Positively Speaking

This may not be much of a revelation, but I am a person of strong opinions. There are some things I like (pizza, books, the Chicago Cubs), and there are some things I don’t like (onions, getting up early, country music). If I’m asked for my opinion, I am not one to mince words or shy away. At the same time, I try to word most of my opinions as positively as I can. I try to say, “I don’t really care for that,” rather than, “I don’t like that,” or “That really sucks.”

Here’s something else that might not be a secret: I’m a geek. Being a geek means that I love some things a lot. I can’t find the exact quote, but the amazing Wil Wheaton once said that the best part of being a geek was that you could love stuff enthusiastically and unashamedly, and most people don’t get a chance to do that because they are too worried about how that will affect their image. And he’s right – that is one of the very best things about being a geek. I can love things a lot, and I can be honest about that love, because I don’t want to be cool – I want the freedom to be honest about the stuff I love.

At the same time, just because I love some things and am not that crazy about others, I have never found it necessary to use the love I feel as a club and beat on the things I don’t like as well. In fact, I don’t see the point in doing this at all. I’m totally okay with loving what I love without tying that to anything else, or comparing the thing I love to other things. My love does not need negative comparisons to validate it.

Here’s the example that started me thinking about this: I’m an iPhone user. I’ve been an iPhone user since June of 2009, when a good friend and I stood in line on the day the 3Gs was launched. It was an awesome adventure, and my first experience with that sort of event. Before that, I had a first-generation iPod touch that I really enjoyed. I’ve since expanded to an iPad and an iMac as well. I like Apple products; they’re expensive, but they don’t have a lot of the software problems that Windows and Android software seems to have (I’ve also got a Windows laptop that I love and a desktop that runs Linux Mint – I’m the operating-system equivalent of a polyglot).

Earlier this week, Apple announced a new iPhone and their new Apple Watch. Several people I knew were watching intently to see how closely the new products matched the predictions. I didn’t watch that carefully, although I did take a look at one or two of the articles shared by my friends on Facebook. I’m not in the market for a new phone, and I stopped wearing a watch a few years back, so I’m interested only in an academic sense.

I’m not much of a fangirl, but I did notice one other category of post that day that interested me. I saw several people post this image, usually along with some type of “Apple Sucks” comment:

Dear iPhone 6

I don’t see why this type of post is necessary. I don’t see what, if anything, it adds to any sort of conversation. I don’t see why it’s necessary to tear things down as a strategy for elevating others. I’m not a fan of Android, but I would never make a picture like this and say “Android Sucks.” I can like things without tearing down other things. I can also dislike things without tearing them down. There is more than enough negativity in the world today without adding to it in this way.

Here’s another example: When I taught high school, during the pep rallies there was often a “Which Grade Can Yell Loudest?” competition. The cheerleaders would move through the grades, starting with whichever group was youngest (usually seventh-graders, but at Homecoming, they’d bring down everyone, even Pre-Kindergarten) and work through to the high-school seniors. I don’t have a problem with a little friendly competition, but what really bothered me was the amount of booing and heckling that went on – to the point that mixed-grade couples would put their hands over each other’s mouths when it was that group’s turn (as a feminist, I feel compelled to note that girls held guys’ mouths just as often as guys held girls’). It bothered me so much that I even asked my classes about it a time or two. They almost unanimously laughed it off and told me I was worrying too much, but I still thought it was unnecessary, and I told them so.

One more story along these lines: My husband was once given tickets to a local minor-league hockey game. He used to play hockey, and he still really enjoys the game, so he was really excited to go. I’d never been to a professional hockey game (I’m more of a baseball fan, myself), so I was looking forward to it myself. As we were driving downtown, Robert warned me that he might say some not-very-nice things about the other team. I said, “Robert, you can cheer for your team without saying a word about the other team, and that is exactly what you are going to do. I don’t like heckling, and you know it, and I won’t put up with it. If you say one mean thing about the other team, I’m going to leave, and I’ll take the car home, and you’ll have to figure out your own way home.” I was amazingly proud of him; I only had to remind him once to be nice, and we had a really nice time.

So this is my challenge: Speak Positively! Don’t be afraid to like the things you like, and don’t be afraid to say so, but find ways to support the things you like without tearing anything else down. Cheer for your team without heckling the other team. Fanboy your favorites without mentioning their rivals. I guarantee it will make the world a better, happier, more positive place.

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