The Good News
I was about 12 when I began my first “job” - delivering newspapers for my hometown publication, The Woonsocket Call. This was a time when the paper was delivered in the afternoon, not the morning like it is today. That timing made it an ideal employment opportunity for many young kids who would strap a newspaper bag onto their bikes and ride through their neighborhoods after school to deliver those papers.
One of the many positive memories I have of my time as a paperboy is what The Woonsocket Call would do with their front page every Christmas. No matter what was happening in the city and the world, that holiday edition would remove all negative news from the front page. Only positive stories made the front page of the Christmas edition of The Woonsocket Call. Even though you knew that the ugly realities of the world could be found deeper within those pages, on the surface, there was a positivity that you couldn’t help but be warmed by.
I often think longingly about that Christmas edition of The Woonsocket Call when I look at online content and the unbelievable negativity that seems to dominate the headlines. I also think about it when I see people complaining and spreading negativity or even downright hatred on social media or through website comments.
Some of this negativity is inevitable. Anytime you allow for anonymous posting of online content, like with those aforementioned website comments, there will be people who hide behind that anonymity to spread their twisted world view. Trying to stop negativity from others is a losing exercise, but we can control our own online output. This includes the content and updates that we post and re-post on Facebook and other social media accounts.
The Fakebook Backlash
There have been a number of essays written about the practice of people only putting forward their absolute best face on social media. Images of perfect families, wonderful vacations, and happy memories dominate Facebook feeds while the ugly side of life is left off. Many complain that this creates an unrealistic picture of a life, but is that really a problem? I think about the photo albums that my parents assembled back when we I was a kid. Those photos did not capture the difficult days or the bad memories, they captured the good. They were photographs of the events we wanted to remember. How is Facebook any different than those photo albums? Other than the fact that social media updates are much easier to share with others than physical photos contained within an album are, these two things really are pretty much the same. My parents took photos of our best days. Similarly, many people now choose to share only their best moments online. This does not make a Facebook feed fake – it makes it deliberate.
My Facebook Feed
Look at my Facebook profile and you will quickly realize that I fall into this “happy Facebook life” scenario. I make a conscious choice not to post or re-post negativity in any form.
I have actually had people who I am friends with comment to me that my life looks perfect and how lucky I am. Yes, I am very lucky to live the life that I do and I give thanks for that life every day, but assuming that my life is perfect just because I do not post negativity on Facebook is silly and naive. My life has ups and downs just like anyone else. I have my share of challenges and bad days and I have been ready to vent my frustrations on Facebook many times. In the end, however, I have chosen not to publish those negative situations to my Facebook feed. I do not do this because I want people to think that I live a charmed and perfect life. I do it because I realize that I am responsible for what I put into the world, both positivity and negativity. I choose not to contribute the latter.
Spreading the Good News
Thinking back to the newspaper that started this story – The Woonsocket Call does not manufacture fake stories for their holiday edition’s front page. They also do not ignore the fact that bad news exists, they simply choose not to put that bad news front and center. I think there is a valuable lesson to learn here in how we can all approach the content we put out for the world to see.
Some people say that they like using social media as a sounding board to blow off some steam and vent their frustrations. That may be the case, but I wonder if that actually helps them lead a better life or if it just perpetuates the negativity they say they are trying to expel?
This holiday season, I suggest that we all think about The Woonsocket Call and make a deliberate decision to put a positive face on our online output. Try being positive for the entire month of December. No more venting. No more re-posting other people’s negative stories and pictures. Instead, keep it positive for one month and see how you feel at the end of that time. Will your life be perfect? No, it won’t, but I fully expect you that you will feel better for having made a deliberate decision to spread the good news and shine a little positivity on your corner of the world.
Merry Christmas – may you all have a positively joyful holiday season.
Note: In writing this article, I decided to contact The Woonsocket Call to see if they still maintained their tradition of publishing only good news on the paper’s front page for the holiday. The person I spoke to could not confirm that they had done it every year since I was a kid, but he did say that they did it last year and planned to do it again this year. I don’t live in Woonsocket anymore, but I may just need to take a trip to the city to pick up a paper this December 25.