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I Welcome Your Performance

Today’s post is all over the place…

I’ve been thinking about cynicism lately. We’ve been living in a Diet Dystopia for the last few years, all the taste of a real dystopia without the calories, and as a side effect, it’s been easy to let the voice of cynicism rule. And my voice of cynicism says:

My point isn’t that we’re not living in a Diet Dystopia, because I believe we are, but that my cynicism isn’t at all helpful. All it does is make me bitter and unpleasant, like a Caffeine Free Diet Coke.

Cynicism, Challenged

Yesterday, I was pissed off because certain big American corporations were continuing “business as usual” in Russia while Russia is busy bombing civilians and threatening world peace.

Last night, I forced myself to consider the complexities of a business joining the (non-military) war effort. They have coworkers and friends in Russia. What I perceived as money-grubbing immorality was in fact more complicated than I was acknowledging.

Then this morning, I learned that a big swath of those companies have joined the economic pressure campaign! So much for my cynicism, eh? Yesterday as I was vowing to never buy another Pumpkin Spice latte, the ‘corporate tools’ at Starbucks were already days into discussions about how to take part in voluntary sanctions.

Chill, Putin. It’s just a SPECIAL ECONOMIC OPERATION.

Dang. Having my cynicism dashed was such a great reminder of how negative my thinking has become. We must believe it’s possible to do the right thing, even when the “right thing” is thorny and complicated. Without being open to better futures, it becomes impossible to create them. At least, that’s what I suspect.

So, I’m working on ejecting my cynicism. Not because it’s always wrong, but because I don’t want my life to taste bitter and fizzy.

Which brings me to my next point, closer to home…

Performative Sharing

One small way I’m becoming less cynical is this: I’m changing how I think about so-called “performative” behavior online.

Some common questions, spoken or unspoken…

If a person posts travel photos, are they bragging? If someone shows an image of their new house, are they hurting those who don’t have a house? If you blog about the sixty books you read last year, are you trying to show off to those who read only five, or none? If you post about a song you wrote, or a piece of software you made, are you a marketing shill, exploiting your friends for clicks?

SO MUCH CYNICISM! Arg. We’re drowning in it.

Living in Diet Dystopia can really wear you down. When you’ve pre-decided that the world is a place you can’t trust, and that everyone has an angle, and that the only speech that is valued is speech that either admits fault or shines a light on tragedy… the thought process can get really weird.

HOW DARE YOU SHOW ME CUTE PHOTOS OF YOUR PETS TODAY. DON’T YOU KNOW PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING? How dare you show me a problem you’re working on. Here are ten groups with even BIGGER problems, you selfish lout! What about THEM? My local coffee shop is taking donations for Ukraine. Obviously they’re just trying to make themselves look good, those greedy jerks.

I’m exaggerating for effect here. But if you’ve ever felt a stigma against sharing something positive for the enjoyment of it, you may be falling prey to the toxic thinking of our Diet Dystopia. I know I have! The world can be hard. But it’s not all hard! We don’t need to look at simple pleasures through a cynical lens.

Truly…

Please-please-please, don’t let the voice of cynicism stop you from sharing what brings you joy. Instead, let us say to one another: Hey! Fellow humans. I welcome your beautiful performance!

‘Performative sharing’ is a small, fascinating window into who we are, what we love, and what’s possible. It takes us out of our own heads, and it challenges our limited view of the world. Sometimes, it’s about nothing but fun, or the base human desire to walk up to another upright ape and show them this thing we found. Isn’t it cool? And what’s wrong with that?

Absolutely nothing.