Recently, I was reflecting on a trend on social media – a growing acceptance and even celebration of what I'd personally call a 'depression culture.' It's where we use dark humor in the form of memes like "I can’t handle people today" or apparel with “overly-anxious" in big, flowery fonts to both laugh and also dig our heels in deeper and make these things our identity.
For instance, the most obvious example is how we portray introverts. They are almost always portrayed as antisocial house goblins who despise people 24/7. As an introvert who has gone through the house goblin stage, I find it really off putting that someone would describe that as my entire identity. Regardless, these portrayals aren’t just offhand remarks but a deeper reflection of how we're starting to see ourselves on a belief system level.
I have considered the value of this trend. After all, I’ve definitely liked, shared, etc. a few of these memes. On one level, it’s relatable. These quips and memes about not wanting to face the world or being perpetually anxious resonate with our own experiences. They're a form of coping mechanism, a way to find humor in the struggles we all face. Then there’s the social component. When you see hundreds or thousands of people “liking” or agreeing with the sentiments of the joke, that little hit of dopamine strikes. “Oh, I’m not the only one who experiences these things. It must be OK, then. I can be this person. Especially since so many people laugh at it. I’ll be accepted.” Etc.
When we constantly engage with content that highlights and even glorifies our anxieties, introversion, or depressive states, it can start to shape our self-perception. We begin to see these traits not just as temporary states or emotions but as core parts of our identity. But at what cost?
I keep thinking about how who we are is defined by what we are consuming; the people we are socializing with; etc. When we laugh at or agree wholeheartedly over and over again with this darker humor, it tells our brains and our bodies that’s what we are wanting. We want more anxiety. We want more depression. Because it’s funny. It’s fun. And I’m not alone. In other words, we start normalizing and embedding these challenges deeper into our psyche.
How does all this relate to art, you might be asking? Great question! One of the things I consider when creating artwork is what I want someone to be consuming when they view my work. What part of my viewer do I want to be communicating with? Their higher self or their lower self? I strive to create something that will inspire joy or empowerment or serenity. Something that will speak to a higher version of ourselves. Even when I’m grappling with something complicated during its creation…in fact, especially then. That’s why I always get elated when someone says, “Your artwork makes me feel so happy!” I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. This is the type of content I want to see people consuming—things that speak to something greater, something better.
These are just my thoughts at the moment, and it kind of encapsulates this larger theme that I’ve been pondering and practicing, which is how to best spend my energy—in all of its forms.
As we navigate our lives, it's worth considering the content we consume and share. While it's important to acknowledge and talk about our struggles, I just think we also need to be conscious about what we are saying “yes” to.
What are your thoughts on this topic?