It’s hard for me to believe there’s anyone who’s immune from talking shit about somebody at some point. It may not be the healthiest activity, but so rarely does our brain take steps to self improvement on its own. I know I’ve done it before, and I see it fly around social media all the time, but this very human mechanism is amplified through the online collective and turns us into people we don’t intend to be. That being said, I don’t think that’s a reason not to talk shit occasionally, simply because I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend things don’t bother you. It’s also not healthy to broadcast every impulse you have to an audience at large, because human beings are variable and can misconstrue, dislike or gossip about your behavior in any number of ways. The efficacy and immediacy of social media in producing a platform for our inner most thoughts makes it a dangerous way to express yourself.
I wish I remember where, but I remember hearing from some podcast that you’re effectively curating a museum of yourself online, that’s why you post the happy moments, the photos that you look your best in. Shit talking on social media makes your angry, impulsive thoughts part of how you display yourself to the world, which will always have backlash.
We all get upset, but as Craig Ferguson points out, we didn’t always have the ability to tell literally everyone.
I tried to do some research into the human nature of shit talking or venting but came out with astonishingly little, so a lot of this is conjecture. Many of the articles written tend to speak that it’s the very immediacy and wide reach of social media that makes it appealing to air our grievances. There’s also instant gratification: the law of probability dictates that at least one person you know is going to empathize with you and say something nice before anyone counters your anger with some of their own. In short, it’s a social band-aid.
In terms of using social media to express how upset you are with someone, I’d say it’s almost always a terrible idea. Feelings change, your situation in life will change, and as we change and move into the future, these wounds won’t need to be trotted out again and again, they don’t need to be seen as part of who we are. Social media isn’t just immediate, it’s permanent. Even if you erase a negative message, chances are someone, somewhere still has an account of it, be it in a screenshot or simply in their memory.
To be upset about something and need to talk to someone about it, I don’t think there’s anything unhealthy about that. We all are capable of being vulnerable, subject to envy, jealousy, cowardice…It’s a part of who we are. Not a definitive piece by any means, but to suggest that you’re incapable of having a negative feeling towards someone is to suggest you’re above being human.
Emotions are not subject to logic; you can rationalize all you want and still be bitter. I would pose that the more you rationalize, without acknowledging your emotions as having any real value, the more that bitterness to grow because you never really dealt with it, did you?
Just saying that ‘you have no right to be upset’ about something doesn’t mean you won’t be. I think this is a downfall for a lot of people in relationships, because we all want to be seen as rational human beings and don’t want to admit that feelings aren’t something we get to pick.
Back to shit talking.
The very fact that this is in general a very personal attack against another person makes you incredibly vulnerable to repercussions, and I think that’s why we choose to do it. If I had to guess, shit talk is a mechanism we have for bonding. When you vent to your friend or significant other, you’re opening yourself up to their criticism about your feelings, as well as giving them a social advantage if they ever wanted to turn that person, or group of people, against you. It’s dirt.
If that friend or significant other cares about you, they will acknowledge that you’re upset, maybe toss a little bit of spleen back to you to make you feel better. By doing so, you’ve solidified a bond. If you’re lucky, your friends have the wisdom to acknowledge you’re upset, and also acknowledge that being upset is a temporary state, and that once you’re done with it, there’s no need in bringing it up later.
It’s for this reason that shit talk is really an activity for you and that group of close friend that you can count on one hand. Opening up this kind of vulnerability to that many people is what gossip is all about, and while it can alleviate pressure it’s only going to serve to strain relationships that weren’t particularly strong to begin with. In rare cases it’s a way to establish a common ground, but it’s certainly not the way to form a lasting connection with someone.
I feel incredibly grateful that I am friends with people who understand this line. Sometimes I’ll talk shit, and I need to. I need to because I need to acknowledge that I’m angry about something, and that having someone to share that anger with makes it easier. The fact that I know people who can share that anger without further fueling it is pretty amazing. Get yourself some of those.
There’s a couple very important stipulations to this idea, by the way. Shit talking, by nature, and if you want to view it with any modicum of sanity, is a very personal, very private thing. You do not do it to all of your friends. You do not seek blind support from everyone on the internet (that’s a dumb thing to do as it is). There’s also a few rules you need to understand in order to allow yourself to not only process these feelings but prevent them from becoming some kind of thorn in your paws from then on.
1. If you’re envious of someone’s success, remember that they did not come successful just to spite you.
2. If you’re jealous because you feel someone is moving in on something that you think is yours (especially in terms of people, positions at work, etc) remember that whatever that thing is, wasn’t your birthright, that positions and people are changeable, and it’s up to you to create the best circumstances for yourself.
3. Acknowledging that you’re upset doesn’t give you license to act like an asshole. Feelings are awkward and messy, but it’s in your best interest to attempt to work through them in a way that brings you closer to other people, not alienate them.
4. Recognize that these are your grudges, and not those of your friends. Ditto if they should talk shit to you. Not everyone in your life will understand why you take something personally, but most people have some idea that you need to get it off your chest. Don’t take advantage of them, it’ll only prolong the process.
5. This, like pretty much everything else, doesn’t matter. If it seems like it matters for more than a few days, you need to reevaluate either what the situation is or how you’re choosing to handle it, because one of them needs to be addressed in order to get better.
It’s up to you if you think what you’re dealing with is important. Personally speaking ,whenever I hear myself talking shit about someone, I usually hear what it is that I’m really upset about through whatever words I choose. In comedy, usually I get frustrated when people move ahead (or seem to) faster than I do. By talking about these things with people I know, and acknowledging that it made me angry, I was able to change things, which were usually changes I needed to make in myself, and had nothing to do with anyone I was originally angry at. I say at, and not with, because I don’t think that whoever I’m generally upset with has any idea that I didn't like them at the time, and they didn’t share these feelings, see points #1 and #2.
Even writing this has been a form of processing for me, and those who talk to me in real life will hear me use that phrase a lot: I’m just processing this. I spent a very long time burying my feelings because I thought for some dumb reason that made me better at being human. All it did was poke out at inappropriate times and cause real damage to relationships that would have been fine otherwise. I chose not to acknowledge my feelings because I thought they were temporary, but I didn’t understand that they’re only temporary if you acknowledge them. Until you come up with some kind of solution, anger is going to remain a part of you, and the longer it does, the more likely it’ll define areas of your life you’d rather be setting the boundaries to.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.