What is a fuckboy? If you’re a twentysomething on the Internet, you’ve probably encountered several. Needless to say, the fuckboy isn’t the romantic type. He’s not looking to take you out, call you his girlfriend, or meet your mom. Many view the fuckboy as a necessary evil — he exists, whether you like it or not, so it’s easy to hate him. Part of the danger in this thinking, though, is that it’s also easy to hate yourself in the process.
In her brilliant Vanity Fair piece “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” Nancy Jo Sales polled a group of female students about which percentage of today’s young men are fuckboys. One girl replied, “one hundred percent,” while another claimed, “every boy I’ve ever met is a fuckboy.” So when you’re dealing with such unfair statistics, where do you turn in order to vent your frustration? Straight to the source: Twitter.
In today’s disposable dating culture — in which human beings are rarely treated as such, and a person can be ordered via app like delivery pizza — it’s natural to feel unloved or unworthy. Combine these experiences with the already uncertain state of being in your twenties (including stresses like college debt and building a career), and it’s a recipe for disaster.
I’ve noticed an unhealthy pattern in girls my own age: Instead of seeking real help for these feelings of isolation and anxiety — like therapy, or finding a creative outlet — many have stumbled into the black hole of the Internet. When real life fails you, an imaginary friend, like the hilariously nihilistic Twitter account So Sad Today, is a quick and easy connection to make. It’s the curse of Sad Twitter culture, and far too many have fallen victim — myself included.
According to recent studies, 1 in 4 college students experience some form of mental illness, including depression. For a lot of young people, mental health struggles are very real and very complex, but on Twitter, they can be detailed in fewer than 140 characters. These quick, negative affirmations -- daily doses of pessimism delivered at warp speed -- can be extremely harmful, because after a while, it becomes hard to separate what's real from what's happening on your timeline.
By taking real issues and lumping them into the millennial malaise of being ghosted by fuckboys, trying to be skinny, and eating too much cereal, accounts like So Sad Today trivialize actual depression and suicide, the latter of which is a leading cause of death among young people.
Still, there's no denying the appeal of these accounts, which help readers feel as if they're not alone (not to mention that the tweets can be extremely funny). But when you are down in the dumps, airing your dirty laundry on Twitter may not be the best way to deal. With Internet "dating" (if you can call it that) and Internet culture in general, the more you’re treated as if you are easily disposable, the more you feel disposable. Thus, the more you read messages of self-loathing and self-pity, the more you’re going to believe that they're valid.
Last year, during a personal rough patch centered around not just a breakup, but what one could call a "quarter-life crisis," I began reevaluating most of what I'd known to be true about myself in my 25 years on Earth. At the time, embracing negativity felt safe and comfortable, but eventually, I realized it was doing far more harm than good. Reading (and retweeting) Sad Twitter on a regular basis did little to help me feel better. In fact, it only intensified my deepest, darkest fears: that I wasn't good enough for the person I loved, that I wouldn't ever experience a real relationship, that I would never know what real love feels like.
Heavy shit. That isn't to say that it's not still an uphill (and sometimes seemingly insurmountable) struggle ... but if you're going to navigate the world as an adult, it's important to stick up for yourself -- not just to others, but to yourself.
It's fine to joke about sadness when it helps us laugh and more easily relate to others, but we shouldn't forget that Sad Twitter is a business, just like everything else on the Internet. Melissa Broder, the woman behind So Sad Today, has capitalized on her popularity with writing gigs at Vice and Lenny, plus an upcoming book due in March. (She declined to comment for this article.)
In your own relationship with Sad Twitter, it might not be necessary to call things off completely — but a break might be a good idea. Sure, it's tempting to tweet away the pain, but why not try getting your shit together instead?
And as for the fuckboys? Just ditch 'em.
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