"Not everyone has the means to cope with this anxious existence between parentheses - or the capacity to work through their distress. The vain, self satisfied vogue for diaries is echoed by the heaps of consultants and influencers, the latest pseudo-thinkers who regale us with cut-price solutions and advice which no one asked for."(2) [bold added by me]
Whilst Hadid is influential in the traditional sense, I would argue that she is not the kind of influencer that Di Cesare refers to here, and it is very interesting that the model has presented a problem to her followers, as opposed to a solution. Unless she starts doing sponsored advertisements on Instagram for online therapy or the like, she has done well to resist the marketisation on the platform, on this occasion. As I have already discussed, straying from the mediocre, the placid and the generic on social media is not the custom etiquette: you go out, you add a video of your friends dancing to your Stories; you go for brunch and set up a Boomerang of the four of you clinking champagne flutes; you post a photo of yourself inexplicably laughing onto your grid. Where does sadness, or even worse, sickness, fit into all this? You want to get likes, but you don't really want to stand out. You don't want to be accused of being an attention-seeker. If, as Legacy Russell says, the lines between 'real' and online life are blurring beyond recognition, then why is the online domain making sure that stigmatisation around mental health and disabilities remains stagnant, dragging its heels? Presenting ill health, whether physical or mental, online produces a monolithic reception on social media: sheer awkwardness. We consume the information at an arm's length, and when we have to be sincere and subdued, it is difficult when we habitually find ourselves reaching for an emoji.
Perhaps it is the embedded systemic patriarchy that makes sincere expressions of sadness appear cringeworthy, attention-seeking or surplus to requirements. Our relationships with people have been entirely transformed by the combination of life online and the pandemic, so we must legitimise and make space for sadness amongst the banal imagery of weekend brunches, gigs and baby showers (where laughter for the camera is a compulsory accessory). Whether someone has 10 followers or a hundred million, it is surely their prerogative to express their sadness in the same way that they might celebrate their happiness. Can sadness fight the aesthetic paradigms, the algorithm and the commercialisation of social media to present something that is ugly and chronic, yet felt universally? In the depths of my own sadness, making any assumption that sadness is only felt by some and not others would only cause me to sink further. By people sharing their real emotions and challenges, in a way that is comfortable to them, there is surely scope to build hopeful spaces and communities of support rather than vitriol and spite.
(2) Di Cesare, Donatella. Immunodemocracy: Capitalist Asphyxia. Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 2020, p85
Campaign Against Living Miserably. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.thecalmzone.net
Hedva, Johanna. "Sick Woman Theory." January 19, 2016. https://johannahedva.com/SickWomanTheory_Hedva_2020.pdf
Lovink, Geert. Sad By Design: On Platform Nihilism. London: Pluto Press, 2019
Russell, Legacy. Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto. London and New York: Verso Books, 2020
Samaritans. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.samaritans.org