Jokes about depression, suicide, and general discontentment with today’s society have been infiltrating my social media feed and thus my thoughts and even further, my character.
Maybe a year ago, I followed this page on Facebook: “Sad memes”. The page concerns ideas that joke about hating life and how much it sucks, and for a while, I was laughing because I thought I could relate. The ironic part of my involvement with the page? My life is beautiful. Most of the people who follow this page and “relate” to its content are citizens of a developed country or are clearly privileged enough to access the technology that allows them to see the page in the first place.
This is not even the worst part. This culture of self-deprecation is finding its way into the minds of the children I work with at my after school care program and is ultimately the reason I have been able to reflect on this topic at all. The first time I heard one of my kid’s say “I hate my life”, I ignored it. I ignored it because I had seen this same approach towards life on social media every day and I knew it was “just something people say”. But then I heard another eight-year-old say, “I hate my life” jokingly to her friends some days later. And then “I have crippling depression” which I found out came from a meme. And I heard and continue to hear these things often, and it sounded different coming out of their mouths because it was an invasion on their innocence by some foreign entity that I knew was not inherent in them.
One day, I realized its true seriousness when we were playing a game and one of the kids got out. Laughing, she shouted, “Ugh. I wanna kill myself.”
I can not recall every statement I have heard from my six to eleven-year-olds that dance on the foundation of self-depreciation, but I can tell you that this worldview is trickling down from the millennial generation and generation Z. We are making light of our inability to address problems and making a joke of being incapable to deal with emotions in a healthy way. Our generation is also making light of mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD and anxiety. It’s trendy and it is hurting not only our hearts but also those of our youth. And whether we like it or not, children have wider access to technology and they can see everything we are putting out. They are soaking up these words and phrases from their TV shows, music, and social media which, over time, I can see having a powerfully negative effect on their spirits.
It may be easier to see what is wrong with our world and our society and be frustrated by it. But people are complacently sitting by, and rather than going out and making a change, they sit by playing video games (or posting memes) on their smartphones, eating FOOD, and complaining about how the world is going to shit and they just want to die. Will it be possible for us to alter the attitudes of those partaking in this culture of self-deprecation? How can we show our youth that the world has so much good in it and that they deserve life abundant?