Public Displays of Sadness
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.
from → My Life