internet angst: a primer

At around 10:37pm every night I get the overwhelming urge to tweet “LOVE STINKS,” and then I get over it and I don’t tweet that. I don’t know why it happens—I mean, I know why I feel like love stinks sometimes, but ‘love stinks’ isn’t the sentiment that dominates my life in any way, shape or form. Its only realm of relevance is in those minutes before I go to bed when I’ve started thinking about everything in my life that I don’t have (a boyfriend) and why (men are dumb). This evening angst, which is not unique to me, builds to the point where I feel like it absolutely must go on the internet for other people to read and, in my mind, nod sympathetically, but in reality roll their eyes at another angsty 19 year old oversharing on the internet.

I won’t say “we all do this,” but this spillage of internet angst is hugely prevalent. People are constantly oversharing online, and that’s coming from me (I have a pretty loose definition of oversharing). Even things we now see as normal don’t really need to be on the internet: your outfit, your lunch, your thoughts on other people’s outfits and lunches… But there is something so validating about putting your life on display, especially if you do it well. It feels nice to cultivate and present yourself as though everything is perfect or at least imperfect in a funny way. It’s not even that I want to cultivate jealousy about my tailored reality, I just want to feel listened to and noticed. (All the time.)

This is starting to sound like an anti-twitter/social media rant, but it isn’t. I like social media; I think my twitter is fun. I tweet about my cooking failures and get 1 like or heart or whatever the twitter thing is (I’m new to it). I know my “love stinks” tweet would get zero response which would then make me feel awkward and take it down. I’ve thought about tweeting about my “love stinks” urge and even that seemed too angsty so I didn’t do that either. The whole phenomenon has got me thinking about internet angst and why people want to publicize the less-than-great parts of their lives, when the whole ‘lie’ of social media is that you look better than you are. I know when I blog about depression or self-confidence issues, it’s mostly with the intention of helping someone who might be in a similar situation, at least letting them know they’re not alone. But a tweet that says “love stinks”? What’s the point?

(I’m just realizing there are more quotation marks in this post than in the entirely of People magazine. I ‘allegedly’ am a ‘decent’ writer, but today it’s ‘escaping’ me.)

I’m wondering if it has something to do with introversion or extraversion, or liking being the center of attention, regardless of the quality of that attention. Or maybe we just like to talk about whatever we feel like and know that in some way someone will have heard us and acknowledged our existence. (Twitter is Shouting into the Void in the 21st century.)

I’ve always been one to overshare, even in normal conversations. (Part of that is because I think certain things are taboo that shouldn’t be, like periods, so I’m barefaced about it.) I do have a personal life, but it’s nothing so personal that I don’t mind chatting about it with someone I met last week. Sure, they don’t need to know, but there’s no reason for them not to, especially if it’s relevant. The first real conversation I had with one of my best friends was about how I’d been dumped the week before.

I like being honest. I hate the idea that we’re all filtering ourselves on the internet, or even in real life, for the sake of saving face or just jealously hoarding what’s ‘private’. Nothing you experience in your life hasn’t been experienced by someone else, you’re not really that special. Opening up and even oversharing, for lack of a better word, forges genuine human connection. People are relational: we like knowing other people are flawed and have problems similar to ours. I especially like it when I can make other people laugh because I managed to find the humor in an awkward situation. I think it’s healthy to be a little self-deprecating, especially if it helps you find the positive in a realm of negativity.

There is a point on social media where you probably shouldn’t Tell All™, especially if it’s a situation that could embarrass someone else or is just getting to the point of being annoying. If I tweeted “love stinks” every day, I would no longer have any friends. But I think on the whole I like the idea that being open and honest online about what your life actually looks like is a good thing: for one, it combats the false comparisons that social media can create, and for another, it fosters genuine connections. I don’t think that means I’m going to go full steam ahead with angsty tweets, but it does mean I’m going to carry on tweeting about intentionally leaving ingredients out of recipes to bad effect. I am pro anything that encourages us to see each other as human beings and life as kind of a crap shoot for everybody. Honestly, we’re all just trying our best. And love does stink sometimes, especially if you’re 19.

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