(WSJ) Caitlin Macy–The Age of Emotional Overstatement

From the modest, anodyne “Have a nice day” I remember growing up with in the ‘80s, in the last decade a giant lovefest has taken over our day-to-day interactions so thoroughly that to abstain from appending heart emojis to everything that comes your way leaves you feeling sidelined and defensively out of tune. Remember “Mean Girls”—the movie, yes, but also the phenomenon? Nowadays the average teenage selfie post is met with reactions that run the gamut from “Luuuuuv!” to “Beauty!” to heart emojis to “Worship!”

I confess I wasn’t prepared for society to speed its way to the love shack. I’d been on a journey to somewhere else entirely. In college, I majored in classics, a field then populated, even in the U.S., by Oxbridge dons. Giving me notes on a scholarship-application essay I’d written that went on and on about my passion for this and my life’s desire for that, a professor remarked mildly, “Sometimes…less is more.”

His remark stayed with me—and not solely as the mother of all writing tips. The essence of adulthood, I suddenly grasped, was internalizing understatement. It meant sublimating one’s raw, emotional insides to something drier on the outside, something more even-tempered and hence more sophisticated. To put aside childish things, one had to ditch not only the tantrums of the toddler years but the gushing of the early teens.

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