Home / Opinion / Columns /  The banality of ‘good morning’ posts and our positivity fixation

I woke up on the morning of 5 November to a pleasant surprise on Whats-App. There were less than 10 “good morning" messages with pictures of sunrises (or sunsets, who can tell?) accompanied by pious banalities. Most of the posts were on the United States presidential election results. At least on one day of the year, I had been spared the task of scrolling through 50 platitudes and deleting them.

“The success we see in someone else is the proof that it is possible for us too!" “My pain may be the reason for someone else’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain" (this one with a Charlie Chaplin picture). “May the shells on the beach remind you that treasures arrive every day in the form of simple things!" “There is always another chance for everything in life. But the fact is there is no chance of another life." “Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already." “Yesterday is the memory we made for today. So make today a good day to remember tomorrow."

The ones involving God particularly get my goat. “God loves you. He will be there for you. He will make way for you. He will wipe away your tears. He will be your best friend. Have a wonderful day." “God never takes a day off to love, to care, to keep us safe and guide us in every moment in our lives. May His presence be with you always." I am unsure about the grammar here. Shouldn’t it be “God never takes a day off from loving, caring. keeping us safe" and so on?

But even more irritating are the folks who reply to each and every such post. I mean, do you really have nothing better to do? Like watching cat videos, cutting your toenails, or pondering the deeply metaphysical question about why only that part of your back itches which you can’t reach with your fingers? So one has to endure messages like: “Thank you X for your wonderful message (various emojis here). You have a great day and the same to all my dear friends." “What a lovely thought! We should all try to live by this principle." Or the most inane of all: “What a bright message Y (emoji). You have a good weekend (emoji)." What is the point of sending these notes of appreciation? What purpose do they serve? Do the persons posting these pointless thank-yous get actually inspired and decide to spend the rest of their lives following these noble tenets? Or do they just want to be popular, acknowledging mass messages? Or are their limbs so flexible that their fingers can reach every part of their backs?

I have met a few people in my life who were great devotees of the Dale Carnegie philosophy of self-improvement and interpersonal skills (essentially salesmanship), who tried to “make friends" with any stranger they met, and I don’t want to see them again. Their constant and often forced good cheer was unbearable. Why this desperate need for everyone to like you?

However, I do grudgingly admire the people who send these good morning messages. These are disciplined human beings. Wake up every day (this species, I have found, invariably gets out of bed at dawn or even before that), do your ablutions and whatever else you do—morning walk, jog, Surya namaskar—and then search the net for an inspirational quote, keeping in mind not to repeat yourself or anything others may have posted. Many of them may also be selecting a quote, then a picture, and laying that quote out on the picture in what they think is a fitting and aesthetic manner. Following this routine for years surely improves memory and keeps Alzheimer’s at bay. These people must also be big consumers of the motivational industry and are contributing billions of dollars to the global economy. Whether this improves one’s aptitude in anything, though, is open to doubt.

The human impulse driving these good morning messages, one assumes, is the pressure that many people feel to stay positive all the time. But why should we be that way? From Gautam Buddha to Osho to modern psychologists, many have seen the relentless pursuit of positive thinking as, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, harmful. Osho went so far as to say: “The philosophy of positive thinking means being untruthful; it means being dishonest. It means seeing a certain thing and yet denying what you have seen; it means deceiving yourself and others."

All of us have a subconscious self, and denying the negative feelings down there gets us nowhere. This renders our smiles and attitudes hypocritical and in the end stresses us out. There is nothing wrong in feeling low for a while, or seeing a dark cloud without a silver lining. Maybe what we need is to attack that cloud methodically, calmly, rationally, removing one’s personality from the process, and not pointlessly “stay positive", or trust in the ineffable workings of the universe.

There is surely nothing wrong with feeling angry or disappointed, or to express these feelings, at least for us ordinary souls who have not achieved enlightenment. The challenge is to recognize our inner demons and overcome them in their dark lairs, than in believing in the power of a five-step positive-thinking formula. That is deluding ourselves, which is dangerous. For, one day the levee may just break.

Sandipan Deb is a former editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines

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