For a while there I considered disconnecting from Facebook, which I had taken to calling "bitchbook" because of the sheer number of people using one of the greatest technological advances of all time to complain about their daily lives - with problems that in a first world/third world/fifth world scale of global unpleasantness aren't all that bad.
"Why me?" people would ask, as if they're the only person that unplanned or unpleasant things happen to. "I'm so unlucky."
Actually, a baby born yesterday in Somalia is unlucky. Billions of people on this planet are worse off than you. Even on your baddest bad hair day, you won the freaking lottery.
My problem is that I'm generally poor at giving sympathy at times it's not really called for, urging people to look at the bright side rather than validating their hurt sense of whatever. People hate that - just as I hate this culture of aggrieved victimhood we've created/tolerated, and hate myself when I find myself slipping into the Vortex of Pity from time to time. Being a realist of no particular faith or creed, sometimes it really does seem like it's a short leap from telling it like it is to being a negative, cynical drag.
You could argue that's because reality is inherently negative, that the world is circling the toilet bowl, but that's simply not true. People have been saying that for millennia, and the data just doesn't support it. Things - at least the things we can quantify and measure - are actually getting better.
If you were to graph it, going back a few thousand years to when rape and murder passed for public entertainment and diarrhea was a death sentence, the progress of humanity would be one long upward curve with a few dips along the way. The advances we've made in medicine, in technology, in agriculture, in education, in political and social development, and in every field whatsoever, have been nothing short of astonishing. While military budgets are up for some reason, our world is far more peaceful than it's ever been - 66 years without a world war and counting! And while police and prison budgets are up (why Harper, why?) statistics show that crime is on the decrease as well.
People are less racist, men less misogynist and people in general more equal. Life expectancy and literacy are both climbing. Infant mortality is declining. Cultures have not only survived the melting pot of urbanization and modernization, they're flourishing (the good parts about them, anyway).
There's a book by Gregg Easterbrook called The Progress Paradox , which seeks to answer one important question - why do people feel worse when life is actually getting better?