Countering Social Propriety
Expressing Negative Emotions in an Always "Happy" World
I recently read an article that posed the question: Is Facebook making us sad? (http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/01/the_antisocial_network.html) While the article touched on many elements of Facebook, social comparison, etc..the point that struck me most was Facebook's structural nature which provokes only positivity and encourages highlighting the good while completely ignoring the bad. The simple concept of the "Like button" without an accompanying "Dislike button" speaks directly to this upbeat or positive nature. But my concern isn't really about Facebook but how this social network, which is excepted to reach a billion users by the end of 2012, reflects the social propriety or acceptance of expressing sadness, failure, and depression in contemporary society. Facebook acts as a viral reflection of the real world where sharing unhappy feelings are seen as burdensome and both social expectations and personal expectations about mood and attitude are rapidly changing. If we aren't or don't seem to be happy and positive all the time we are not ok or something is wrong with us. This new belief comes with a variety of negative impacts. The quote I chose for today relates to not only accepting your personal and unique thoughts but expressing them as well regardless of whether society deems them proper.
"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud."
- CoCo Chanel
We all have thoughts that we keep to ourselves- worries, concerns, anger, anxiety, sadness, disappointment- thoughts that we don't think others want to hear or may make us vulnerable if shared. But what happens when we keep these thoughts inside for so long? They don't go away. They may be forgotten but they're still there just waiting to pop up when we least expect it. These negative thoughts or memories manifest themselves in different ways- stomach ulcers, skin breakouts, eating disorders, panic attacks, and the list goes on. When we fail to recognize and pay homage to our thoughts- bad, good, and indifferent- they will appear in other forms, even physically, that can result in greater damage. This provokes yet another question- what happens if we don't experience any of these physical repercussions? What's the big deal about keeping things in? Well, the problem with keeping things in for an extended period of time is that they ultimately will come out. For example, you have a friend that consistently makes small jabs at you or nasty comments that on their own are so small and seemingly insignificant that it doesn't feel worth it to stir things up. So you go along and take it for a couple months or even years and slowly these comments and your feelings build and build within you until suddenly you take it anymore and BOOM- emotional explosion! If you had addressed each mean comment individually as they came your response would most likely not have been so outrageous. In fact making your friend aware earlier along could have even resulted in the snide remarks or meanness to cease. But by "letting go" and not acknowledging your feelings all along you allowed them to build within you resulting in an explosive reaction fueled by months or years of upset and anger. So what's the point of all of this? As the quote says the bravest thing to do is speak your mind. Saying your truth and expressing negative emotions can be exceptionally difficult especial in our contemporary world that seems to condemn feelings of depression and inadequacy. But at the end of the day we all have these feelings. By keeping our emotions to ourselves we not only but ourselves at risk but we contribute to society's ridiculous concept that everyone is happy all the time! So for your sake and the sake of others be "courageous" and just let it out! Sad, happy, angry, thrilled, anxious, stressed, excited- "...think for yourself. Aloud." Hopefully in doing so you'll inspire others to do the same thereby strengthening relationships, challenging loneliness, and countering impossible societal norms. Remember by letting it out your more likely to let someone in.
Be brave today and say how you feel,
(In the United States we have been given the right of Free Speech- don't deny yourself this right by censoring yourself for others!)
Say, John Mayer