How sad are you? On a scale of one to Keanu, where would you place your current state of melancholy? Today, I’d say I’m about an 8. I’m hungover, it’s early evening and the guy I went out with last night still hasn’t sent me the cursory “Fun night can’t wait to hang again” text, and all I’ve done all day is watch New Girl and make lentil salad. I’m also on a diet because last year I put on 20 pounds and none of my clothes fit, so I ate steamed kale for dinner and right now the homemade low fat berry ice cream I want to eat for a ‘treat’ just won’t fucking hurry up and soften so I can scoop it out with a spoon. Life is hard.
You would think, that with the roof over my head, the heating turned up to 70 when it’s 25 outside and Zooey Deschanel making doe eyes at me all day I’d be a 4 at best, but no, I’ve got two years until my 20s are behind me and it is dire. Because the neighbors are clomping around upstairs and their dog won’t stop howling, my gas bill is extortionately high and I’ve spent so much time with Zooey I’ve actually started emulating her sickeningly cutesy way of talking. Guys, I’m even considering bangs, OK? Do you understand how truly bad things are?
And I’m not the only one pushing the manure cart uphill on a summer’s day —
It only takes a quick scroll through Tumblr to come face-to-face with the bleak realities of millennial existence and to discover that in darkened rooms, lit only by the blue glow from the screen of a MacBook Air; over the sound of Hannah Horvath’s muffled complaints coming from the TV in the next room; where empty burrito wrappers and wine bottles line up on the windowsill like trepidatious soldiers, peering out into the snow blanketed world outside; where iPhones lay inert and vibrationless on IKEA bedside tables, there is a battle raging. There are 20-somethings everywhere crying through their fingers and onto keyboards, creating the kind of futuristic tears Blade Runner only dreamed of as they tap, tap, tap, bloodletting late into the night.
And it gets worse. These young adults, with their broken hearts and feigned Xanax addictions, their liberal arts ‘I am Spartacus’ approach to political correctness on everyone else’s behalf and their Netflix subscriptions, are people just like you and me. No wait; they are you and me. Well, OK, they’re me.
If you want to know about the time I got rejected, or vague emotional instructions told entirely in the third person, just Google me, I’m there all day! Or take a look at my now extensive backlog of Thought Catalog articles. When I first started writing for TC, it was fascinating to me that I could write about these most pedestrian, mundane feelings – romantic disappointment, loneliness, fear of failure – and that people I didn’t know were relating and connecting to me. But it was more than that; they were thanking me for my petty sorrows.
So I have feelings. I have bled black, haven’t we all? This is what it’s like to be self-aware in the internet generation; as part of the final wave of ‘80s born children that remembers what it was like to NOT be plugged into the matrix, every thought cataloged on the Internet is now almost as necessary as it is embarrassing. Which is why it would be easy to believe that right now all middle to upper class 20-somethings are manic depressives and pixie girls who Just Make Gifs (All The Time). And maybe we are.
Self-flagulatory writing is more difficult now than it used to be, because in the years since I first entered this depressing online discourse, I grew up a tiny bit and gained something I’ve heard proper adults called “perspective”. It’s not that I stopped having those feelings (like, come on, don’t give me that much credit), but I played them all out to the point that they were entirely commodified and sometimes even comical, so I’ve had to adapt my writing to reflect that. I feel like now I have more important things to write about, like complaining about writing about complaining. Duh.
The thing of it is, this isn’t the first generation of 20-somethings to self indulge. I know; quelle horreur! Do you remember the ‘90s? Do you remember how Kurt Cobain killed himself in the name of art, or how Richard Linklater made a film where two terrible actors walked around Vienna talking absolute nonsense about themselves and the universe and it was deep seminal? Do you remember in the ‘80s where every teenage boy on television had a hyper neurotic, self-critical voiceover inner monologue? Do you remember Bob fucking Dylan for Christ’s sake?
If you remember any of it, or if you’ve reblogged pictures of a young Julie Delpy on Tumblr or got into Dylan via your dad’s record collection, you’ll see the same sense of hopelessness, the same self-indulgent melancholy and melodrama that we’re doing right now. Except that in all those other examples there was no Internet where anything with a heartbeat could share their mastabatory existentialism (seriously, even cats have feelings on the Internet).
I guess if we can learn anything from the Internet Free Past, it’s that everything was OK in the end; maybe not for Kurt, but generally, it was fine. I mean, they’ve even gone and made Before Midnight now, so all that ‘90s earnestness and introspection wasn’t entirely in vain. We’ll survive the Internet and The Infinite Sadness; we survived Billy Corgan didn’t we? I’m not saying we’ll come out the other end with our sanity intact, but at least while we’re losing it we’ll be able to relentlessly complain about it and everything else on a blog. And hopefully, some day in the not-too-distant future, we’ll recall these blogs like we recall our eleven-years-old selves creating Geocities sites like ‘Katherine’s Spooky Page’. We’ll feel nostalgic about this somehow simpler time, when an abundance of pixelated animations of tiny devils danced to a silent beat, and laugh at the jolly fools we once were.