I've been mulling over this post for the last few days and the overriding thought is about all the negativity that seems to be floating around among academics. I originally thought (and sometimes still do) that this negativity stems from competitiveness; however, I have been noticing among my new colleagues that the negativity goes beyond the competitive perfectionistic nature inherent to most academics. I have colleagues who immediately note the negative to any situation--it can be as simple as choosing food for a department luncheon. They are incapable of focusing on what is cost or time effective; rather they will focus on any possible thing they can turn into a negative (i.e. for the food topic: guest perceptions, ordering difficulties, pick-up or delivery, vegetarian options are always the same). I mean totally ridiculous stuff that just. doesn't. matter. (i.e. the guests aren't coming for the food, we have staff to pick-up, we don't even know if we have any vegetarians--if so, won't they just appreciate a vegetarian option?)
But really for me this isn't about the food conversations--that is just an example of how strange it gets around here. It is about any time something good comes along for someone-the majority of the others suddenly feel the need to focus the conversation away from the good news and get the conversation steered toward some negative aspect (which might be remotely related to the good news). Maybe it is just that academics are such solitary self-centered beings that we can't manage to accept anything happening to anyone else but rather focus immediately on what is not happening to us?
I use 'us' loosely here--including myself as an academic--but really hoping I can keep my head above the negativity cess pool brewing in the halls.