Why I hate "inspirational quotes"



I'm reposting this from my Medium page. As I said there, it is highly personal. Don't read it if you think it'll upset you. Then again, if you like feeling a bit angry, you'll probably enjoy it, so have at it.

You knew it would come. You were warned. Now it’s here. The wind has changed. The waves are still. It’s time. Time for my rant about why I hate “inspirational quotes” so much.


Before I dive in, let me make one thing clear. This is not about hating all memes – I don’t. Some of them are pretty funny, and a well-placed pictographic joke can often improve a truly foul mood. I’m not totally devoid of humour or humanity. No, really, I’m not. I promise. Neither is it about those copy-and-paste status updates that include something along the lines of, “share this if you care. Most people won’t” – that’s a whole separate rant. Nor is it about being bitter and hateful and wishing ill on you dear, sweet souls who believe in the power of sunsets. Ok, maybe it is a bit, but for the most part, I keep that to myself. I try not to inflict it on the rest of the world, except in the form of the occasional 750-word rant, which you totally don’t have to read. Bail out now if you like. All I ask is that people try to keep their rainbows and kittens in saucers and unicorns overlaid with daft quotes to themselves as well.


At a very basic level, it’s their ubiquity that bothers me. They are everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, pretty much any social media platform you can think of – and as someone who needs to use social media for the purposes of marketing, this means I can’t get away from them. They’re always there, with their meaningless platitudes and unchecked attributions. What’s worse, that means there is a proportionate number of people out there in the world who a) think they are a good thing to share and b) think the famous person to whom they are attributed really did say, “I believe in the impossible because no one else does” or whatever. And I didn’t even make that one up.


It’s got broader in scope lately, too. Now there are whole videos devoted to sharing saccharin tales of faux inspiration, deliberately calculated to tug at the heartstrings. Someone in some godforsaken office somewhere has been given the task of concocting the sickliest, most sugary bunch of nonsense they can, and duping people into believing it’s real in the name of making money. If I’m coming off as an insensitive, mean-spirited cynic here, then surely that’s worse.


That leads me to my next major gripe. Aside from all the greeting card-style pseudo-philosophical clichés that don’t even come with a claim that they were uttered by a real human, there are the hundreds upon hundreds of vomitsome quotations that supposedly were expressed by some late, great personage. That one I just mentioned, for example, was allegedly said by Florence Joyner Griffiths. The thing is, people don’t bloody check. That’s how you end up with images like this:


Lastly, it’s the laziness of them that bothers me. To me, sharing an “inspirational quote” says, firstly, that you couldn’t be bothered to check the attribution, and secondly, that you couldn’t be bothered to come up with your own sentiment. It says you couldn’t be bothered to think. It says you most likely didn’t read the quote that closely, because if you had, you’d realise it probably didn’t make much sense. Even if Flo Jo did say that thing about the impossible, WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN? Ok, so you want to break up the misery and darkness that dominates the news landscape with something uplifting. I get that. I really do. But in this age of speaking and acting without thinking, what’s wrong with giving it a little consideration first? Just a few seconds. That’s all I’m asking.


All the above aside, if looking at a kitten in a saucer with the words, “love is a blessing cup. Drink every drop”* overlaid on it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, more power to you. If you know it’ll make someone else feel all warm and fuzzy, share it with them directly. This isn’t about censorship, or calling for anything to be banned. It’s about sparing a moment to think about what you’re doing. Remember that there are those of us who are broken, joyless shams of human beings, who can’t appreciate the simple things in life. So stop assaulting our eyeballs with it. Please.


*Yes, I did make that one up. You can have it if you want, and attribute it to Mother Teresa with a picture of a beautiful lake or something.

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