Yesterday was International Day of Happiness, and I wanted to use the occasion to bring up something that’s come to the forefront of my mind recently: people shaming other people for things they enjoy.
There have been many times in recent years when I’ve seen people express excitement for a film/book/TV show/event/piece of media, only to be shot down by someone else commenting ‘you like X author?!’, or ‘Oh, I saw that episode and it was rubbish.’, or even ‘Why are you interested in that?’ This happens both online and in face-to-face conversations, but it’s increasingly prevalent in online communities where people can hide behind their anonymity and lack of real-world interaction. And honestly? I’m starting to get tired of it.
We all like different things. That’s what makes us unique. Some people have mainstream interests and others very niche ones. Life would be a little unwieldy (and more than a little dull) if we all liked the same things. But just because someone likes an unusual band/film/book,hobby, or something that others find ‘uncool’, doesn’t mean we should shame them for it. We’re individuals after all; we all like different things.
Instead of shaming, we should uplift and encourage people for liking the things they like, as long as they’re not damaging for others or themselves in any way. There have been times I can remember in the past, when I mentioned how much I enjoyed a film only to have the people I was chatting to shoot me down. They questioned why I liked it, and immediately began to pick apart all the negative aspects, to the point where I questioned whether or not my view of the film was incorrect. Their words made me feel that I’d somehow been wrong in my enjoyment of it and that my feelings weren’t valid or critical enough.
Now, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have their own opinions. We should all be free to view things positively or negatively, and analyse why we feel that way. But the semantics of how we phrase things can be decisive in whether or not we tear someone else down or lift them up. If my friends had said ‘Oh, I didn’t enjoy that film, but that’s just my opinion’, or ‘I disagree, but it’s cool that you like it’, that would have been fine. But they stated their opinions as facts and didn’t leave room for anyone other views. They also spent time trying to convince me of why I was wrong, rather than accepting that I felt differently to them and discussing our differences in views (which would have been much more fun and intriguing).
Thankfully, I’ve become more confident about my own feelings and views in recent years, and I’ll no longer let anyone harass me into questioning my enjoyment of something. But not everyone has had chance to develop that same confidence, and it irks me to see people telling others that their feelings aren’t valid. If someone likes something you don’t, accept it and move on. Unless someone’s enjoyment of something is damaging to themselves or others, let them enjoy it. Equally, if you like something that other people don’t, that’s A-OK. Even if you think you it’s an unpopular opinion, it’s still an opinion, it’s still yours, and it’s still valid.
Re-evaluating our views on a piece of media through healthy analytical discussion is fine. It’s a good way to broaden world views and gain a better understanding of others. But one person telling another they’re wrong for liking something is not a good or healthy way to discuss a subject. I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point unintentionally or not, heck, I know I have. But we should all try to respect what others enjoy and gain happiness from, even if we didn’t feel the same way. After all, why spend time spreading negativity when you could be spreading happiness.