Monday, 28 March 2011

The Shift in Optimism

I’ve been smitten by reflections on optimism recently.  It’s great when an ad – for coffee, at that, but any ad, really – can lift your spirit; make you want to burst out in song – or tears.  Your call.

Those BrewSomeGood ads from Maxwell House, along with a few sermons and some Bible wisdom have got me reflecting on the way I perceive things; the way I connect with others.  And what have I found?  I’ve found that somewhere along my lifeline, I shifted somewhat – not a lot but still enough to notice if you’ve known me from Adam.  I’ve shifted from a default “eternally optimistic” to an abashed measure of “cautiously optimistic".

I'm pretty sure some of it may be chalked up to growing up.  As the saying goes stteo: a man's mind, once stretched, can never go back to it's original dimensions.  One really ought not to have the same mind at 30 as one did at 15, another quipped.  That doesn't mean, though, imho, that the embedded strain of optimism; that positive outlook which forms the hallmark of some persons, have to disappear with a stretched mind.  It hasn't, for me.  But, I most certainly occasionally feel that in more and more instances, it's no longer default mode.  It's kinda, "but then again..."; on second thought mode.

"At least you haven't lost it," you say. True.  I haven't lost my positive outlook; my optimism.  S'just that, of late, in the face of the aforementioned reminders, I'm realizing that I need to get back to where it's my default mode.

There are a few things that helped to usher me into this realm.  I learnt long ago - probably it was on the cusp of becoming "cautiously optimistic" - that people are people wherever you go.  If people feel appreciated, they'll likely work more willingly.  If they feel unappreciated, their morale likely will fall.  If they have been hurt, they'll likely put up their guard.  We know it takes a while to build trust and usually no more than one act of betrayal or hurt for it to come crashing down. 

Imagine how much more that likelihood is multiplied for online...relationships.  (I use the term within this context ever so loosely.)  For, connections online are, for the most part, just that, connections.  But, here's the thing (go Monk!)  whenever we venture into an online space, for social networking, hanging out, tweeting or other purposes, we are inviting other people into our sphere.  We connect with followers or those we wish to follow; we accept friend requests and all that jazz, and at the click of a key, we have taken a whole other individual into our lives.  A whole other person!  We might think that it's just their professional side or their online persona.  Let's not kid ourselves.  Try as folks might, they don't compartmentalize as well as they might think they do.  Given time and space, all their dimensions will be manifested to some degree in their "online self".  And, as for those who just let it all hang out from day one? Again, a whole other person!!!

So, when persons with whom you have a common interest (the point of the connection in the first place) begin to reveal sides of themselves that you hadn't seen coming; that conflict with your own values and belief system, what do you do? If they start to relate to the point of hurting you, what do you do? Do you just put up your guard? Start writing off people?  Online relationships carry the luxury - if we could call it that - of immediate disconnection.  No hard feelings - or so we think.  For, in a number of instances, I'm pretty certain that some folks agonize over unfriending and unfollowing - especially when it's someone you at least sorta know or someone you knew from Adam but 20something years have passed without contact between you. As a human being, most times, the act of severing ties in any relationship comes from a conscious decision to do so.  And what is the immediate thought?  "What is he/she going to think?"  or "Does this reflect poorly on me?"  The point is, there is some amount of stress/anxiety related to the decision to sever ties.

How many of us can honestly unfriend or unfollow those we are to some degree acquainted with, without a second thought?  I have found that it's not so easy.  Quite a bit of thought might go into unfriending.  Unfollowing might require a skin less thick.  (Speaking of which, I don’t want to grow so thick a skin that I start looking and snapping like an alligator!  I still want to be able to let some things through; things that will make me think and help me be a better person.  Anyway, moving on…)  More often than not, you don't know these people.  If you do have some passing acquaintanceship, it's a hair's breadth more thought that goes into it.  But, I maintain that persons should not subject themselves to disrespect, rudeness, hurt or any form of abuse online or offline.

The thicker the wall of anonymity, the harsher folks are wont to get when lashing out.  Seen some comment boards lately?  Some of them even allow the 'F' bomb - and I'm talking about (generally respectable) media house sites.

This foray into 'anything goes' on social networking sites and other media I'm sure has had its impact on my earlier mentioned shift in optimisim.  Sometimes, people are cruel and harsh, simply because they can be. They have something ugly to say and a place to say it.  I was reminded of that the other day, having ventured into a thread of comments.  I went in, realizing that mine was the sole dissenting voice trying to tilt the collective view to a different perspective.  Zilch.   Felt like I was swimming upstream against a torrent of cynicism.  I left the thread trying to put into words that which I was feeling.  Self-righteous?  No, that wasn’t it.  Perfectionist?  Nope.  Tired of all the negative and the spewing vitriol and the unbridled cynicism?  Yes. Yes, that’d be it.  As I tweeted the other day, “Optimism rocks!”  I long ago realized that I see the world through different lens.  Ugly is around.  But, I believe, beauty outweighs it by far. And I shall not lose sight of that. I'm shifting back!

As I posted on the brewsomegood tweet stream the other day - a line from a really nice poem: "I'm drinking from my saucer, for my cup has overflowed."

True that!



  1. Optimism rocks indeed! I believe there would be more of it, though, if we actually SPOKE to each other; look at each other in the eye; connect as human beings and not just as "online selves". Love the post!

  2. Thanks, MizDurie! Your take on this reminds me of a commercial I saw the other day. Don't recall now what product was being advertised but the message was clear: "Never confuse the devices that connect us with the moments that keep us together!" Yes, there would be more of it - if we had more of those moments.