Tag Archives: depression

Review – The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

17 Dec

It’s been far too long since I’ve written on this blog – the main reason being, I started a new job and it’s taken up so much of my time, both literally and mentally. I think I’m getting more into the swing of things now though and I’ve been missing some creative outlet, which has sadly been usurped by pivot tables and datasets.

A book I recently picked up is ‘The Days of Abandonment’ by Elena Ferrante. I was going to Budapest for a short holiday and I wanted something that didn’t look too overwhelming, and its relatively svelte size and the premise immediately drew me in. I bought it without knowing it was a translated novel which I’m not the biggest fan of – I think a lot of things can get lost in translation – but that said, I’ve read some real gems that have been translated and the reviews included were (obviously) glowing, so I thought I’d give it a chance.81Fl81A4zLL

The novel is about a thirty-eight year old woman, Olga, whose husband, Mario, has just left her for another woman. We are introduced to Olga at the time that Mario announces he is leaving and the few following months, where we witness her emotional distress and breakdown. Her grip on reality becomes weaker and this is evident in her unflinchingly negative feelings towards her children, which I found refreshingly honest.

Ferrante writes in first person narrative so you are able to enter the thoughts of Olga’s increasingly clouded mind – her language becomes malicious, full of hard cussing and sexually explicit passages. While the story drew me in – I am always especially interested in reading about characters enduring some kind of emotional turmoil; perhaps this is some sort of morbid curiosity of mine, or an opportunity for self-assurance – much of the writing was far too exaggerated and overblown. I am interested to see whether this writing style is typical of many Italian authors as I have noticed, for instance, that the novels by Japanese authors that I have read tend to share the same fondness for poetical restraint and subtlety. This is the opposite and at times, I found it to be inordinate – as a reader, I never like to feel that the author is making damn well sure that I will feel something. On many occasions, I felt as though Ferrante was labouring a point or a metaphor which meant that it actually lost its effect.

In conclusion, I found the premise of the story interesting which incentivised me to finish the book, which I did in three or four days. However, the writing was far too predictable and lacking in nuance for my liking – it was almost as though the pages were shouting, ‘OLGA IS A DESPERATE WOMAN HAVING A BREAKDOWN, SHE’S LOSING IT’ which sort of detracted from any real emotional connection and empathy with the protagonist.

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Does Facebook induce feelings of depression?

5 Jan

I’m still trying to figure out the direction of causality – does social media cause feelings of depression, or do we actively go on social media when we’re feeling low as a means to justify wallowing in self-pity?

Social media became a big thing when I was around fourteen.  At first, it was MySpace which seemed full of girls with big, punk hair and kohl-rimmed eyes – a way of attracting boys, upping your social status and generally appearing ‘cool.’  Before anyone uploaded a photo onto their profile, it was meticulously scrutinised, Photoshopped and beautified.

Then when I was around seventeen, Facebook came into play.  At first, I found it refreshing compared to the beauty pageant stiffness of MySpace.  People’s profile pages seemed to be more reflective of their lives – photos uploaded were more natural and it seemed to be a really easy way to stay connected with people.  There are always more ‘people you may know’, and for a while you think to yourself, ‘Wow, I really am quite a popular person.’  Accepting friend requests fills you with a rush of adrenaline and once you’ve clicked ‘Accept’ you sit back, content, watching your network of ‘friends’ grow.

But then, you find your newsfeed filled with absolute trollop – mundane, gramatically incorrect statuses of that girl who lived on the same floor as you in your first year at uni, and that person you used to work with but never spoke to – and you know that it is rubbish yet you feel compelled to read each and every one.  And then you feel horrible because you have all these self-absorbed meanderings of others mushed into your brain instead of doing something that revitalises you, and makes you happy to be alive.

At my lowest point, my Facebook newsfeed seemed to be a cacophony of grating voices, pulling me down, making me convinced that I was “missing out”.  Missing out on what, I couldn’t really say.  But what it does seem to do is make you so aware of everyone else’s lives that you find yourself comparing yourself with everyone else.  Sure, you may look at the girl in primary school who didn’t invite you to her 6th birthday party and feel a sense of smug satisfaction when you realise she’s divorced at the age of 22 with three kids, but it works both ways.  You can find out your ex is going out with a supermodel, or a friend that hurt you is in a great job and living the dream.  Either way, you’re spending so much time absorbed in the lives of other people that you forget about your own.

Of course, for many people, social media incites none of these feelings of inadequacy and insecurity and can even increase feelings of wellbeing, which is why I’m inclined to think that social media doesn’t induce depressive feelings .  I’ve used it in the past as a semi-masochistic way of justifying why I feel so rubbish instead of actually staying with my feelings, which seem too unbearable to sit and listen to.  It’s basically a way to misplace my frustrations and vulnerabilities.  Of course, seeing people you used to know doing well means you’re right to be unhappy!  And sometimes, it’s easier to be ‘right’ than happy.

But what is incredibly important to keep in mind when engaging in social media is how little you can learn about someone by their profile page.  I used to think everyone’s lives were so much more fascinating than mine, oblivious to the fact that one’s social profile is entirely deliberate.  A carefully constructed manifestation of how we’d like to be perceived.

It took me a while to really understand that a photograph doesn’t convey a whole story but a tiny fragment of a bigger picture, and that tiny fragments can be entirely misleading.   It’s when you can’t understand it for what it really is that social media can have a devastating impact on your wellbeing; it can convince you that everyone is experiencing so much more and what you have can never feel enough.