There’s a store in Asheville that shall-not-be named that I’m somewhat obsessed with because it’s essentially the living embodiment of everything that simultaneously makes social media awful, but burgeoning misanthropes like myself thrive on tearing to shreds: empty aphorisms, basic foods as a personality trait, celebrations of mediocrity, and performative uniqueness. I walked by the other day, and there was a tee shirt from the “empty aphorisms” category that said, “Good Vibes Are My Tribe” that I would buy just to burn if I were only a tad bit richer.
I will be upfront and say that I hate anyone who’s eternally positive and only in search of good vibes. Listen, I think I’m pretty optimistic for a burgeoning misanthrope, I’m not a Debby Downer by any means, and similarly dislike anyone negative for the sake of being negative, but in the year of our lord 2022, let’s just all admit that positivity and good vibes are often used to conceal hate, celebrate privilege, discount the struggles of others, and not thoroughly interrogate the world around you—it’s like the perfect marriage of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” and “smile more.” Hate gets things done. Negative means the ability to think critically. I dig both. I look for tinges of hate, negativity, and cynicism in the people I surround myself with. My goal is a tribe with the capacity to hate (but like, hates in a has-overly-strong-opinions-about-Disney-adults, not like, hates-anyone-who’s-not-white-way).
This afternoon, one of my negative friends, one whom I frequently items in the news that makes my blood boil, sent me an article titled “Live From Hurricane Ian, TikTok creators find traction,” with the message, “I hate this guy.”
The guy in question is TJ McCormack, a 44-year-old “burgeoning influencer,” Editor’s Note: 44 is too old to be a burgeoning influencer, no? who traveled to Florida just before Hurricane Ian hit because, as he told NBC News, “Whenever people watch me, they expect they’re going to see up-to-the-minute, real, live, authentic things being shown to them.” I had a feeling I’d hate TJ too, and without even getting to the meat of the article, this quote more than sealed the deal.
Per that article, “His TikTok videos from Wednesday show him driving down streets covered in running water, standing near an overpass Floridians were stranded under, and walking around a beach that receded from the coastline during the storm. He plans to post more footage of the devastation as he makes his way toward Tampa, away from the hurricane.“ That made my blood boil, and I wanted to read more, but I had to stop when I read the line, “His first video to surpass half a million views, on Easter in 2021, was a video of him bringing flowers to his elderly neighbor.”
#PositivePeople would read this and say, “Pat, why are you being so negative? What’s wrong with filming yourself doing a good deed with the intent to go viral and make yourself look altruistic if the elderly neighbor gets a smile? What’s wrong with trying to generate content? What’s wrong with being adventurous and living in the moment?” Editor’s note: Positive people and influencers seem to often confuse “living in the moment” with “narcissism.”
I’ll tell you what’s wrong, #GoodVibeTribe: if TJ here got stranded or injured willingly putting himself in the way of a record-breaking hurricane, there’s a chance a police officer, EMT, firefighter, or other professional might get stranded, injured, or hurt trying to help him. TJ isn’t thinking (or caring) that his actions could negatively impact others.
I still remember a piece in the Citizen-Times this past January about a man having to be rescued from the Art Loeb Trail near Shining Rock during the one highly forecasted and publicized blizzard to hit Western North Carolina this year.
Six people had to go rescue this guy. Per a press release from the Haywood County Emergency Services, “Those rescuers had to deal with treacherous road conditions on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with less than 100 feet of visibility amid a wintry mix of sleet and snow. Leaving from the Black Balsam trailhead, they utilized snowshoes and heavy winter gear to hike to the stranded man.”
I’m sure he’ll recount it as a thrilling story, but what if one of those rescuers got hurt? The fact that people don’t think about that is so, so, so gross to me, especially because in inclement weather, there are often people that need to be rescued who did bunker down, who did take caution, who did the right things but were simply victims of the elements. Then you have yahoos like TJ and this unnamed Art Loeb hiker throwing themselves into the mix. There’s nothing positive about this. It’s a net negative. They deserve to be shamed. They need to do better.
“But Pat,” the #GoodVibeTribe will say, “everyone makes mistakes. You’ve undoubtedly made stupid mistakes others have had to help you from.” True. I’m not going to argue that. But there’s a difference between mistakes and willful ignorance, between being young and dumb and unbridled hubris. Flying from Denver to Florida to put a hurricane on TikTok isn’t a mistake. It’s a deliberate move aimed at garnering a social-media moment and, frankly, not the type of vibe I want anywhere near me.