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Public Displays of Sadness

2014 June 26

don't talk



A couple of months ago, I was having dinner with a favorite friend of mine and she mentioned, casually, that her husband (also a friend of mine) had noticed that my Tweets had been more sad than usual, and he’d wondered if there was something wrong. I reassured her that everything was fine, but when I got home that night, I looked back through my Twitter account to see what he could have been concerned about. Sometimes, I get caught up in a wave of sadness or nostalgia or angst, and yes, those feelings can manifest themselves in maudlin tweets. But on this particular occasion, even scrolling back several weeks, I didn’t see anything unusual or alarming.

Our conversation stayed with me, though, because I thought it was interesting on a macro level. Just how honest are we supposed to be in our social media personas? A video has been making the rounds the last few days that tackles this very question–the pressure we all feel to lie about our lives for the benefit of our online audience (or at least embellish) to make ourselves feel better. But I think it goes deeper than that. I don’t think it’s just to make ourselves feel better-I think, ultimately, when you’re relentlessly positive and upbeat online, you’re doing everyone a favor because sadness is uncomfortable.



Look, I get it. Sadness and feelings are messy and we barely know what to do with our own, never mind know how to handle someone else’s. Especially when that someone else is flaunting their sad all over the Internet when all you want is puppy videos and funny gifs.

I’m a person who values honesty and communication, as hokey as it sounds. But it’s a lot easier for me to vent about my sad in writing than it is to do it with words of the spoken variety. And even though Twitter, Facebook, and my blog are public spaces, open to a variety of people (both strangers and friends), it’s somehow comforting to be able to vent about the things that are bothering me, and to not be able to do that because I’m worried that other people don’t want to deal with my sadness or that they will be worried about me would make me feel censored and upset.

Over the last six months or so, many people have complimented me on my “strength” or whatever, about being able to move forward from the wreckage of the life I had before. And I appreciate that, I really do, but I’m also really just SAD sometimes. I have good days and bad days. Lately, people have been asking me if it’s gotten any better, and the truth is honestly–no. I think it WILL get better, eventually–but for now, it’s just the good days and bad days. I’m told to stop thinking about it, stop talking about it, live in the present. But guess what? That’s really hard, and I’m trying my best, but I can’t pretend that something really shitty didn’t happen and isn’t still happening. I know nothing I do or say will change that, but sometimes you just need space to be sad and angry and vent. Just because your feelings are messy doesn’t mean they’re not valid or appropriate for public consumption.

So, for the most part, I’ve been trying to keep my messy, gross emotions to a minimum, especially out in public. But sometimes things happen and I end up crying in the backseat of my friend’s car or posting sad song lyrics on Twitter or an angsty Gchat status about life being a nightmare. But I’m still okay! Because it’s okay to be sad sometimes, especially when your worst nightmare pretty much came true out of nowhere! I am going through something I wish no one had to go through, but we’re all going through something, or have been through something, traumatic and we just keep going, because that’s what you do. And none of us should feel ashamed at talking about it or thinking about it or writing about it or even whining about it on the Internet.

“Yeah, but I don’t know what to say,” or “I didn’t want to have to tell you…” That’s fine. I understand that. I’ve been that person, too. But know that you often don’t need to say anything–just acknowledging that the other person is sad and that’s okay is enough. I saw this little comic on Facebook today and thought it was appropriate:




This got real. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

But seriously, my friends and family have been the best things and have kept me from the brink in these tough months. I’m really interested in how we deal with our emotions on the Internet though, as well as in person. Do you share personal things online? Does it make you uncomfortable when someone else does it? Are you going to stop reading my blog because I’m too feelingsy?

I hope this post didn’t make you uncomfortable.


21 Responses Post a comment
  1. Rebekah permalink
    June 26, 2014

    I think you are brave BECAUSE you are sad.

    also… sometimes I hope I DO make people uncomfortable, because if I make them uncomfortable and they still love me and want to be close to me in their discomfort, I think that’s real love.

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      Yes! I often think that as well. Almost like a test….but not always a conscious one. I’m glad you think I’m brave. :)

  2. June 26, 2014

    Not only am I not going to stop reading, I might start re-reading. To be honest, I have enjoyed your blog more in these miserable months than I feel comfortable admitting. I think your writing is so strong, and yes maybe sad and uncomfortable and feelingsy, but also genuine and honest and true. Your sadness is real, and just as beautiful as your happiness. I will not unfollow. nope.

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      Thanks Megan! That means a lot. People kept saying that I would become a better writer as a result of all this…maybe they were right. 😉

  3. Kate permalink
    June 26, 2014

    Amen to all this.
    I stopped posting to Facebook basically as soon as shit hit the fan, because expressing my sadness felt wrong and expressing anything other than sadness felt disingenuous. Social media makes grieving things weird. It’s hard to say ‘no I’m not okay, but that’s okay too’ and make sense. But it does.

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      Yeah, I quit Facebook altogether for six months and it was a good decision for me, but even now that I’m back on it, I struggle with what to share and what not to share. I wish that sadness was a more universally acceptable emotion and people didn’t automatically think there’s something wrong they have to fix–it’s just a part of being human. You’re not okay, and that’s okay!

  4. June 26, 2014

    Beautifully put. I’ve struggled with this, too, when sharing emotions- sometimes with happiness as well as sadness, since I fear writing about happiness sounding braggy and writing about sadness sounding whiny. But honesty and communication are important, like you said, and your posts here have been very true and very well-written. If sharing your feelings helps you, don’t stop doing it! I’m certainly still reading.

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      Thanks Katie! It is a catch-22 isn’t it? When you’re happy, you’re bragging, but when you’re sad, you’re a downer. You just can’t please everyone, but the most important part is honesty. Hopefully we can strike some kind of balance.

  5. Raquel permalink
    June 26, 2014

    Your post didn’t make me uncomfortable. Your sadness doesn’t make me uncomfortable. (It makes me sad and angry about things, but never uncomfortable.) You are feeling things and that’s natural and normal and they feel shitty, but it’s good that you feel them. As Rebekah said above, you are brave BECAUSE you are sad, because you are honest and allowing the feelings and honoring them despite them feeling like ass and despite it being hard as shit and you wishing you didn’t have to deal with this.

    In the past I have wanted to withhold my sad feelings about shitty things in my life because I didn’t want to bum people out, or because I worried that they’d judge me, or because I was ashamed of the hardship I was going through. Now I realize that it’s better to just be honest, because life is a messy thing and shit goes down. Maybe my being honest about things will make it easier for people to be honest too. And maybe my being honest makes other people uncomfortable, but that’s on THEM, not me.

    I hold you in the nest of my heart and send you nesty feelings. <3

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014


      Sorry, I had to. Thanks for your always kind words, friend. They mean a lot.

  6. Meghan permalink
    June 26, 2014

    Jill, if you weren’t sad at all about what happened, I’d not only be worried about you, I’d be worried that an alien bodysnatcher replaced you with an imitation Jill. You are who you are, a person who feels emotions deeply. I think most people have said you’re strong because you are unafraid and unapologetic about your emotions. That is where the strength shines through. Strength is not about appearing to “get over it”–anyone who says that is wrong. It’s about realizing that life sometimes sucks in profound ways that will shake you to your core– but you find that core and you keep going, as you so beautifully pointed out. Maybe people need to realize that life is not a punctuated equilibrium of happy-shitstorm-happy. There are days which are terribly sad, but days which are happy, too, and they occur near each other all the time– hell, even in the same day for some of us depending on where we are in life. To express only happiness with others is essentially to hide a part of yourself from them. I hope that you will have less of the sad sometime soon, but sadness is not a weakness.

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      Thanks Megs. My happiness and sadness definitely comes and goes in waves, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Thanks for the reassurance that sadness isn’t weakness. :)

  7. Amanda permalink
    June 27, 2014

    I won’t stop reading, but I WILL stop letting you in the backseat of my car.

    😉 love you!

  8. Melissa permalink
    June 27, 2014

    As a person known to cry over kleenex commercials, I am not uncomfortable with your emotions. Because I love you so much it makes me sad when you are sad. But, it is something that you have to feel your way through. Otherwise you will not come out on the other side of the situation having learned anything. Neither will you really be ready to move on and experience new things. So, as long as it takes, I hope you know that you can always tell me you are having a bad day. And if I could make you a nest of warm cuddly puppies, I would gladly do it! My nest would obviously consist of loudly purrring kittens. I’d love to be having a rest in a nest right now. Love you!

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      Oh my goodness, a nest of cuddly puppies would be AMAZING. If there’s a way you can make that happen, we could make millions. The kittens can come too. I guess.

      Love you too!

  9. June 27, 2014

    Your feelings are always valid. And as a friend, I appreciate honesty about how you’re doing and that includes the whole range of “I’m going to cry on the T” to “holy cow, I feel as good as a kitten gif.” Don’t censor yourself; we’re here for the real you.

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      Thanks Annie! I think kitten gifs are always appropriate–in joy or in pain.

  10. Nancy permalink
    June 30, 2014

    Very good post and love the comments. I saw this article and it reminded me of your questions at the end of the post. Thought people might be interested:

    • Jill permalink
      July 1, 2014

      It makes sense that when you see more negativity, you generate more negativity and vice versa. It’s also not surprising that Facebook is toying with our emotions. I always suspected it…

  11. July 2, 2014

    “I am going through something I wish no one had to go through, but we’re all going through something, or have been through something, traumatic and we just keep going, because that’s what you do.”

    These are my favorite lines of your post. Makes me think of that quote “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

    I’ve been trying (it’s a work in progress) to…on the days when I’m feeling lousy or sad or grumpy for whatever reason to simply acknowledge that versus trying to immediately talk myself out of the mood. Sure, being in a good mood is more fun…but let’s be honest – my mind and my body totally knows when I’m “faking it.” You’re allowed to be sad, to be mad, to be all and any emotion throughout the day. Because you’re you, you’re human. And I like you no matter what.

    • Jill permalink
      July 2, 2014

      I think it’s a huge help to ourselves to remember that it’s okay to be sad, especially when faking it just isn’t working.

      And I’d still like you if you were sad too!!

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