When Did Sadness Become Trendy?

In the past few years, there has been a shift from portraying our best selves online to being the saddest version of ourselves. This phenomenon did not develop during 2019, but rather it is rooted in our middle school years. I am sure we can all recall the Tumblr images that circulated during middle school and early high school. These images usually consisted of a black and white nature scene with an extremely depressing quote plastered on top. “Sad Girl’s Club” and “Sad Eyes. Sad Girl.” are examples of quotes that began this trend. Meanwhile, Forever 21 and similar stores began selling clothing with those same outrageous quotes. 

John Green’s novels also became extremely popular among middle and high school girls. John Green consistently uses a depressed, mysterious character in his novels. In Looking for Alaska, Alaska is a beautiful, detached young woman who the protagonist never fully understands. In Paper Towns, Green uses the same misunderstood, isolated, pretty girl as one of his protagonists. These love stories were marketed towards young women. Consequently, these novels taught young women early on that sadness will make you special. These social media, fashion, and book trends built the foundation for depression to become the status symbol that it is today.

Although the Tumblr pictures have somewhat faded and John Green hasn’t published another sad girl novel in several years, depression and suicide jokes on social media have solidified their place. If you surf any social media platform, you will find people joking about their anxiety and depression. Then, people will write, “Yes Queen!” all over the comments of those posts. Somehow laughing at mental illness gives people followers, fame, and validation. Glorifying depression is all the rage right now. 

It is important to end the stigma around mental illness, but are jokes the right way to go about this? The combination of trendy depression quotes and suicide jokes don’t end the stigma; they normalize and popularize mental health problems. When a TikTok about mental health goes viral, it teaches the creator and the viewers that mental health is the recipe for fame. Mental health has no longer become something to seek therapy for; it is now content for a Tweet or Instagram Story.