I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: much of our generation’s communication is either heavily coded or roundabout. The distance between screens provides a false confidence that allows us to say the things we would be too scared to say in person, and yet, we’re still far from honest or direct.
Have you ever had that feeling, where in the heat of a conversation, you know exactly what you want to say and just as it’s about to escape your silence, you swallow it and think I’ll just text that later? So many times I’ve found myself drafting a mental text explaining my behavior just barley leaving it. Why can it be so terrifying and so embarrassing to be ourselves? To stand up for ourselves? To apologize for ourselves? And why are we more willing to share an indirect thought with thousands, than a direct one with one?
Music can be a saving grace when overwhelmed with feelings and under-staffed with words to explain them. Sometimes a song lyric can tell you how you feel, before you know you feel that way. Have you ever found a song that speaks for you? How often do we answer Facebook’s question: “What are you doing right now?” with “Come on skinny love just last a year” if you’re feeling low, or “Who run the world?” when we’re feeling sassy? But then we realize Facebook won’t talk back. No matter how many likes and comments we get, what we want is for that one person to hear you. Instead of talking to them, you talk to the void and get nothing in return.
Sometimes we use lyrics to inflate our confidence: “and I’m like, f*ck you!” Sometimes we use lyrics to ask for forgiveness: “Didn’t mean to make you cry. If I’m not back again this time tomorrow. Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters.” Either way, we’re using them to say something on our behalf.
Am I suggesting we start answering Facebook honestly? What are you doing: Stalking my ex-boyfriend’s new love interest, crying, scrolling through Seamless and picking at my cuticles. No. The question I’d like to raise is, what if every time you had an urge to speak indirectly, you could only speak directly? Would you still want to say the same thing? No? If you can’t say what you’d say to thousands on the internet, to one person, in the eye, maybe don’t say it.
I’ve shared my feelings about Instagram before and you know I’m just as guilty as anyone else. There is something about a lyric or quote as a caption that makes any Instagram photo loaded. Can we just admit that it’s become easier to stage a photo for the sake of a caption rather than say what you mean to the person you’re thinking about? You know, like this:
“And I listen to the humble brag of my heart, I am, I am, I am.” Paired with an almost corpse-like photo of me looking miserable in bed. Rather than cracking open my journal and admitting, “ I feel so miserable when my love is away. I’ve been in bed all day,” I’m actually rolling around on my comforter with my phone over my head trying to find the perfect lighting that says come back to me and then rummaging through my Sylvia Plath collection to find the most applicable devastating quote I can find. Only to pair with it with a somber filter and fade it out for vibes. But this isn’t a status update, it’s mixed media, so I could throw in a #art and try to get away with it.
O heart, such disorganization!
— Sylvia Plath (@itssylviaplath) March 21, 2014
Sometimes we hide behind the words of others. Quotes, like song lyrics, let us tell the truth while hiding behind an author in case the truth is unwanted. It gives us a false sense of safety. I’m retweeting this quote because i feel the same way and want people to know that, BUT, if people think it’s stupid, I didn’t write it so, no harm done to my reputation. The problem here is that it’s actually a lose-lose. If people like it, they reinforce your habit of indirect communication and encourage your behavior. If they don’t you feel more alone than you did before you put yourself out there.
Maybe it’s good to have a little fear about telling someone something important or personal. Maybe we’ve been desensitized by technology to think it’s okay to share our every thought and that every thought is worth sharing.
In the past week, I’ve kept a Word document open and every time I’ve had an urge to send an indirect message out into cyber world, I write down the direct subtext, instead. The draft is now three pages deep, single spaced. What I’m realizing is that sometimes it’s not that we want to say something direct, its just that we want to say it, which is why we resort to social media. But I have to tell you, saying it to your Word document is just as satisfying, and much less detrimental to your social media-inspired mental health. Try it, but don’t share it.