It is a dangerous and most often disppointing thing to think the internet has all the solutions. For we know it is full of thieves, blaggards, mis-informed do-gooders and the like. It is also full of genuinely helpful people, but these people, like as not, will not provide the answer to your problems.
I know this and yet recently I have become somewhat addicted to agony aunt/advice columns, call them what you will. Dan Savage, Dear Sugar, Virginia Ironside, Ask Bossy, Miss Information, Ask Mariella. What started off as a sometime common-or-garden curiosity about the problems and (mis)fortunes of others, has morphed into something more concerning. On a daily basis I find myself trawling advice columns in search of questions and answers that reflect my own troubles, as if somehow, the internet will throw up a miraculous set of step-by-step solutions to everything that’s getting me down with nery but a few clicks of a button.
Of course, whilst empathising with others and perhaps taking on board a few pearls of wisdom I’ll probably quickly ignore, it’s of little use. WHat I’m really looking for is the magic bullet, the incantation, the spell, the instructions, the way in which to practically solve the wrenching inside my chest that seems oftentimes indifferent to my stern chats and false sense of cheeriness.
Sugar’s exquisite hitting the nail on the head about writing like a motherfucker gave me a false sense of hope. That without my doing anything, spilling anything, engaging with anyone, I could somehow heal what ailed me. That someone, somewhere on the world wide web would speak directly to me and fix it all.
Well really, it’s about as useful as diagnosing yourself with cancer on medicine.net. We are all conditioned to believe there is a solution, an answer, a salve. You have problems? Fix them! That the people who overcome all odds (medical or otherwise) are the norm, rather than the exception. That there is a shortcut to overcoming grief, disappointment, heartache. And if you haven’t found it, you’d better hide your real feelings because others will think you are weird, depressing or need committing.
Sometimes when someone asks you how you are it is worth saying “shit, actually, but I appreciate you asking”. Because we are not a society always willing to either speak nor hear the truth in case it makes other people uncomfortable. The suicide rate in this country is unbearably high and I’m going out on a limb here by saying it may be partly because we do not talk enough about how we actually feel. That hurt and grief and devastation and depression are best dealt with alone, behind closed doors, where no one can see and have to shift around in their chair awkwardly while you pour your heart out.
Other people’s troubles can be terribly annoying, there’s no point in denying it. But maybe we all need a bit more gentleness, and not to assume that because something is left unsaid, it is miraculously cured.
We all seek solace in someone who will understand, or, at least, listen for a bit. Or scout the internet in search of a solution. There is no answer, really. Only a bit of kindness from time to time.