In the past couple of days I’ve seen a lot of talk about how cynicism is quality that will allow one to avoid disappointment, distinguish good from bad and overall just allow one to keep their wits about them, but is cynicism necessarily a universally good lense through which to view the world all the time. Is there such a thing as too much cynicism? This blogger says yes and no.
I think there’s probably nobody in the blogosphere that would disagree with the notion that a healthy dose of cynicism will keep one from getting in over their head with something they probably aren’t going to like and that through application of it they can help to make the experience better or less painful. Take the timeless case of MST3K, the classic basic cable series that featured a man and his two robot friends sitting in front of a movie screen making snarky comments about bad movies they were being forced to watch in order to keep their sanity and much to the delight of the audience watching from the comfort of their own homes. Many will attest to the fact that MSTK3 made watching certain bad movies enjoyable for them that without the cynicism and grilling the films got from the MST3K crew would otherwise have been unwatchable. I think this is a good example of a healthy dose of cynicism.
But here’s where I think the double edged sword comes in. What if you are so cynical that even something like MST3K, cynical as it is in nature, would be nothing but a bother to you? That you go into everything in life expecting it to suck and with a negative viewpoint that ends up making said experience suck via a self-fulfilling prophecy. That you are incapable of enjoying anything without making room for a little enjoyment and benefit of the doubt here and there to the point where you bring everyone around you down with you, some who might even be cynics themselves.
I think there’s a point when cynicism crosses over into closed-mindedness, where an invidual instead of being a fun guy to hang around with because of all the wise cracks he makes becomes a pain in the ass that nobody ever wants to deal with and who you’ll want to avoid if you can because everything that comes out of their mouth makes you want to sucker punch them square in the jaw. This is where I think cynicism ceases to become a useful tool to keep one from getting taken down by life’s shittier aspects and ends up becoming a detriment that does just as much harm to a person’s own psyche as if they were to view the world through sugar-coated glasses and just end up disappointed in the end. In fact I would even argue that overwhelming cynicism is merely a short cut to that disappointment and thus of no use at all.
I bring this topic and opinion to the table because I’m seeing a lot of what looks like the detrimental kind of cynicism from people lately and it makes me wonder what could have happened to them to make them that way. And these aren’t people having a mid life crisis, these are young people around my age of 24. People I work with, people I come across online, people that just seem to have given up on enjoying life, and really I could hardly imagine how life is worth living if taken in from that point of view.
I think it’s something that ought to be looked at a lot more in studies and that perhaps therapy to help care for this seemingly ingrained disillusionment with life young adults I run into seem to be experiencing more and more should be looked into as well. Young adulthood, to me at least, is supposed to be the time when you are enjoying life to it’s fullest, not wallowing away as if one’s life is already over and the only thing that awaits one around every corner is disappointment. I’m going to be keeping tabs on this phenomenon for a little while and see if I can learn anything more about the psychology behind it, because this is really starting to interest me a little. Until then I’m going to leave people with this poll and an invitation as always to share their viewpoint on the topic.
A little extra reading if for those interested: