I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work. I’ve never liked confessional storytelling shows like The Moth because of some sense of unearned intimacy that makes me very uncomfortable. Lately this oversharing has infected even NPR’s flagship series, This American Life.
One episode features recordings of 20-year-old speaking to his dad for the first time. A more recent show includes recordings of survivors of the 2012 tsunami in Japan grieving through ‘conversations’ with lost loved ones, as well as a recording of a radio producer’s attempts to reconcile their father and uncle. All of these stories are incredibly personal and, in my opinion, shouldn’t be aired publicly. The last story has the added ick of someone exploiting their relatives’ traumas and putting their family’s very personal business onto a popular radio program in order to advance their career.
I’m skeptical of claims that millenials lack interpersonal and emotional skills, and instead think that we have adapted to a different social environment. The proliferation of these stories leads me to wonder if the constant self-surveillance of social media has caused people’s expression - and perhaps even their experience - of these deep emotions to be more performative.
Or perhaps this is better understood not as performance but as outsourcing of emotional processing?