cw for depression and suicide
After a couple of unsavory events on Mastodon I withdrew for a bit, both because I was gettin' real tired of what was going down, and also to check in with my own thoughts and feelings in regards to irony poisoning and how it can effect you negatively. To do that I figured I'd talk about my own experiences.
To reach far back, I first got real cynical when I was 16, as cis dudes who are 16 are wont to do – genuine enthusiasm read as fake to me, and rough experiences that I had at home made it difficult for me to open up emotionally in pretty much any capacity. That continued through must of high-school, where I found myself getting increasingly more short with other people. I didn't even trust people who, as I now know in retrospect, were actively trying to be nice to me. This paired poorly with the image that built up around me in school. People would react to anything I said as "ah, Mint's sarcastic," or "Mint's angsty, and that's just how he is!" It was a feedback loop that I think I internalized, feeling like I needed to uphold that identity to feel like I was unique or my own person while I got through HS.
Eventually I graduated and went to college. Being the only black person in pretty much all of my classes caused me to withdraw from the physical world and hang out online a lot more often. My toxic personality began to show itself in the spaces I spent time on there. It's like I was physically incapable of being able to post something positive or nice – everything was a biting quip, a dunk on some post or another, a sarcastic shrug...Twitter, Facebook, it didn't really matter. I wasn't conscious of the effect it was having on me. The mental toll of constantly acting like nothing mattered, yet simultaneously getting angry and rolling my eyes at every little thing I saw online, was definitely doing damage to my psych, whether I realized it or not.
It didn't help that I got extremely depressed while I was at my university, for a variety of reasons unimportant to this post. I doubled down and started hanging out on subreddits like /r/me_irl and and /r/toorealformeirl. These were subs that were based pretty much entirely on feeling worthless and wanting to die, masked under a plastic-y gauze of "haha funny jokes." I turned my depression into something that I constantly laughed about, thinking that if I didn't take it seriously, it'd...go away, I guess? I don't know. In case you couldn't tell, it wasn't exactly an advised move.
Things started to change when I graduated. The pendulum started to swing in the other direction. I'm not really sure if any one thing caused me to shift, but I decided that I just wasn't going to be like that anymore. I unsubbed from those subreddits, and deleted the memes off of my phone. I'm not going to act like it was all a sudden finger-snap of a change, though – this was a months-long process. I had to look at the enthusiasm and joy that I saw in other people, both on and offline, and recognize that maybe it wasn't as fake as I thought. That I shouldn't immediately scoff at the concept of just...not being sarcastic or detached from everything going on around me.
I never really believed in "fake it till you make it" up to this point, but it turns out, at least for me: it works! I first started with trying to focus on writing about good things that happened to me every day, even if I felt like garbage. I tried to go for 3 things each day, but any amount was good enough. I moved from that to focusing on only posting about things that I liked, instead of stuff that was bothering me (minus the real serious stuff, like racism and the like). I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts (I'm back on Twitter, but look – I gotta find artists, alright? These Mints aren't gonna draw themselves). And I even started using lots of exclamation marks when I talked about stuff I enjoyed!! Which is weird, but it really got me into the mood to be positive more often!! Which is why! I talk like this!! Sometimes!!!!
Moving to Mastodon also helped in this regard. I felt like I could get a fresh start with new people, and not feel like I had to be "The Sarcastic Shitposter," as if that was just who I was meant to be. It's right there in my bio, even!
Engaging in stuff I love, like writing stories and gushing about my girl Mint, have slowly made me feel better about myself. I haven't been in this mindset for very long – only about a year, which is a drop in the bucket of negativity I've built up for so long. But it's really helped me to be more mindful and healthy in online spaces – and it's even had an effect on how I approach situations offline as well. I just think that's a worthwhile thing to pursue. I encourage anyone reading this to take a moment and reassess how they communicate and portray themselves online. If such a review makes you realize that you're a bit (or a lot) irony-poisoned, then I'll be the first to tell you that you don't have to be like that. You can be more positive and pleasant – even if it feels fake, it's still real to the people around you. And eventually it'll be real to you too!!