It’s the second Manosphere Monday here on this blog, albeit somewhat late (today is the first Monday of January, but it’s close to 11:30 PM where I am). Perhaps the heading is a bit misleading, though—the piece of advice I’d like to give today is relevant not only to the Manosphere, but life in general, I’d say. Still, it ties into a lot of criticisms I’ll probably make of the Manosphere later. So, today, I’d like to leave you with this piece of wisdom:
Avoid miserable people.
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a while before realizing that James Watson (discoverer of DNA, who I mentioned in my previous entry) put forth a similar idea in a nicely droll way. The title of his autobiography (which I haven’t read yet, but intend to do so for a book review in the future) is Avoid Boring People. This can mean two things depending on whether or not “boring” is a verb or an adjective. The former means you should avoid making people bored, while the latter means you should try to avoid people who *are* boring, and rather surround yourself with interesting, positive people who add value to your time rather than taking it away.
While my formulation doesn’t have the nifty double meaning that Watson’s has, I’ve found it’s still pretty useful towards the same purposes. I think that, to a non-trivial extent, the pleasure one takes out of life and their growth as a person is a function of who they hang out with. Roll with a crew of intelligent, accomplished, and interesting people and you may find yourself getting smarter, storied, and more interesting yourself. If your friends are generally happy, you’ll often find yourself happy, if not always then at least more than usual. On the other hand, if most of the people you hang with (or most of the blogs/forums you read) are miserable, well, you’ll probably find yourself miserable as well. Being surrounded by nothing but or even mostly negativity all the time will make you more bitter and negative, and make it harder to get yourself out of that slump as well. If no-one around pays any attention to self-improvement (even if they occasionally pay lip service to the idea) you’ll find it harder to get into the self-improvement state of mind. If the people around you look at the world and find no reason to be happy, it’ll be harder for you to find things that make you happy as well. And to top it all off, miserable people are often just boring. It might be entertaining hearing something like “The world is gonna end, group X/Y/Z sucks and it’s all their fault, woe is me, and woe is you if you don’t agree with me” the first time, but if that’s all anyone ever says the novelty wears off real quick. So really, it’s probably best to just avoid them entirely. Fortunately, they’re not that hard to spot.
I’ve found that miserable people more often than not display many traits and behaviors which make them pretty easy to detect. If you keep an eye for these, and avoid those who display them, you’ll likely find fewer miserable people in your social circles, and likely end up happier and healthier because of it.
1: Miserable people are usually, if not constantly or overwhelmingly, negative. They almost never have a nice word to say about anyone else, but more importantly, they almost never speak about anything *but* anyone else, and how terrible other people (or whichever group they happen to hate) is. Online, if you look at someone’s blog and nearly every entry is griping about the world or attacking another bunch of people, you’re typically looking at a miserable person and you probably won’t find anything interesting, helpful, or worth reading there. An example would be a blog run by a, say, white nationalist in which nearly every entry is a horror story about blacks or Jews or whoever. The handful of times he writes about any other subject, or even something positive about his own people, he can’t resist taking digs at others and it comes out as passive-aggressive, i.e “look at these awesome white accomplishments, those non-whites just can’t compete!” He’s not really praising his own people’s worth, he’s just using it as a cudgel to attack others, which is not only negative (rather than genuine) but also tells you he probably doesn’t have much useful advice or analysis on pertaining to any of the accomplishments he praises. He probably doesn’t have any of his own, and probably won’t be able to help you make your own either.
2: Related to the above, the motivations of miserable people are often entirely or almost entirely external, rather than internal. Their personalities (both online and off) seem to revolve around finding excuses to look down on others rather than pursuing accomplishments for their own sake and their own self-satisfaction. Again, to take the white-nationalist example again, he might study history, or even try (and likely fail) to make waves in the scientific and artistic fields where he claims whites dominate in order to “prove” his superiority over the people he hates. The idea that one should pursue scholarship or scientific/artistic accomplishment for its own sake rather than for (typically unmerited) self-aggrandizement is foreign to them. Hanging around such people is often a waste of time; they’ll be better at hating on others than giving you any inspiration or guidance.
3: They’re impossible to please. No matter what happens or what other people do, they’ll find an excuse to be disgruntled and unhappy. Show them a reason the world’s not as bad as they make it out to be, they’ll call you a Pollyanna. Give them solutions to their problems and they’ll tell you you’re a fool. And when it comes to the groups they hate, they have a bizarre catch-22 mentality. To take the white nationalist example one last time, he’ll claim that blacks are “inferior” because they’re underrepresented in science or math or whatever, but give him an example of an accomplished black person in these fields (such as Neil Tyson DeGrasse), and he’ll not only say they “don’t count” (for whatever reason) but also claim they’re “upstaging” whites, or ruining the field, or whatever. So those people hate blacks for not going into math or science…and then hate them when they do. It’s a ridiculous catch-22, i.e an unfair situation that’s impossible to get out of. I try to put this aphorism into practice in my daily life, and I might write a post on it later: Do not live in fear, do not live by lies, and try to avoid no-win situations. With miserable people, every situation is no-win.
Now, I’ll admit this may seem a little harsh on miserable people. After all, a broken clock is right twice a day, eh? Even if someone’s wallowing in negativity, they may have a good insight now and then. Well, the key words there are “now and then.” There’s a reason nobody uses broken clocks to check the time at all hours of the day, right? I’ll give miserable people credit for being right when they actually are right, but those instances are so few and far between that it’s not generally worth seeking them out, or even paying them much attention. Usually, whatever wisdom you can glean from chronically unhappy people can be just as reliably found from other, more positive sources, and it’ll be easier to find as well. You won’t have to cut through pages worth of whining and crying to find some wisdom from a positive, well-adjusted person, while you’ll have to tolerate a lot of that before getting anything good from a miserable one.
And on that note, to make things a bit clear, I think there’s a difference between a miserable person and a melancholic one. You’ll notice that so far, I’ve been careful to aim my criticism at those I deem “miserable” or “chronically unhappy,” not just “pessimistic,” “unhappy,” or “cynical.” As many a well-read person can tell you, not everyone with wisdom necessarily has a bright attitude or view of life. Plenty of intelligent scholars and social critics, ranging from Mencken to Diogenes (the original Cynic XD) have had sour dispositions. However, they also have many positive characteristics which, IMO, set them apart from the miserable people I’ve described above and make them worth a listen. They’re not constantly negative. They talk about a variety of topics—Mencken, for instance, despite his disdain for religion, “the masses,” and women, he was more than happy to discuss thinkers and writers he admired. He wrote one of the first scholarly analyses of Nietzche and spread the word about many books from his colleagues. They’re much less self-absorbed, willing to admit their own flaws and foibles and rarely blame other people for what goes wrong in their lives, or place the blame on some particular group or another for all that’s wrong in the world. As I might expand on later, nobody’s really a loser until they start blaming others for their woes, and melancholy people don’t fall into that trap—miserable people do. Finally, these guys are internally motivated: though they may get depressed at the rest of the world failing to live up to their standards, they set those standards for themselves rather than as an excuse to have something to complain about. So don’t think I’m asserting that someone has to be happy all the time to have good insights. There’s a difference between the melancholy and the miserable, and remembering it is a good idea.
That pretty much does it for my thoughts on miserable people. You’ll notice I haven’t linked to any specific blogs or forums I’d call “miserable.” I might do that in the next “Manosphere Mondays” entry…but that’ll come next month, in February. Right now I’m in a mood to discuss other things—even talking about the chronically unhappy can sap a guy’s strength. I might do another book review on Friday, or maybe another (mildly) contemplative entry about commenting on other people’s blogs. We’ll see, hehe.