How many times have we heard that things keep getting worse and worse in the world? A constant source of negativity in our lives. Has our quality of life really changed so dramatically in the last few decades?
Granted, the timing of this article, considering we are amidst a pandemic, will obviously be prompting the reader to scream yes at the top of their lungs. However, this will not last forever, and sooner or later, the entire planet will be back on its feet and people will still be having the same negative talks.
Is it a product of our times? Or was it always that way?
Before everything, we need to recognize the negativity bias, which is the tendency to think that bad things will always happen and not be overly optimistic. It is actually part of human evolution, a remnant of days where humans needed it to survive against predators and other threats. They needed to have them on their mind constantly if they wanted to overcome them. Nowadays, however, it is something that hinders us more than it actually helps us.
That doesn't mean that we have to let it define our lives. Recognizing that we have a negativity bias is the first step in working to overcome it. Our thoughts, our behaviors, are things that can be controlled if we actively work to think and behave more positively.
Leaving that aside (but not forgotten), let's examine some important sources of negativity.
Young People Are More Pessimistic Than Ever
We thought that Millennials were the most pessimistic generation of our times, and then Generation Z started growing up. The oldest Generation Zers are now 25 years old, so a lot of them are at an age where they should be working and being out there chasing their dreams. Instead, everyone is trying to be an influencer and a lot of them are unable to find a job. Why?
Well, obviously, the two things, not being able to find a job and trying to be an influencer, are connected. Sure, fame has always been appealing to people of all ages and generations ever since fame became a thing, but not being able to make money the traditional way has turned even more people to seeking fame than it would have if there was a growing economy and there were plenty of jobs around for people to be able to support themselves and to have a steady income, instead of trying to gain followers and chasing fleeting promotion deals on the internet.
However, even being an influencer is not for everyone. A lot of people fail at it for a multitude of reasons which leads to even more negativity. Seeing a few of their peers succeed in it and the accompanying feelings of jealousy make matters even worse and contribute to a depressed generation.
A Look at the Past - The 20th Century
The 20th Century had two World Wars but people still view the 21st Century as having started terribly, and that was before the pandemic. How is this possible?
For starters, very few people who had lived even the second World War are alive right now. Therefore, people don't have the experiences of those who lived through that time so they can't make that comparison. However, a lot of people who had lived through the 50s and the 60s are still alive right now and they can compare that time as being better than today. This is a matter of not only opinion but is also based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. For example, not a lot of women would say that the 50s were a particularly good decade for women. Non-white people who were minorities in their countries probably wouldn't say that either. It is a sign of a quite substantial privilege to be able to say that an age where not all people enjoyed the same human rights was a good age.
Still, the decades following the Second World War are always romanticized and remembered fondly, and one of the biggest reasons is the economic growth that happened in most countries around that time, which lasted until the end of the 20th century. That, accompanied by the astonishing technological achievements that happened at the same time contributed to making people more optimistic and hopeful for the future. A future which for many came up short and didn't live up to their expectations with an immediate economic crisis at the start of the new century.
The 21 Century - A Setback or the Effect of Globalization?
The last two decades have been the result of overall poor management on humanity's part. All the bad relations between countries, the growing economic equality between the rich and the poor, the mismanagement of the environment, and blatant refusal to acknowledge there is an environmental issue to begin with, all the intolerance toward people who may seem different than what we would want them to be, it's caught up with us. And the effects spilled all over the 21st Century. There are examples everywhere. And, here's the thing: there is nowhere to hide anymore. Every bad act is filmed and uploaded for everyone to see. It is the best and the worst thing at the same time.
Bad things always happened. But now we get to see it. And we get to see a lot of it, most of us are members on social media and get a front seat in humanity's worst acts, without even needing to look for them. There is no bigger contributor to the feeling that the world has finally snapped than being served a daily dose of negativity every time you get online.
Is There a Way for People to Be More Positive?
Absolutely. But it needs to be worked on individually. Something will always be going wrong in the world, that doesn't mean that we have to spend our entire lives being depressed and feeling helpless. We should start by taking control of ourselves and our lives. Nothing will happen unless you actively try to change it, whether that is on an emotional level or otherwise. Emotionally, people can try to have positive thoughts, they can look at the good things in their lives and in the world instead of the bad, they can limit the time they spend on social media and shut off the toxic people around them who are poisoning their lives with constant negativity.
Not all of this is easy but it eventually leads to a healthier mind. And a healthy mind is the key to a better life overall, one with fewer worries and more time to enjoy the beauty that exists in the world.