- On January 29, 2020
- EEOC, Going Negative, Individualism, Politics
Recently, a fellow doctoral student-peer of mine wrote about how he counseled a young, adult male on taking the high road on social media. Apparently, the young man had been debating on whether or not he should use his social media to express upbeat and diplomatic comments about a situation or if he should “go nuclear” and really speak his mind, even if that meant expressing negative sentiment.
According to my colleague, he explained to the young man that he could either allow himself to get bogged down by social media mudslinging or keep his eyes on the future (career) instead. Employers, he continued, review social media activities to determine hireability and culture fit.
More than that, my peer furthered, it’s not just about careers and future earning potential — it’s also about “the well-being, emotional, and physiological health of society,” adding, “Anger, stress, and anxiety can be attributed to social media with the potential for long-term biologic and physiological effects still receiving little research and attention.”
When I think about “going negative,” the first immediate thoughts that come to mind are those of politics.
In politics, as most of us have especially experienced at some point or another, politicians often go negative in terms of competing against political rivals. And during the time leading up to an election, we’re usually inundated with salacious and negative ads between competing politicians.
I recently heard over some newscast that MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (from Hardball) has launched a new, 6-part podcast series entitled So You Wanna Be President (Matthews, 2020).
Each podcast episode represents one piece of advice Matthews (2020) would offer to anyone running for president should strongly consider.
While only two of the six episodes have been published at the time of this writing, I learned the sixth episode is entitled, “Go Negative.”
Matthews (2020) describes this 6th podcast as follows:
I find it disillusioning (even though I perhaps shouldn’t) that “going negative” is one of the six nuggets of wisdom to be imparted to presidential hopefuls.
I haven’t listened to any of Matthews’ podcast(s) and am only sharing here to underscore the point that “going negative” is considered as both advice and as a mainstream practice deployed by most anyone running for (any) office.
Perhaps there’s no better example of “going negative” than the kind of vitriol spewing from many of today’s political social media accounts today, including social accounts held by folks holding the highest of offices.
Can positive psychology work or have any hope in a negative-first world of politics?
I don’t have “the answer,” nor am I suggesting that positive psychology has no place in politics, but it broadly appears that positive psychology tenets may be viewed as secondary next to the dominant, default reactions and forces the “going negative” route seems to inspire.
If the latter is true (and from what I see these days, going negative is more often the norm and even encouraged and celebrated), then anything opposite to this negative current becomes a “going against the grain” kind of challenge.
Going against the grain can be perceived as good or bad, depending on perspectives and contexts.
A quick sidenote
For decades, job candidates in the US are repeatedly told not to include their photo along with their resumes and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicates “employers should not ask for a photograph of an applicant” unless for identification purposes “after an offer of employment is made and accepted” (EEOC, n.d.) on its website.
While hiring organizations have been screening candidates on social media for at least a decade, this practice seems in part to negate the EEOC’s no-photo-on-resumes-as-a-prohibited-employment-practice position — a stance intended to protect candidates from race or age discrimination.
For a dramatic, international comparison, beauty in Brazil is perceived as being central for the job market because there, candidates do/must include their photo along with their resume. Such intense scrutiny is placed on the candidate’s image that, for many women especially, living without beauty in Brazil is a huge risk (Alvarro, 2018).
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Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, MA, MFA
Media Psychologist & Strategist
Alvarro, J. (2018, May 3). The dark side of Brazil’s “right to beauty.” Quartz. https://qz.com/quartzy/1269028/plastic-surgery-in-brazil-the-dark-side-of-the-right-to-beauty.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Prohibited employment policies/practices. EEOC. https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/practices.
Matthews, C. (2020, January 28). So you wanna be president. Hardball on MSNBC. https://www.msnbc.com/hardball/watch/subscribe-to-so-you-wanna-be-president-a-new-podcast-from-chris-matthews-77732421802.