“Can you set your emotions aside for once?” a colleague sharply tells me as we discussed a matter where we were at opposite spectrums of. This didn’t necessarily shock me, as at this point of my grown-ass life, I’ve heard every possible iteration of “Lighten up, will you,” “Feelings again,” and my absolute favorite, “Why don’t you shut up and keep these things to yourself?” Who am I to argue or deny the truth? I am highly sensitive, unapologetically emotional and debilitatingly empathic. Yes, I’ve been called out for being too dramatic more than once and I will cry to just about anything: an exchange of wedding vows, MasterChef Australia, and the many romantic comedies I have consumed in my spare time. (Between you and me, I bawled while watching the seemingly silent struggle at the cockpit between Diana and Steve Trevor during the final stretch of the film, Wonder Woman. I also may have felt a torrential stream of tears just by scrolling through photos of potential pets for adoption online. Don’t even get me started on my staple of recommended videos on YouTube—all of which may or may not be wedding vow videos.) Clearly, I am not shy about it. In fact, I wear it on my sleeve and when compelled enough, which let’s be honest, is most of the time, I take to detailing my emotional travails online for people to see and hopefully react to.
However, I will admit to being left stunned and silenced by being called out for everyone to hear. Seriously, it is as if acknowledging and verbalizing emotion is antagonized as a downright liability. Right then and there, the dialogue of defense in my head went from a rhythmic tapping of reassured murmurs to a fiery eruption of feelings. “But being emotional is who I am. Why am I supposed to clip it for someone else?” I argued internally.
Also, what is so wrong with expressing it in any way I want?
It was during the height of the pre- Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook era in 2005 when I really took to talking, or well, writing my feelings out online on blogging platforms such as Blogspot and Livejournal. While blogging was a fairly new concept, the fact that I could log my mundane thoughts on the internet and broadcast it to an imaginary audience felt oddly liberating. From an inane dear diary type of narrative to more vile and acidic entries, typing out my emotions down ala Carrie Bradshaw was therapeutic. Even if my circle of friends or strangers who I followed didn’t pick up my emotional drift, I felt a sense of equilibrium after flooding the gates with what is in hindsight a journal of jaded adolescent misgivings and emotional vagrancy.
“You weren’t there. You are not me. You don’t know how I felt. And you didn’t even bother,” goes the last entry on my Livejournal page for context. While there was a lot of pain and hurt seamed through the simple string of words, it does speak of someone unhinged, without a real avenue to vent and thresh out these valid feelings. After that, and a strongly word and sharply toned reply from my sister, I stopped writing.
Since then, I navigated through the growing pains, and the bundle of emotions that are part and parcel to maturing, by either bottling it all up inside me or occasionally spewing it out in what I intend to be a subtle release on Facebook as a status update.
“Stop airing your dirty laundry in public.”
“Are you really doing this for yourself or for the attention?”
“You are too goddamn sensitive, psycho.”
All these I’ve continued to absorb from family, friends and past lovers, all of whom have had their share of misgivings about the way I share my life online. While there is a shred of veracity to their concerns, this calling out on the account of being too emotional is unsettling. The internet, I reasoned, is an even playing field, and my channels are my little corners of the world where I can be most myself. Besides, I wouldn’t be doing myself any favor if I started denying who I really am to myself, a feeler of all feels. But in the interest of everyone but myself, I taught myself how to quiet myself down online, to the point that I’ve hardened myself in real life.
On the flipside, I would see people with tame or overly sanitized social media platforms as without mincing any words, not being their true selves. This isn’t to say that everyone had to spew out emotional vomits to be real, but it seemed to me that in the paradigm of expression, they were silencing themselves for fear of being judged, or worse, called out.
This was an entrapment, a quicksand situation, really. You are damned if you do, and you sure are damned if you don’t.
Truth be told, when others do the same kind of emotional overshare as I am wont to do online, it is hard not to throw passing judgment or to blatantly voice out disapproval. Even I can be guilty of that, sometimes. But then I shake myself back to my senses and realize that whether sensitive or not, we are all going through something. It is just that we as human beings have different reactions and emotional capacities to process such things.
Perhaps to level this discussion out, the best thing to do is to always put things into perspective. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with expressing things the way you feel is right to you—just as long as there is no one being maligned or defamed without defense. Consequently, one must also exercise restraint when furiously writing down what you feel on the box where you asked, ‘What’s on your mind?’ It is an invitation to incite a discussion and to deflate, not to rile up pity in your favor. As with anything, these platforms were developed to open up the world and to bring things closer, not the complete opposite. Sure, you should do you. But that doesn’t mean you will disregard the other for what you feel is your own definition of right and wrong.
It may sound pathetically cliché, but it holds true: think first before you act. Through it all, you are liable to everything you do and react to. Remember, you are but part of the continuing conversation of humanity, not the end all and be all—and this goes to both ends of the spectrum. No hard feelings, really.