The pervasive vibe of the affirmations posted by the aforementioned Norwegian, Mats Nesterov Andersen, is overwhelmingly positive, but so banal that they leave plenty of room for interpretation. Something so overwhelmingly positive can also read as both unhinged and ironic. A recent post featuring a wide-eyed Troll doll with the phrase “I will not cry daily this week” superimposed in a glowing sans-serif font, is a mantra of sorts—a way to gird the loins in optimism for another week in the Thunderdome. The message exists in a vacuum but changes shape once it’s in the hands of the poster, who imbues it with their own meaning, as well as that poster’s followers, who do their own layer of interpretive work based on what they know about the poster’s life at the time. A close read of my Instagram Story archive revealed that I didn’t share this one, but I suspect only because it would’ve felt a bit too much like a cry for help.

My personal journey with @affirmations ratcheted up to an alarming clip at some point over the summer, when I was in the grips of what I understand now was just a spot of situational depression. Detailing the nuances of my feelings to anyone, including my therapist who is paid to hear my concerns, began to feel tiresome and unproductive; the trouble was, I still felt the need to be heard. Scrolling through my feed felt passive and neutral, even pleasant at times. But ultimately, I suppose I felt a little disconnected. Posting a meme from an account that deals in bland optimism was an attempt to will myself into feeling better, but also served as a helpful barometer of my general aura for those who might interact with me. It’s not my intention to frame this habit as a public service to my small circle of friends with their own lives and personal concerns, but for me, it felt a teensy bit therapeutic. Laughing at your own internal bullshit, it turns out, works.

Understanding the necessity of vulnerability came to me late in life, but it has been a useful tool in the past two years, when everyone has been at the mercy of their own ricochetting emotions. Surely others developed healthy habits for dealing with the pandemic’s relentless uncertainty the pandemic provides daily, but for me, talking about my big feelings became both overwhelming and extremely boring. Sometimes there was no better way to express the dull soup of varying emotions other than posting a stupid affirmation and keeping it moving: a small toot of emotion, rather than anything more substantial, but satisfying enough to have processed the feeling briefly, then move on.

Truthfully, the memes on @affirmations felt like a palatable way to express the nihilism I’d previously abandoned but found myself returning to more and more. Scrolling through Instagram on my birthday this year and sharing a picture of Kim Kardashian with the phrase “I will party I will not cry” surrounding her face was a reminder to myself that I probably shouldn’t cry that day, but if I felt like I needed to, it was okay. It’s very silly to rely on an Instagram account to do the necessary emotional heavy lifting required to be a person, but sometimes the easy way out is the best way forward.