In this Age of Snark, it’s not easy to separate judgment from our lives. If you’re reading this, then you have experience reading things on the internet, which means that you’ve witnessed any number of negative, even vitriolic, exchanges between two or more parties who just know that they are right. If you haven’t witnessed such exchanges, then props to you (and tell me what blogs/websites/pages you follow, because I’d also like to follow such positive sites!). If you really don’t know what I mean by all this, take a look at any of the forums on GOMI (Get Off My Internets).
I don’t normally partake in other-side-bashing in any online capacity. I’m not shy about debating with others in person, but I generally find that online “debates” descend into insult-tossing reactionary exchanges at an alarming rate. I know I’m guilty of being judgmental—just the other day I unleashed my judge-y side after having a less-than-positive experience at a local bank—but I’m working to decrease those judgmental reactions as they happen in real life, and avoiding negative conversations online is one of the ways I’m trying to make that happen.
Complaining in general is another bad habit that I know that I have that’s a symptom of the judgmental trend. If I have a bad experience somewhere I’m not afraid to say something about it; but it’s starting to become something that I really don’t like about myself. Being conscious about the fact that a statement is in fact a complaint, is the first step; the next is adding something positive to the situation. The questions that I’m asking myself in these cases are: is the complaint going to help anything? And is who I’m talking to receptive of that complaint? Obviously, if I have a complaint about the safety or sanitation of a restaurant, for example, the complaint will (hopefully) help the situation somehow: either bringing attention to some sort of neglect, or warning others away from a potentially dangerous situation. There are tons of other examples of helpful and constructive criticism. But other complaints, the small ones, the ones that might not mean anything to anyone else but me, might not be worth saying.
All this to bring me to my quote of the day by Walt Whitman: “Be curious, not judgmental.” To me, the word curiosity in this quote means to be openminded, to be receptive to the ways you can learn something from any situation, even if it’s a less than positive experience. Judgement, snark, and negativity, rarely do anyone or anything any good. And if it’s not adding anything constructive to your or anyone else’s experience, then why bother? As Kid President says, “If it doesn’t make the world better, don’t do it.”
Have you found yourself caught in the snark trap? How do you help yourself stop? What helps you focus on the positive aspects of your experiences instead of harping on the negative?