Depression and Art in the Age of Social Media
When I look at your posts I feel disgust that grows the more I scroll down the page and see so many of you on vacation, attending conferences, events, visiting theme parks, the beach, spending the day with family or friends — don’t any of you motherfuckers have jobs? Rent? Mortgage? And why do you all look so happy? My Facebook feed is one inspirational story after another, and if tragedy strikes, there is outpouring after outpouring of grief and affection — though it comes at a distance, and I know, without hesitation or doubt, that this togetherness is temporary, in fact, it relies on you getting better, or “overcoming” the dire straits or losses that have afflicted you — within days you will be ok, triumphant even, because “love always wins” and “love is love is love and it conquers all hate” which makes me wonder how hate could persist if love is so goddamn powerful and keeps “winning” — which implies decisive victory (is it really winning if youcontinually fight the same fucking battle?) and so maybe you all are just full of fucking shit so you don’t have to admit that hate is the one prancing around the field in a blood-stained shirt as it celebrates yet another victory for the system of violence, resentment, and oppression that runs this godforsaken world, crushing the rest of us under its overlarge wheels of a monster truck blaring country rock full blast and sticking its devil-arm out the window flashing a giant, crooked, clawed middle finger at you fucktards quoting self-help garbage and living in denial — that your lives suck like everybody else’s and all the great times you post with loved ones are mere flashes of happiness amidst malaise, arguments, screaming children, and the ever creeping darkness seeping into the corners of your brain that you fight so hard to stay positive, upbeat, and you think its survival what you do with your new age mantra faux-spiritualism garbage or academic horseshit intellectualizing human actions instead of recognizing the world around us as full of emotions which your pathetic, cowardly little selves can’t handle.
Fucking worthless, you or me? I can’t tell, though a part of me is sure we are equal in our cowardice. You for denying the darkness that fills the world and me for recognizing that darkness, embracing it, recognizing that life is suffering and more a prison than a gift yet I can’t bring myself to end it — the knife blade tempting me at my lowest, like a junkie feaning for that big hit, the one to take them over the rainbow and let them hang around, a second longer, just another second please, don’t make me return to that life where I not only feel like a failure but like a perfectly average one — or so the knife promises until it hits the flesh and I’m left with little more than lingering pain and stiffness from my wound that coagulates and stretches the skin around the cut to recover and conceal the hatred I have for myself, which is only exacerbated by the certainty that I can’t bring myself to end this pain, and the throbbing in my chest as much a result of my desperation for meaning as it is with sadness at being unable to move beyond the darkness that feeds me.
Depression, that little word that turns off those around you.
Artists are supposed to be depressed when they are young — moody, dramatic, operatic even, all in the name of fitting an archetype — but once you get to a certain age the modern world expects you to give it up, since it wasn’t real in the first place — this is the greatest country in the world, the richest and most generous and all the other slogans that make me choke on bile that is equally fictitious — you can’t be sad in such a place, not really, we are so fortunate, especially for a Latino — Puerto Rican no less, we don’t even have to fight for U.S. citizenship so we can strip ourselves of the “savage” and “backwards” Latin American stain on our soul, we have already been blessed by Uncle Sam to be true Americans, which is to say true humans, so we can love America and Puerto Rico and not be traitorous fucks like Mexicans who would sell their souls to fuck a white woman and have pretty white babies who never learn the Spanish, but of course to truly believe that you just have to disregard the torture, murders, experiments, oppression, economic desperation, and political uncertainty that U.S. citizenship has given our people — not a big deal, the losers on the island could just pick up and come to the states and fuck some white people, change their names to Anglo ones and join the hordes of piti-yanqui self-hating Latinos — it only takes a generation or two to breed out the brown, after all — so how dare I be depressed when I have been given such a golden ticket?
And so what if that golden ticket was tainted by child abuse, dysfunctional parents, a mentally ill parent, dead friends, malnutrition and near-starvation, an adulthood plagued by poverty, military service, then more poverty, it was done in America so you should be happy — that’s the American way, depression is for overly dramatic teenagers, not for a man, especially not a straight man, we rule the world, why should we ever be sad, and now you have a house and a family and kids so it makes no sense to feel such deep sadness and resentment, let alone depression — don’t talk about it.
Don’t talk about the existential grief that comes from realizing that you can only ever survive by working jobs you aren’t passionate about, and your art — fuck it, you won’t get anywhere with it, you already know the deep void that the masses of writers — there are so goddamn many these days, and most are awful — scream into without any luck — which makes you hate your friends even more, especially the ones without kids or whose kids are grown up so they go to festivals and conferences and speak at big schools and get opportunity after opportunity and they post it all on the Big Web, showing off every last big happening in their lives yet when you talk to them they are honest about the fact that even with all that they do, all these big awesome life-affirming moments of “progress”, they barely sell any books, and hardly anyone, on a national or global scale, knows who they are, but the busyness of their lives makes them feel like they are breaking through — unlike me, and I know these dipshits, especially the young hipster types, the middle class pampered man-and-woman-children in their thirties who don’t know shit about responsibility, I know they look down on me, they pity me, the dumbass who became a father at 22 and had to serve in the Army in order to feed his kids, how pathetic I am for having a family when I should have been going to AWP and VONA so I could be a real writer in the American sense — like the one person I know who went to a conference and partied (according to there pics) like there was no tomorrow and less than a month later was evicted and had to give up their kids to their ex — because they too had made the grave mistake of having a family and responsibilities while trying to be a writer.
I don’t look down on them, I tell you that story as a cautionary tale for when an aspiring artist tries to live the life of their single and childless friends, because the pressure that exists online to be productive — what is your word count today, how many hours do you dedicate to writing every day, what conference are you going to this year, what awards are you submitting to, how many submissions have you made today, this week, this month, are you in a writing group — the expectations are endless, and so it makes sense that people living on the edge would look at their friends online, oftentimes people they have never met in person, who via their posts seem to be well-off or at least comfortable, with steady incomes and supportive families, and say I want that, and what is more, I can have that — so what that I am damn near eviction, so what if I can barely pay my bills, I am going to (insert conference here) goddamnit, so I don’t feel left out.
Maybe if we were more honest, maybe if we admitted how prevalent darkness is in our lives, how persistent depression is when we think of how we wished our lives could have been, how unjust the world is, this society is, our racial politics are, the list goes on and any hope that comes from all of it is the occasional act of kindness from an individual or individuals, but that kindness is temporary, so fleeting it might as well have been a dream, and what remains is crushing, relentless sadness, and it doesn’t make you weak for admitting that this life is so heavy, and so disappointing, and the tears remain in the back of your eyes, ever-threatening, and you wake up in the middle of the night sometimes gasping for breath because that wheel is chewing you up from the inside — the world does not care about your dreams, society is stacked against you, poverty is your norm, hopelessness is reality because suffering is reality and while you could find some comfort in the idea that the wealthy suffer too, it doesn’t take away from the misery that consumes you, and maybe wouldn’t be so bad if you could talk about it without worrying that the person you open up to will respond with some trite inspiration and motivation — there is no cure for this agony, stop with the platitudes, stop trying to fix this pain, stop giving me an out, this is my life and I need to accept it, I need to embrace that I am depressed and that it is okay to be so, I don’t need to cheer up, or see the brighter side of things, or every other bullshit line you feed me as code for Stop making me uncomfortable with your depression — cuz you know what your pushing me to be alright does?
It makes me fucking depressed.*
*i know full well how this all sounds, and your feelings may be hurt if you think I’m talking about you, if you fit my description of social media acquaintances and friends, and if it does hurt your feelings, all I can say is at least I’m honest with how I feel, and by the same token, it is not your fault that I feel this way, social media is a medium for expression, that such expression is only allowed to be angry or sad in relation to traumatic events is indicative of the society we live in, one that values sadness only when it is in relation to physical violence but not in relation to emotional and psychological violence, which more often than not originates from within — I get that depression makes you uncomfortable, but maybe what the world needs is more discomfort, or else we will never fix a damn thing.