If you are an avid social media user– and let’s face it, most of the world is– then you have definitely encountered toxic positivity.
Even the name “toxic positivity” sounds quite counterintuitive, but that’s because it is. The phenomenon involves people who, in an attempt to be uplifting, are inadvertently ignorant or apathetic to the challenges of a situation.
Let’s take LinkedIn, one of the most popular professional networking sites, as an example. Aspiring career professionals often document their journey on the platform, and some even provide a glimpse into their job search efforts.
Have you ever seen the phrases, “You can do this!” or “It will all work out!” commented on a LinkedIn post about a failing job search? If so, these are prime examples of toxic positivity– which ignore the weight of the situation and claim that the original poster has the sole power to change their fate.
And one psychologist, Margo Lecompte-Van, became utterly sick of seeing the same tired and toxic comments on various online platforms.
“As a social media user, I was constantly confronted with toxic positive language on Facebook, Linkedin, and other social networking services. I noticed that my Facebook posts mostly received cookie-cutter comments that were overly positive, even when I shared negative experiences,” Margo recalled.
In turn, she decided to launch a study to figure out if toxic positivity is a prevalent issue for other users.
Margo began by gathering over seven hundred Facebook posts and thousands of comments about endometriosis– a rare medical condition. Then, she analyzed the linguistic structure of each post and its respective comments.
What Margo found is that most linguistic patterns could be deemed “toxic positive” and follow a pattern of “X is Y.” For example, “You are an endo warrior,” or “You are a fierce lioness of a woman.”