We live in angry times.  Our President here in the U.S. sets the tone by tweeting intemperately day and night.  Trolling on social media has reached epidemic proportions.  Our friends in the U.K. got so mad at Europe that they’re divorcing them.  Here in the Boston area, the good citizens of Cambridge regularly get worked up about some national issue and threaten to secede from the Union – the very one that their ancestors died defending.

Angry times.  And of course, one of the reasons that we are so angry is that we’re constantly reminded of how angry we are on social media by bloggers, by Facebook posts, by tweets – it’s going on twenty-four seven like some furious echo chamber of ire.

Facebook envy is now a real thing, something that actually depresses people.  A recent study found that people who spend more time on social media are more depressed, more envious, and less forgiving, than people who don’t. 

This sorry state of affairs afflicts both the political right and the left.  Friends of mine on Facebook who used to post pictures of smiling family members and friends now post regular rants on politics.  Some right-wingers recently attacked NPR for posting the Declaration of Independence, because they thought it was belittling Trump. 

On and on it goes.  Our angry era is deep into its middle years, with no end in sight.

But it’s really symptomatic of a deeper problem, one that puzzles me daily:  more and more people are seeming to look at life as a zero-sum game.  In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, more and more people seem to think that my happiness is your misery, your gain is my loss, and there is only a certain amount of fulfillment, success, and joy to go around in the world.  You have to grab as much as you can for yourself and keep others from getting any.

What a sad place to come to.  In an era which is demonstrably safer, healthier, richer, more creative, more advanced, and more blessed than any other – for more people — we have a sense that we have to fight in a dangerous world for every scrap we can wrest from our neighbors.

Quick question – which decade was more dangerous for terrorist attacks – now or the 1970s?  The answer may surprise you, as those headlines say on the Internet.  It’s the 1970s.  Check it out.  Google it.

And while you’re at it, Google “Joy.”  It’s a sense of great pleasure and happiness.  Nothing about it being limited, or rationed among people.  We’re all entitled to it.  And as much as we need or want.

Otherwise our world will become a hell of our own making.  I’m always reminded of the paired visions of heaven and hell from a story long ago.  Hell is an endless banquet, a table piled high with delicious things to eat, people sitting on either side.  And yet, because the spoons they’re holding have long handles, too long to get them in their mouths, they’re starving in the midst of plenty.

Heaven, on the other hand, in this version, has the same endless table piled high with delicious things to eat, people sitting on either side, holding exactly the same spoons, with the same long handles.  But they’re feeding each other.

What can we do to move humanity from the angry hell too many of us seem to inhabit today, to a happier world?

Realize that the pie is infinitely expandable.  It’s human creativity that solves problems – the answers lie in all of us.

Let’s not shut each other out.  Embrace the other tribe.  Embrace your competition.  Include, don’t exclude.  Accept, don’t deny.  Hold tight with love, don’t spurn, your fellow humans.

We’re all in this together.

And join us for our one-day Powerful Public Speaking workshop in Boston on October 24.  We’ll set the world to rights, solve for world hunger, and put the New York Yankees in their place.  Promise!



  1. Hi Nick

    You have answered your own question- What are we to do??? with equalence. Speak up with hope & positivey.

    Yes there is a negative air flowing by but it will pass. Your President will pass and the UK leaving Europe will be seen as the folly it is. It may not change the fact.

    On this small island of Ireland, at the edge of Europe, which was home to hatred and bloodshed for over 800 years.

    Today we have peace- not harmony but peace.

    I believe passionately in the good of the human race. I believe we all have a responsibility to stand up and speak. I believe you are a very fine example to follow.

    Keep up the good fight.

    Kindest regards
    John Keating

    1. John, thank you for your wonderful message of hope and peace from that beautiful land of Ireland. Beannachtaí air go deo….

      1. Go raibh maith agat – to pronounce – guh – rev- mah – a – gut – May good with you and the way we say thank you.

  2. Great post, Nick.

    It’s long been a goal of mine to set up a website “notice kindness”. As you noted, we see so many headlines pointing out all the angry, bad, negative, selfish (and many other adjectives) things in the world, but much less frequently do we see headlines and posts of the good things.

    That was one of the reasons I loved Facebook initially….people posted all the good things happening in their lives and it was fun to read them. Sad to know that this has only increased depression and that Facebook envy is a real thing. I too have stopped going to Facebook as much in part because it’s become more of a “rant space” than an “acknowledge happiness” space.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we all were just a bit more focused on being kind to each other?

    Thanks for the very thoughtful post.

      1. Michael, it’s so good to hear from you, and your Kindness Center has long been an inspiration to me to help in some way to make the world a kinder, better place.

        1. Thank you, Nick. I am truly grateful for your support. Kindness is such a simple concept. It almost seems absurd that I have to travel the country teaching it. When people ask me what my ultimate goal is, I often will say, “retirement.” In other words, I pray for the day that the world will no longer need my services. Yes, it seems that we are light-years away from that dream. So for now, each of us must take personal responsibility and remember the words of the Dalai Lama who said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible”.

      2. Thank you Michael! The support is much appreciated. Guess I need to find some time to move this idea forward…just so much to do and so little time to do it. I will check out your center. Thank you for being a Kindness Warrior (General?) and your leadership in this very important area.

  3. Another great post, Dr Nick – needed that in the midst of everything going on.

    From where I’m writing – South Africa – there are concerns about state capture. The irony is that the language used in all the debates (I try to avoid most, but I can’t ignore the patterns) is exactly the same in the US, UK and South Africa. No doubt the same in other hot spots. The anger is because the system has failed us. No developed country is immune from the anger. I fear it’s going to become worse before it gets better.

    That’s why your training is so valuable. The worse things become, the more the world will need great speakers. Wish I could join you in Boston in October, but timing isn’t right. Look forward to the next one.

  4. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ” Martin Luther King,Jr.

    Thanks for the reminder, Nick. Great way to start the day.

  5. Interesting. Last week I saw Prof Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, speak here in Sydney, Aus.

    Positive psychology is only new (just a couple of decades or so), and I’m optimistic for the future.

    Prof Seligman made some bold claims, like that we’ll be able to cure depression and panic disorders in the next 10 years. That’s partly through stimulating the area of the brain called the ventral medial pre-frontal cortex, dubbed the “hope circuit”.

    He also speculated that in the foreseeable future, we might be able to prevent cardio-vascular disease (for which pessimism is a major risk factor).

    So thanks for reminding us that terrorism was more prevalent 40 years ago than today, and for your other perspectives here. Good stuff.

  6. Angry “times” come from angry minds. Nowhere else. What we develop within ourselves (anger or patience, selfishness or compassion) determines the world we ihhabit.

    We keep thinking that things to anger us are “out there” and we’re just reacting. We think, “If those things would just go away, we’d be peaceful and happy.” But the truth is that if we simply stopped zooming to anger, stopped trying to feed ourselves with the overly long spoon (as in your story), we could effect exactly the kind of change we dream of.

    So that’s good news: we have within reach the very thing that can turn the world from angry and turbulent to peaceful and kind. The trouble is we have little practice at managing our own thoughts and even less awareness that we need to.

    1. Susan, thanks for your thoughtful comment and good reminder that we choose anger, just as we choose all our responses and feelings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.