Exactly one year ago, a study came out from researchers at Beihang University in China examining more than 70 million tweets from 200,000 users on Weibo (China's insanely popular version of Twitter) showing that anger was the most viral emotion on social media. For those of us who spend any time on connection-based sites, this is no surprise. Somehow spreading happiness is less inspiring to people than sharing tales of injustice, casual affronts, righteous indignation, or whatever else gets someone's ire up. Anger fuels its own fire.
So I should not have been surprised when I recently posted something happy online that was met with instant negativity. And yet, I am -- both surprised and disappointed.
You see, I'm taking an online course through U.C. Berkeley called "The Science of Happiness." There are over 100,000 students in this class, so we have a variety of discussion forums.
On Wednesday, I posted this on the Facebook page for the class:
This should make everyone happy!
1. Free Doughnuts! This Friday, September 19th, is national "Talk Like a Pirate Day." (I promise, I am not making this up). So if you go into any Krispy Kreme location and say. "Argh, I be here for me free doughnut," they will GIVE YOU ONE! No kidding. No purchase necessary. What could make you happier than talking like a pirate?
2. Free Coffee! To go with your free doughnut, McDonalds is giving away a free small coffee during breakfast hours starting tomorrow morning through September 29th. Just walk in or drive through and ask for it. Again, no purchase necessary. I know, it seems too good to be true. Free doughnuts and coffee. How can anyone be unhappy with that?
"How can anyone be unhappy with that?"
The first reply was:
Personally, I would be ALOT happier if minimum wage was raised to where workers could afford to buy a doughnut and coffee. Argh!
Not sure if the "Argh!" was grumpiness or a funny attempt to talk like a pirate. If the latter, then I at least appreciate the effort. But come on -- You actually felt the need to write something negative in response to a post about FREE COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS?!
The second comment was:
I feel much happier eating healthy nourishing fresh food (even if I have to pay for it)
Okay, then how about sharing where people can get healthy, nourishing food for free? Or are you offering to pay for other people's healthy, nourishing food?
Just to drive the point home -- I, personally, don't have any sugar or caffeine in my diet. I will not be getting a free doughnut or free coffee, but it makes me happy to share that news anyway. It makes me happy that those are available to anyone who might want them. It makes me happy to live in a world where something as whimsical and fun as "Talk Like a Pirate Day" is honored by a major corporation, and other people can find happiness enjoying it.
But more importantly -- this post was in a forum for people taking a class on happiness!
Responding to a happy thought with negativity will not make you happy. Seeing the bad side of everything does not increase your or anyone else's happiness. If something exists in the world that makes other people happy, doesn't really hurt anyone, and it does not apply to you, move along! Attacking it doesn't make anyone happier, including you!
Look at my original post. It doesn't ask "What could make you happier than a free doughnut?" It asks "What could make you happier than talking like a pirate?" I would be willing to bet the grouches who complained about that didn't even try talking like a pirate! It's really happy-making. And hysterical. And if you happen to eat doughnuts and you get a free doughnut for doing it -- even better!
I am taking this class because I am a truly happy person, and I make it my goal to share and spread happiness, kindness, joy, fun freebies, funny videos, and whatever else I can to make the world less ugly every day, and I struggle to understand those people who feel the need to bring dark clouds with them wherever they go. Hopefully, the class will shed some light on why certain people have a need to make their unhappiness known, and what the rest of us can do to help them reduce or find better outlets for their negativity.
If free doughnuts and coffee aren't for you, then maybe that was a post that didn't need your comment. Not everything online does. But if you feel compelled to write something, next time try: "There are a lot of things that would make me happier than talking like a pirate or getting free coffee and doughnuts, but I'm happy for the people who will enjoy this offer. Thanks for sharing it."
That's how you stay happy, spread happiness, and make the world a happier place with you in it. Arrrgh!
This article was originally published on SpeakHappiness.com.
Valerie Alexander is the author of Happiness as a Second Language, a #1 Seller on Amazon in both the Happiness and Self-Help categories, and the forthcoming book, Success as a Second Language: A Guidebook for Defining and Achieving Personal Success, to be published October, 2014. She runs workshops and seminars for companies and organizations seeking to maximize their results by making happiness a priority, and for women seeking greater success in the workplace.
For more from Valerie, please follow Speak Happiness on Facebook, and if you want to make sure not to miss any more free doughnut announcements and other happy news, join the SpeakHappiness mailing list where you'll get two free Happiness Workbooks. For more by Valerie on Huffington Post, click here.