If you haven’t seen it on social media or the news, over on X(Twitter), Elmo’s social media team decided to check in with his followers and ask how they are doing. It caused an outpouring of responses.
What I find interesting about this, beyond the obvious take that many people out there are not doing well, is that if you asked this same question to many of your friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, you probably wouldn’t see the same thing. There’s something about trauma-dumping to a fictitious character that allows us to be honest without fear that we are too much for people to deal with. I worry about it all the time. If you asked me how I am on any given day, 99% of the time, I’d say something like “Not bad.” I might admit to struggling the other one percent of the time, but also probably downplay it.
Let me tell you a secret. I struggle much more than one percent of the time. I also don’t want people to worry about me, and I don’t want my struggles to be too much for the people in my life. I make my emotions small to protect other people. I know I’m not the only one.
If you do that, though, I have another question. Who’s your Elmo? Who’s the person in your life that you can be 100% honest with about your mental health and share the kinds of messages that folks sent Elmo online this week? I will guess the answer is no one for most of us.
I also wonder how many of us know how to be Elmo and how to give people space to express their struggles without feeling like we have to fix them. I think that is why our emotions are often too much for people. They feel a need to fix it instead of just hearing us. Elmo’s social media presence gave people a place to be heard. People took advantage of the opportunity to express some of our dreads and sadness.
Best of all, everyone taking part in that conversation saw that they were not alone and commiserated with each other about things we didn’t often talk about openly. That’s the kind of connection online networks could provide regularly if they weren’t being run into the ground by bad actors and commercial interests. Sadly, it is becoming rare these days.