Good Vibes Only A primer on toxic positivity.

Good Vibes Only A primer on toxic positivity.

Issue 40

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Rebecca Liu
  • Photograph Evelyn Hofer of Saul Steinberg in New York, 1978

One of the more perverse features of social media is that it often produces the opposite of its stated intentions. It claims to bring us closer together; it leaves us divided and angry. It professes to be a transmitter of knowledge; it has convinced your grandfather that Bill Gates is Satan incarnate. And, while social media aims to be a supportive space, its relentless cheeriness often curdles into something sinister—a monomaniacal valorization of good vibes above all else. Now, there’s a term for this singular pursuit of uplifting feeling via Instagram captions that forbid “bad energy” and “the haters”:  toxic positivity.

Toxic positivity did not come from the internet. But its place in the popular consciousness is inextricable from the web. Google searches for the term fi...

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