#ModernAnxieties: Does this Project Trivialize ‘Real’ Anxiety?
According to the ModernAnxieties website, the premise of this project is simple: send a tweet with the hashtag “#modernanxieties” on February 8th, and Agentic (a digital media company based out of British Columbia) will donate 5 cents to the Vancouver Crisis Centre.
And what exactly are you supposed to tweet about? Well, modern-day anxieties, of course. From the Vancouver Crisis Centre’s website:
Inspired by Bell’s Let’s Talk Campaign, Agentic Communications Inc. will be involved in an online awareness and fundraising campaign via Twitter, “Modern Anxieties” (www.modernanxieties.com). Agentic will be tweeting an amusing technology-related modern anxiety (i.e. lack of e-mail syndrome, GPS mistrust anxiety, etc.) every day, leading up to the campaign day on February 8th, 2012. All proceeds of up to $1000 from every share of their website/video/tweets will be donated to the Crisis Centre!
Lack of e-mail syndrome? GPS mistrust anxiety?
Agentic’s Twitter account (@TehWorryBot — not a misspelling of “the”; it’s slang from teh internetz) lists a few more of these “modern anxieties”:
Breaking into sweats over needing a better phone? Fretting over a font’s unrequited love? A font?
THIS WAS FUNNY
Now, I certainly understand the fact that, in this technologically-saturated day and age, stress and anxiety related to our myriad electronic devices is a reality. Sometimes the anxiety is funny: I’ll never forget the night in college when I dropped my old Nokia in the toilet while tipsy at a pizza restaurant at 3 am. I reflexively plunged my hand right in that toilet with reckless abandon!
Then, crying and laughing at the same time, I emerged from the restroom holding a dripping, wet, dead cell phone am arm’s length from my body. I was upset — I mean, cell phones aren’t cheap…and what did I just stick my hand into?! A toilet?
But every drunk college kid in that restaurant knew precisely what I’d done when they saw my dripping phone and my sadface. A few congratulated me for joining some sort of club — I apparently wasn’t the only one who had sentenced a cell phone to a watery porcelain death.
Leaving with a broken phone made me anxious, but leaving with an amusing story and a hand/arm in need of Cloroxing had me giggling.
THIS WASN’T FUNNY
But sometimes, the anxiety isn’t funny. And, in truth, I think the “not funny” stuff outweighs the funny stuff.
Case in point: the time I forgot my cell phone when I went to work. I’d been working at an advertising company 45 minutes away from my apartment, and I’d already been having regular panic attacks nearly every day at work.
Forgetting the phone made everything a lot, lot worse. I started to panic while sitting inside my cubicle, and the usual remedy for the situation was a walk down to my car for a few minutes of quiet and some texts or a phone call to my fiance. But without my phone, walking down to my car didn’t feel safe. I was stuck in my cubicle, unable to move, lightheaded, and shaking. I couldn’t breathe.
I felt like I was going to die, right inside the gray walls of my standard-issue cube, and no one would realize it until the end of the business day. I finally bolted up, ran to the nearest stairwell, kicked off my heels, and ran like lightning down the stairs. I had to pause halfway down because my vision was starting to go black.
All because I’d forgotten my cell phone that day.
IT’S NOT JUST SEMANTICS
The ModernAnxieties page calls their campaign “light-hearted” and notes that we “should all be able to talk about [mental illnesses] openly.”
But I don’t…I don’t get it.
I absolutely agree that we should be able to talk about mental illness openly. Hell — that’s one of the primary reasons I started this blog. The more I talk about my own panic and anxiety issues, the less of a “thing” they become for me. And, hopefully, for my readers, too. Conversation overwrites stigma — and I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of the movement to show that mental illnesses aren’t some sort of hush-hush taboo topic. They’re real, they’re common, and they shouldn’t be stigmatized.
But this campaign trivializes severe anxiety. Now, I’m not one to judge the severity of someone else’s anxiety level, but let me share a pet peeve of mine: I hate it when people use the phrase “panic attack” to describe a mild dilemma that clearly came nowhere close to launching them into that all-too-familiar downward spiral of shaking, tachycardia, dizziness, derealization, and air hunger.
It’s like when people call their garden-variety tension headaches migraines. It waters down the horrific power of a true unilateral migraine that makes you want to crawl into a cave and throw up for days.
And, likewise, doesn’t discussion of minor anxieties — minor enough that they shouldn’t be called “anxieties” at all (like the unrequited font love, for example) — reduce the impact of the word “anxiety” itself? I know this project is supposed to be light-hearted, but doesn’t this method shrink the word’s impact?
I leave you with this:
What do you think? Will you participate in this Twitter campaign on February 8th? Better yet: if you think that the ModernAnxieties campaign trivializes anxiety, will you still participate so that the Vancouver Crisis Centre receives donations?
Beretsky, S. (2012). #ModernAnxieties: Does this Project Trivialize ‘Real’ Anxiety?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 28, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2012/02/modernanxieties-does-this-project-trivialize-real-anxiety/