Don’t worry, be happy (or I’ll fuckin’ kill you)

d72bc7759697b04042b588adf44a701bIt seems that the inspirational-quotes genre — and I’m talking about entire Twitter feeds and e-mail lists devoted to the phenomenon, not the posting of a few go-get-’ems here and there — should be self-limiting. Exhortations to ditch negative people and situations in favor of joyful smiles and unconditional love would disappear from circulation if these quotes were actually inspirational in the literal sense, because people the world over would simply put all of these messages to practical use and no longer need to continually receive them.

But of course it doesn’t work this way. The people I know who love posting kum-ba-ya fluff are often inspired to do no more than repeat this exact process every day, and worse, they are usually contemptuous gasbags and founts of banality who blame others for their dismal life choices and attendant poor outcomes.I don’t think that the unintentionally farcical use of these quotations by systematically negative and dishonest people is the desired endpoint for either the people producing them or the not entirely coherent people most eager to propagate them; the world of human psychology, however, is packed to the brim with unintended consequences of various riffs on “Think like this and you’ll be fine,” and a lot of them are very funny.

Understand that if you stumble across a social-media account littered with high-minded imperatives and observations from famous statesmen, religious leaders, feminists, mental-health magnates, or people named Oprah, don’t be surprised three weeks later — or even three hours later — to see that the same account has either been converted into a virtual shrine of homicidal resentment or deleted outright.

I admit that in a strange way, the people I’m talking about really are being energetically optimistic. After all, they are declaring that they want to be better, happier people while at the same time tacitly admitting that they want pithy sayings and barely relevant wisdom to do the work for them. They’re just efficiency experts!

The world would be a much more fun place if all it took to be a positive person was swiping others’ bon mots and repeating these until everyone around you became savagely optimistic and violently productive. And feel free to quote me on that.

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