Why Are We So Negative?

Here’s a secret. When I am thinking of what I should blog about I sometimes have in the back of my mind the Google Analytics page for my blog. This page lets me know whether my blog hits are up or down. I like to keep the blog hits as high as possible, and like other bloggers, have learned some tricks of the trade to promote traffic to my site. The greater the traffic, the more people who are reading my blog, the more the message is communicated, and there is also the fact that I am paid according to the number of hits I get.

I have noticed over the years that the blog posts which attract the most attention are the negative and controversial ones. If I criticize someone, point out defects, stir the pot and hit certain hot buttons the hits start coming in, the links proliferate and the traffic starts to roll. Is this what I am supposed to be doing? Am I supposed to be stirring up controversy on purpose in order to generate ratings? Furthermore, I am aware that this is the way journalism works. The big story is the tragedy not the triumph, the horror not the happiness, the corruption not the competence, the sordid sex not the contented marriage.

Why the unhappiness and desire to wallow in the negativity? Part of our fallen nature I suppose, and part of the wound we carry from our own weakness and lack of love. On the other hand, controversy and conflict are not all bad. There is a thesis and antithesis and from the struggle we achieve a synthesis. There is not forward motion without friction. Nevertheless, I want to get away from stirring things up just for the sake of it, and certainly just for the sake of increased ratings.

Finally, there is always the larger application. How often in life do we all do the same thing within our communities, our families and relationships? We stir things up. We gossip and spread negativities simply to get attention for ourselves–to increase the drama in our sad and boring lives. We spread negativities in order to entertain ourselves and garner attention…just another version of increasing our ratings.

May the Lord have mercy.

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  • Sandy

    I find it very discouraging to visit Catholic sites and read so many negative comments. Too often I see Catholics criticizing other Catholics. So much judgmentalism and Pharasaical nitpicking, it makes me wonder, what would a casual non-Catholic observer make of it? Would they feel inspired to learn more about the Church?

  • oregon catholic

    It’s true Fr. Dwight. I worry greatly that some of this new media approach is leading good Catholics and good Catholic bloggers into sin as it often becomes a forum for anger and gossip and calumny. It has sucked me in over and over and I admit my love/hate relationship with it and I have been to confession numerous times over it. It has increased my knowledge of Catholicism greatly but it has also jaded me by seeing how divided our Church is. It is a dangerous road to walk and not for everyone.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    Or maybe this attraction to negativity is a sign of the times, the result of years of conditioning that turns into an addiction for negativity and skepticism. Maybe it’s part of the dictatorship of relativism, when negativity affirms it, whereas positivity negates it.

  • Jamie the less

    I quite like my “sad and boring life”. I am content with the simple and still in love with my wife of 15 years. When this sort of stability becomes newsworthy may God truly help us all.

  • Bernard Fischer

    That’s Mark Shea’s shtick: uncork a controversial headline and lede, then feign shock that people get upset or misunderstand. It’s your blog. You can do whatever you (and Patheos) wants. But I’d prefer that you keep things a little more positive. Maybe a few more stories about your new Church. We’re still in bland-land down here in Texas.

  • stefanie

    Good point, Father. ‘Yellow Journalism’ is too frequently rearing its head on our Catholic blogs. Especially in its headlines.
    However, the more you visit a person’s blog, the more you feel you ‘get to know’ that person in a ‘wordy’ sense — you know if you visit Blogger D, you’re probably going to get what you usually find at Blogger D’s blog.
    I visit a variety of blogs — Catholic, Evangelical Christian, political, mommies, daddies, priests, deacons, nuns, movies, comics, nerds, gamers, travel, anti-religion, science– and after a while, I visit them for what I know I will find. If I want to get mad about something, I’ll go to Blogger A because Blogger A is always ranting about something and the reader comments will be entertaining.
    No one is forcing a reader to subscribe to the blogger’s p.o.v.
    That being said, there have been times in reading blogs that I have crossed the line in my reaction — occasions of sin — which keep me returning to the confessional –even though I don’t post anything derogatory. I just wasn’t raised that way — to think it’s o.k. to spew my reactions in public.
    Any web portal is going to be a portal for enabling sinful behavior in thought, word, and deed. It’s important in these portals to remember that we ARE the Bride of Jesus and to act appropriately.
    I do enjoy your blog posts, Father. They are informative and as an RCIA director — I find them very valuable in teaching others.