Is it just me, or are people getting more cynical?
Maybe it's not that people in general are getting more cynical; it's just that I'm becoming more aware of it as I'm moving away from it.
Sometimes people think of cynicism and skepticism as similar concepts, but in my mind there is a difference between those two words. Even though they both come from a place of doubt and lack, I see skepticism as healthy and cynicism coming from the mind of someone who has just plain given up on possibility.
I think it's great to question. If you're believing something just because it's what you've always believed, or followed something because someone else told you to (or played the clarinet in band not because you liked the clarinet but because your best friend who was a year older did), then you're not really thinking for yourself. Being skeptical means you maybe have a question, but you're open to learning something new.
Cynicism, on the other hand, feels more like closed-mindedness. Cynics know what they know and don't believe there is any other way to believe. Cynics are threatened by thinking and would rather bury their heads in the sand so their beliefs have no chance of being questioned. In fact, cynics would rather fight than switch, even if the new information would provide an easier way or an obviously more effective or efficient solution.
I just watched a banking commercial for Ally Bank in which a guy is challenged to accept the $3 ATM fee while getting cash to see a movie. Everyone in the commercial is telling him to "Just Accept It": banks add fees to ATM transactions. "Just Accept It." How many times and in how many contexts have you been told that?
So back to the original question: are people getting more cynical? I guess if people aren't commenting, there is the possibility that they are complacent and apathetic, which might be even more disturbing. At least when people are complaining, they have an interest.
Where in your life are you complaining in order to be right? Are you open to learning something new? Or are you resigned to making a difference only by pointing out what's wrong and leaving the doing to someone else who you know could never do anything to your satisfaction anyway? If that's the case, you might be desperately holding on to whatever you can control: in this case, being right about the world being negative.
The best way to live a happier life is to notice where you're not happy and then to do something about that. The way to change the outcomes in your life is not necessarily to change what happens (because you can't control that) but instead to change your mind about what happens (which you have 100% control over, despite what that little voice in your head begs to tell you).
Questioning is great; it moves you from where you are to another place. But be aware why you're asking. If you ask questions to gain knowledge and a different point of view, that's skepticism and that's healthy. But if you ask questions to prove that you're right (or worse, if you don't feel the need to ask any questions), then you may be coming from a place of cynicism and resignation.
To which outcome are you more committed: being right or being happy? Notice and act accordingly.