Like many people, I can’t say that I was taught how to properly deal with negative emotions. My default reaction is to cry, and it often brings me a lot of comfort. But there is one peculiar habit I picked up on—every time that I cry and my phone is next to me, I will most likely take a selfie.
While the shots I capture of my most vulnerable self mainly stay in my camera roll, a few have been posted online, or even used on Tinder, because I thought they were funny. And I fully know that I am not the only one who does this. I often see people’s crying photos and videos across my feeds, whether posted for comedic purposes or to showcase genuine sadness. And it makes me question—why did we suddenly start documenting our breakdowns, and sometimes go as far as sharing them online?
Gen Zers and millennials are often described as the ‘digital generation’, and rightfully so. So much of our lives and identities intersect with the internet, that we often perceive the content others post as a true depiction of themselves and the lives they live. But in recent years, the way we exist online has drastically changed.
Screen Shot spoke to Noel Bell, a London-based psychotherapist, who explained that “at times of great social change, there is this thirst for individual authenticity.” If you try to link this to the state of social media today, you can see that this illusion of the ‘perfect life’ we are used to seeing on our feeds is getting old and tiresome. Instead, we feel the need to connect to a sense of relatability.
Influencers are now trying to sell authenticity, and platforms like TikTok have served as a complete antidote to the Instagram illusion—the content often appears a lot more spontaneous, and thus, a lot more genuine. And when it comes down to documenting raw emotion, what better format than video?
“There’s a lot of debate about this—is the new technology changing people’s brains and how we view our sense of boundaries?” continued Bell. This could explain why there is a sudden influx of sadness online, and it’s no longer just in the form of crying selfies.
On TikTok, for example, there is a trend where couples post a video of themselves right after a breakup, crying and comforting each other. Another popular format has seen creators share the process of them cleaning their bedrooms after a depressive episode, showcasing the before and after.
In hindsight, this type of content is relatable because these are real-life situations all people go through—we all cry, we all deal with heartbreak and difficult conversations, and we all might experience depressive episodes at some point in our lives. But why is it that when some of us experience these things, our reaction is to document them?
“It’s not like they’re seeking ties online. They’re actually wanting to make greater connections,” explained Bell when asked why people might feel the need to share every little detail of their lives online, including some of the most difficult ones. Perhaps the internet has hindered our sense of boundaries. Or perhaps we have managed to destigmatise our feelings around difficult situations so much that we almost feel casual about these experiences.
The truth is, being sad online has turned into a trend. And there have been a lot of benefits to this—for example, many people find solace in memes surrounding various topics about mental health, in turn, creating entire communities around it. Self-deprecation has become a coping mechanism for a lot of us, and the ability to laugh, and share our feelings about these issues with others has helped us connect and feel seen. After all, why should we experience any shame over being sad and openly sharing the emotion?
Needless to say, some might perceive this type of online oversharing as attention-seeking, or narcissistic. And to some degree, it would be silly to post imagery of our sadness and not expect any reaction in return. Maybe we want our despair to be witnessed, or maybe, we want to evoke emotion in others, be it a concern for us or admiration for the humour and sense of relatability provided. Last but not least, I know for a fact that some of us genuinely find ourselves more attractive when we cry.
While it is great to feel that we can openly share these feelings, it is also important not to blur the line between destigmatising and romanticising issues surrounding mental health and negative emotions. Yes, being comfortable in your vulnerability is beautiful—but so is trying to practice healthy coping mechanisms. So, is oversharing online particularly healthy?
“I think about this myself really. Does it feel narcissistic or is it healthy? Does it actually break down stigma by sharing more?” speculated Bell when asked the same question. “One day I can think yes, maybe, and another day I can think, no, it doesn’t because it feeds loose boundaries, and often loose boundaries are the thing that can actually play havoc with people’s self-esteem,” further acknowledging the presence of a permanent digital record that is often left in its wake.
Think about it—how many times have you sent a risky text, or posted something you are unsure of? How did this impact the way you felt at the time? In many ways, sharing such vulnerable moments online has a similar effect.
When discussing healthy coping mechanisms, it is also important to consider that this means something different for everyone. What works for you might not work for others, and vice versa. Likewise, not everyone has access to the same resources, which means that for a lot of people, turning to the internet is a start.
In many ways, technology and the internet have helped us destigmatise sadness. But it is also important to be cautious of our boundaries, and how creating such content may affect us. If you want to digitally document your feelings, great, but make sure you are doing it with caution.
In her song ‘Get On Your Knees’, Nicki Minaj eloquently said, “Got a bow on my panties ’cause my ass is a present,” and fair enough, she made a good point. But have you ever wondered what the real reason behind the small decorative bows on women’s underwear is? From a practical purpose to a remnant of binary gender distinguishment, here’s the full story behind the ornamental relic.
Women’s panties were first introduced during the Renaissance. Their main function was to maintain hygiene and cleanliness, but they also protected ladies from the cold. In addition, panties used to save a woman the ‘embarrassment’ if she fell off a horse.
It is assumed that, at first, bows adorning underwear only had a practical purpose. In men’s vintage underwear, if you go as far as the Middle Ages, there also were bows of some sort. But they were rather strings to keep the underpants from falling down as elastic was yet to be invented.
But that wasn’t the only reason bows were needed—many centuries ago, people lived without electricity, which meant most people often had to dress by candlelight, and women especially tended to dress before dawn in order to perform household chores. They needed this bow to find the front of their panties.
HistoryExtra goes on to further explain that, during the Middle Ages, a woman having a bow on her undergarments was seen as a ‘hussy’ who slept around more than the public expected her to: “When women are shown wearing pants it’s always in the context of ‘a world turned upside down’. Trousers and underpants were considered a symbol of male power and women wearing them were pugnacious wives trying to usurp the authority of their husbands, or women of low morality.” It’s probably safe to assume that back in those days, women were only allowed to sleep with a man if they intended on marrying him and getting pregnant.
The same question we’re answering today was asked in 2015 on the AskWomen subreddit. Interestingly, one of the responses sparked a curious theory as to what the bow means nowadays: “Now? Because it’s cute, it’s feminine, [and] it evokes innocence.”
Male underwear, on the other hand, is not defined by decorative elements—because that would make it look ‘feminine’, and that’s apparently a big no-no in today’s society. Yes, back in 1450, it sort of made sense to distinguish underwear by gender (because at that time, underwear was only meant for men). In our modern world, this small yet unmissable detail seems obsolete.
Following this same archaic way of thinking, underwear companies use that same bow to, to put it simply, make more money. Let’s take a look at a theoretical family containing one little girl followed by a younger little boy. Because of the feminine connotation that comes with underwear adorned with bows, a family would almost never pass down the older girl’s panties to her younger brother. Instead, they would feel forced to buy more masculine ones. And what does that tell us? That many companies benefit financially from the gender binary. Don’t change a winning team, right?
In some countries, bows can also be added on top of underwear as a sign of good quality, or often to hide small imperfections—which is why bras tend to adorn one too. But there’s one last reason bows have remained all these years, one that is more psychological than practical or commercial.
In feminist theory, the male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer. Going back to those irritating bows and why modern companies continue to religiously attach them to the top hem of women’s underwear, you have the male gaze to blame here again.
Think about it; in most cases, the bow in question is placed just above a woman’s genitals. It attracts the male gaze and captivates it—by residing at the frontier between a woman’s skin and what cannot be seen, a simple small bow leads to desire. It sounds pretty cringey said like that, and don’t even get me started on its twisted link with youthfulness, but this theory has been previously confirmed by the French psychologist Ludivine Beillard-Robert in an interview with Buzzfeed.
In other words, these bows represent the objectification of women, which is perpetuated by our society just to please—you guessed it—men. No offence Nicki, but screw being portrayed as a man’s perfect little present. Now, where’s my pair of scissors again?