How to embrace your toxicity became the latest internet trend

Showing your #authenticself online has been a growing trend over the last few years as people retreat towards the unhealthy highlight approach to using social media. But throw a pandemic into the mix, and the art of orchestrating the perfect shot is as good as dead. Not only do we step into the world again and look different – and embrace Y2K maximalism in all its glory with butterfly accessories – but we have also given our digital selves an overhaul. On Instagram, blurred photo dumps have become the norm instead of hyperstylized photos; and it is now considered creepy to pretend you have the perfect relationship (or post a hint of your partner, rule out their blurred left elbow). Even celebrities are not immune to the changing tide: Last week, Bella Hadid posted a carousel of photos of herself crying to her 47 million followers on Instagram, saying she finds it “harder and harder not to share my truth here “.

One proof that we’ve reached the pinnacle of digital authenticity is the growing number of people advertising their worst – or most # toxic – properties online. On TikTok, which has been considered “more authentic” than other social media apps, users post videos with everything from commitment stops (“I never let people feel anything, so I do not get hurt”) to their non-idealized personality traits (“I get really easily jealous” and “I have a huge ego”). Claiming its toxicity or potentially harmful properties has even found its way to Twitter. In recent weeks, posts like “My toxic trait is to behave badly when I truly love you” and “My toxic trait is that my sadness turns into destructive angerHas received thousands of likes and even more redirects.

While it may sound a little strange to mention your bad behavior in public, using the Internet as a form of therapy is nothing new. Take for example Reddits ‘Am I the Asshole?’ forum – consistently one of the site’s most engaging sections – where users crowdsource answers to questions about whether they are acting fairly or unfairly in situations. Although some posts are on the verge of absurd (AITA for eating too many cucumbers?), Overall conversations encourage critical thinking, empathy, and understanding. The problem with this latest spinoff is figuring out how self-awareness and helpful analysis of one’s personality turns into a signal of virtue: adultery disguised as authenticity. Do we simply mask a desperate need to feel unique and different, even when we get there by pointing out our mistakes?

This growing trend is parallel to a similar recent online phenomenon where people (all of us, according to TikTok) diagnose themselves and others with pathologies, such as ADHD or being a very sensitive person (HSP). These prognoses are generously distributed by everyone from high school students to registered psychologists, causing some to worry about overdiagnosis, disease acquisition, and eye rolls from others who see the posts as nothing more than a new way for people to talk about themselves: the protagonist’s energy, but do it medically. As with much of the social media discourse surrounding these conditions and disorders, many of the toxic properties currently being broadcast are not toxic at all. Do you need alone time? Same. Do you have a hard time being vulnerable and as a result have pushed people away? Me too.

It is easy to be in doubt about the lasting effects of such digital movements. Embracing your toxicity, however, can be seen as an antithesis to the rise in toxic positivity – the cultural tendency to reject negative emotions or traits and instead respond to distress with superficial assurances. In other words, a “rosy glasses” way of looking at the world, something that has recently manifested itself in a new strain: toxic productivity. “Being aware of our less desirable traits can indicate self-acceptance, which is an aspect of psychological well-being,” says Dr. Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Director of the Creativity and Emotional Laboratory at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. “Recognizing one’s less desirable qualities can be an individual act aimed at greater authenticity and combating the harmful belief that people should always maintain a positive mindset.” Whether the trend is inherently healthy, says Dr. Ivcevic Pringle, depends on what is being aired: “Sharing traits related to introversion or emotional sensitivity may be a sign of embracing one’s vulnerability. But sharing traits or attitudes related to narcissism or Machiavellianism is less positive.”

The rise in such content also facilitates a place for young people to find fellowship at a time when we are desperate for connection. While ‘AITA’ threads are anonymous, posts about toxic properties are not. Even when shared with TikTok accompanied by a catchy song, the trend encourages young people to not only explore the negative sides of their personalities, but to own them, creating space for conversation, learning and growth. On Twitter, the post “My toxic trait is that I do not know how to ask for help, I disappear and return when I feel better,” received thousands of responses such as, “You are not alone,” and “Are are we the same person? “

For TikTok user Allegra, the trend has even resulted in friendships in the real world. To begin with, it was not so deep to post her toxic traits – which include that she is “incredibly possessive and jealous”, is a “good liar and manipulator”, and that she can “cut off people without remorse” – she saw second post. their and would like to join. But the experience ended up being soothing. “Posting about my problems on TikTok feels like a release. It’s a way for me to express and share feelings that I might not want to talk about or interrogate otherwise,” she tells iD. other people who are also struggling really help too. “

Allegra has clocked the recent rise in that people are more authentic online and says that posts like these have resulted in creating lasting connections, both online and offline. “Most of my life I was bullied and never felt accepted, but through TikTok I was able to find a community of like-minded people who went through the same shit I did.” The elephants, whose toxic traits of “wanting to end the whole relationship” when she is angry, went viral and she feels the same. “Posting it made me really assess why I act that way and accept the reasons behind it,” she says. “I now realize that I have serious trust issues, and I begin the process of actually unpacking and overcoming them.”

It is not only social media that has had a desperate need for an authenticity overhaul. People have long expressed their contempt for the dating app culture, where those who swipe on apps are encouraged to upload photos and captions that portray them in both figurative and literally best light. For Sophie, who routinely writes about her mental health and struggles, the movement away from that facade feels overwhelmingly positive. “Of course there are some people who jump on a bandwagon to get likes or in an attempt to go viral, but overall, the messages are pretty positive,” she says.

Like Bella’s weeping posts and the influx of toxic properties owned online, the openness of strangers on the Internet makes Sophie and others like her feel less alone. “I’ve actually been on a date with someone who originally sent me a message to talk about a post I wrote about my bad relationship habits,” she adds. If nothing else, it seems like a less narcissistic way to spend time mentioning one’s toxic traits than describing why you’re more empathetic and creative than others (because of course you’re an HSP). A suggestion for Hinge’s next round of questions? ‘How toxic are you?’

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