Alone in a Crowd

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There are more ways than ever to connect with each other. It’s hard to imagine an era when people awaited the arrival of their correspondence strapped in saddle bags. Longhand letter writing is a charm of a bygone time, and any small sect of people who still try to keep it alive appreciate it for its purity. There aren’t any of the trappings of modern communication. No visible friend counts, gifs, or emojis. Nothing flashy driving the want to stay in touch except suspense and imagination. Even email’s been leveled to one-liners or co-opted by instant messengers like G-chat and Skype. Blogs are popularized by purveyors of trends who want to teach you a lifestyle: how to wrap an infinity scarf or create a refreshing grapefruit spritzer.

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And in the middle of it all stands the behemoth social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat have all morphed from handy tools to actual propellants of our culture. Tweets are regularly featured in the news. Emojis stand in for text within text. We get what the peach and eggplant mean–a far cry from actually having to woo someone into liking you in the first place, much less into your pants.

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With this insane glut, like Augustus Gloop stuffing chocolate in his face, one of the last things anyone would describe an average American as is lonely. It’s a natural conclusion that the more interactions you have, the less you’re alone. In a society of likes, followers, and subscribers, it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling stranded in a hollow abyss of loneliness.

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It’s all in your head.

I’m still a little embarrassed when people find out I have depression.

Find out. As if I’m a felon who’s committed robbery or murder. I haven’t, yet the stigma of mental illness commands almost the same level of secrecy. It’s the elephant in the room. It’s paisley and dancing Gangnam style and you’re desperate to glance, but no one is saying anything about it.

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Banksy understands. It’s not dancing, but how could you not look at this?

People are avoidant, seeming to experience secondhand self-consciousness about this thing they don’t understand or understand all too well. If they’ve experienced mental illness themselves, they know the battery of the self. The black hole and cyclone going on in your own mind that can render you incapable of living. Or, if they’ve lived with someone who has mental illness, they’ve experienced the battery of others. The grip is tight.

It’s embarrassing to admit your brain can act without you. You can’t control it.

Continue reading “It’s all in your head.”