When Did It Become Socially Acceptable To Be So Miserable?


When I was a teenager, I hated a lot of things. It was more than hatred, honestly. Boiled down to its essence, when I expressed my dislike of things, it was as if I viewed anything that didn’t fit within my very strict guidelines for “good art” to be a personal affront to everything I stood for, believed in, loved, and valued. I had no problem telling everyone what I thought, whenever I thought them. My honor was on the line whenever you turned on my iPod. My personal bookshelf was my Waterloo.

And then a really weird thing happened to me: I grew the fuck up.

When you’re twenty-five, it’s pretty natural to look back on some of the things you did and believed as a fifteen year old with some degree of embarrassment. I visibly cringe whenever I look at poems that I wrote and (gods forgive me) published back in high school and the first few years of college. But hey, I was a kid. I learned how to cut myself a little bit of slack for that stuff as I got older and, more importantly, how to cut everyone else a little bit of slack too. My devotion to the things that I love isn’t any weaker than it was back then, but it has been greatly informed. I don’t need to get into three hour screaming matches with people about why the Talking Heads did or did not produce some of the most beautiful and compositionally sophisticated songs to invade pop culture in the last fifty years. My personal relationships with people don’t live or die by how many Fellini films you’ve seen or if you were able to finish Infinite Jest (footnotes obviously included). I have opinions on all of these things and a thousand times more but there’s one critical difference: I don’t feel the need to shove them down a person’s throat at the slightest possible mention. Why? Because I’m an adult. If you want to know what I think about art, you have to ask me and then listen to my response and then I will listen to yours, provided you speak to me the way a rational human being speaks to another rational human being.

I don’t like it when older people, especially Gen-Xers, complain about how whiny and entitled people my age are simply because we’re younger. But on occasion, they do make a valid point. It has become nearly impossible to do anything in this world without some entitled little brat doing their best to loudly and obnoxiously shit all over it for no other reason than to shit all over it. And the more people who like it and want to talk about something, the more vitriol gets spewed in that direction. I understand negativity. I understand not wanting to be a part of the mainstream, or whatever. I also understand accepting the fact that not everyone in the world is going to like what you’re going to like and that thoughtful criticism can be absolutely necessary to success. But something about the internet and the disconnected way that we interact with one another has made it so that all of those negative, childish, self-centered thoughts get condensed to one gigantic knifepoint. People get death threats for expressing opinions or relating anecdotes. People get called every horrible name under the sun.

What’s worse than that? It’s not just the comment sections anymore. It has become socially acceptable for people—adults, for fuck’s sake—to behave in this way out in the actual physical world. What’s even somehow worse than that? This kind of thought process—the mindless, hateful, shit-flinging that has come to characterize much of the way that people relate to each other now—has actually begun replacing original ideas as a valid form of expression. Everywhere you look, you see the witless “parody”/”satire” that is neither clever nor amusing much less enlightening, the shitty rebuttal articles that don’t make any other point except to argue with another person in public. Copycatting. The plain and simple bitching.

It’s disgusting. And honestly, I wouldn’t even be putting forth the effort to write this if I didn’t know for a fact that you (all of you who could relate to this) could be better. Because everyone is better than this. I know because I was just like you once. And one other thing I remember about being that way? It was awful. Because it’s impossible to be happy when 90% of the things you think are focused entirely on tearing something else down. That kind of hatred eats away at you in time, but only if you keep it alive and let it.

You only have so much time to be alive on this planet and the moment that you supposed harbingers of good taste realize how much time you’ve already wasted (not just yours, but those of your friends, families, lovers, classmates), you’re going to hate yourself even more than you already do.

featured image – Unsplash / Taylor Leopold