Stop seeking the negative

Did you hear the Internet uproar recently about BudLight’s ad campaign that featured the phrase “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary?” The keepers of all that is right and fair in the world were notably flustered and offended. And who doesn’t love to be offended from time to time? Me, actually.

riding the negativity trainIf you follow pretty much any media these days, whether radio, television, or online, you’ll find some outcry nearly every day stating that someone was offensive and they should not only apologize but be ostracized forever. (Which, on the Internet, is only about 30 days, fortunately.) This is the case with Anheuser-Busch. As part of their #UpForWhatever campaign, they had a bunch of different little slogans. Among them was the seemingly innocuous vocabulary quote mentioned above. At least, it seemed innocuous to the people designing the campaign. It seemed fun and keeping with the spirit of the campaign.

man writing angry letter
I’m gonna write the Internet an nasty letter.

The world is never that simple, though. Despite what the marketers meant with their slogan, the public decided it could mean something else and went on a rampage tweeting, sharing, and blogging about how misguided the marketing people at BudLight were and how they promote rape culture, blah, blah, blah.

Yes, we do have issues. Real ones that deserve to be discussed. But we can’t put our brains away and just stop ignoring people’s intentions. We know what the ad campaign’s theme was. We know the people working on these ads didn’t really say to each other, “Hey, you know what we be cool? Encouraging beer drinkers to rape each other.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”If you look for the worst in people you’re sure to find it.” quote=”If you look for the worst in people you’re sure to find it.”]

I’m reminded of a scene early in Season 3 of House of Cards in which Claire is sitting before the Senate Committee looking for the nomination to the UN ambassadorship. She off-handedly says something that could be taken as negative toward the military. Then the attack dogs came out.

We all love a little grandstanding.

We do this with our politicians, with our sports stars, with our celebrities. Heck, we do it to pretty much anyone we don’t actually value as a human being.

And there’s the kernel of it. We’re simply treating all these figures, whether corporations or individuals, as something less that human. Despite some questionable campaign funding decisions, corporations such as Anheuser-Busch aren’t actual things. They’re a collective of people. People who wake up in the morning like you, prepare lunches and pack the kids off to school, commute to the office, make decisions, answer emails, spend a little too much time on Facebook, and then head home to spend time with their loved ones. They’re seeking some fulfillment in their lives, that’s all. Just like you and me.

And this quick leap to being offended and tearing people down has another effect: it suppresses our creativity and joy. We instill fear into every creative that someone, somewhere, will find a way to be offended by what we’ve said or done and get crucified. A glib joke to a small group of friends over Twitter can cost you your job and your ability to land another one.

I’d be willing to bet that, if you asked someone what they thought the BudLight people really meant, they’d agree the intention was not a bad one, but what will other people think? We’re so caught up in worrying that other people can’t make decisions for themselves and can’t possibly handle their own lives as well as we handle ours. They need help and we have to look out for them.

Doesn’t that seem dehumanizing to you? It does to me.

Let’s take a step back, shall we? Can we stop being offended on behalf of other people? Can we stop reading the worst into everything we read and hear and put a little effort into understanding intention? Can we direct our energy towards lifting people up rather than putting them down?

Can we get off the negativity train?

Steve is the founder of Straight Talk Entertainment and currently produces and writes for the audio drama Aural Traditions, recently voted Charleston City Paper’s Best Local Podcast. He’s also an Information Security professional and avid shark tooth hunter.

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