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The Strange Psychology of Internet Complaining

Let me start by asking you a question. Have you ever written a review anywhere that began with words akin to these –

‘I never usually write reviews but this was so terrible…’

You have? In which case sir or madam, it’s my sad duty to inform you that you are an asshole. Wait, stop punching me, let me explain…

There’s nothing wrong with complaining per se. Without constructive criticism nothing would ever improve. If your hotel carpet had CHUDS living under it or they reversed the brake and the accelerator pedals on your car or your iPod will only play Coldplay then you’re absolutely right to complain and inform the public so they may make an informed decision. But that’s not my point.

OK, here’s a decidedly anachronistic example, but hell, I don’t know what kids are listening to these days (Jungle or something right?). Anyway, so you’re a Metallica fan, Master Of Puppets absolutely changed your life, Ride The Lightening made you want to learn the guitar, you even loved that one without a bass player on it.

Poor old Jason Newsted

Poor old Jason Newsted

Then they release The Black Album. “What the fuck is this?” you cry. “Where’s the speed? Where’s the aggression? Is Lars actually getting worse at the drums?”.  So you take to your computer and you write a sternly worded critique of this terrible new album and the sell outs that Metallica have become.

But wait, I’m assuming you’ve already written lovely reviews of their other albums right? The world definitely knows about your passion for Call Of Chtulhu doesn’t it? Or how the bass solo in Orion brought a tear to your eye, yeah? Because if not that pretty much makes you THE WORST FAN IN THE WORLD!

Imagine that in real life. Say you did peerless work for a company for 10 years without a word of praise from your boss only to be chewed out in public when you turned in a slightly shoddy presentation. It would suck right? Even if the boss then took you aside and told you he’d actually always loved your work up to that point, you’d feel pretty hard done by.

"Oh and another thing, Nothing Else Matters totally rocks"

“Oh and another thing, Nothing Else Matters rocks!”

The problem is two fold. Firstly the anonymity of the internet means that anyone can spout their bile without much fear of reprisal. But the second is a far more human problem, and that is that we’re far more likely to get vocal when something is bad than if it’s good. When we’re happy we don’t need to get anything off our chest. Our lives continue on the same happy course, uninterrupted. It’s only when we’re vexed, when something hasn’t gone as we had hoped, that we feel the need to shout about it, and that’s a real shame.

I’m willing to bet that the average Westerner has more things go right during an average week than go wrong. I bet the trains were mostly on time, that your lunchtime sandwich was tasty and enjoyable, that your pot dealer turned up when he said he would. But we don’t notice those things because we expect them, we think we’re entitled to them.  Ask a person what they remember most about the past week and they’ll probably list all the things that went wrong. If you read my teenage diary you’d think I was a terribly miserable kid. I wasn’t, I was a pretty damn happy teenager, I just only wrote in my diary when stuff pissed me off.

'Dear Diary. My Dad thinks U2 are better than Pearl Jam. I can't live under these conditions!'

‘Dear Diary. My Dad thinks U2 are better than Pearl Jam. I can’t live under these conditions!’

It has become a cliche that the internet is for moaning, but it doesn’t have to be. We can change that! Next time you stay in a lovely hotel, get on Trip Advisor and write a review. The next time your favourite band writes an awesome song, shout about it on Amazon. The next time you play a video game that isn’t crippled by a terrible multiplayer platform, go tell everyone on whatever message board it is you lurk on. Who gives a shit if Kanye acted like a dick in another interview when Sleater Kinney released the best album of their career this year?

There is so much beauty and wonder and joy to be found in the world, lets get sharing that, not bitching about all the bad stuff. Wouldn’t that make the internet a more wonderful place?