for all people’s stated good intentions, negative pieces were a whole lot more popular on the Internet than positive ones. Or so it appeared, anyway.
But maybe not. The success of relentlessly positive sites like Upworthy has turned this paradigm on its head of late, leading to much chin-stroking and long, serious essays like Tom Scocca’s much-publicizedpiece for Gawker last week. Our own Michelle Dean has already written an erudite response to the whole smarm/snark debate, and I don’t want to go over old ground here, except to agree wholeheartedly with her contention that “positivity is just as much of a pose, a style, as negativity, and so just as much of a trap.”
This is true, except for one thing: positivity is increasingly enforced on us. This seems particularly relevant this week in light of the news that Facebook has apparently considered introducing a “Sympathize” button to go with its iconic “Like” button, so as to avoid those awkward instances when someone bitches about something in a status update and you’re not sure whether to Like it or not — you don’t want to imply you like the thing that’s upsetting the person in question, after all.
There are a couple of issues bound up in this. First, there’s the fact that it’s kinda hilarious that this has become such an issue that Facebook feels it might be necessary to provide a new button for people to express their emotions — and, similarly, the fact that users might also consider such a thing necessary when it takes two seconds to type “Shit, sorry your cat died” or whatever else is required instead of hitting Like.