Previously Published in The Daily Star of Hammond, LA.
Something that happens quite often when I scroll through Instagram is a person posts something with a caption that has the phrase “my heart is so full” in it.
I know what this is supposed to mean (it appears to be a more faux-poetic way of saying, “I’m happy” or “I’m joyful”), but the other day I found myself looking at multiple posts in a row with that phrase in it and thought, “What if all these people mean something different but are using the same phrase?”
A pretty common thing that happens with cliche phrases is that most people understand what it means while a minority have a different definition (FTW means “for the win” to most people, but others have a different definition for the acronym). “My heart is so full” has to have some of the same issues because, most of the time, people don’t specify what their hearts are full of, so here’s a short list of possibilities:
My heart is so full of hate: This would be a great subtweet (or subInsta?) at somebody by posting a photo of that person and saying, “A whole day with this person. My heart is so full,” about someone you don’t like.
My heart is so full of envy: The girl in the picture is prettier than me.
My heart is so full of boredom: This has to be one of the truer intentions of the “my heart is so full” craze. The only reason to go to social media after a great moment is to stop being bored.
My heart is so full of cholesterol: Heart disease isn’t a joke. After a week of not getting groceries and eating more fast food than I should, this one makes me nervous.
My heart is so full of pettiness: This is a lot like a heart being full of hate, except it’s half a joke and more upfront about the intentions of the message. Joel Embiid, the center of the Philadelphia 76ers, is the king of petty captions and 75 percent of his posts are about pettiness.
My heart is so full of exhibitionism: This is the root of “my heart is so full” culture and social media in general. When something cool, great or monumental happens in a young person’s life, it is almost immediately broadcasted to the world.
Most people would probably say they posted it to thank anyone who was a part of the moment, but that’s not necessary. The photo/caption poster could thank everyone in person, as a group during the moment, through texting, calling people on the phone, writing emails or writing thank you cards (I know this because I sometimes forget to thank people, but my mother is very keen on thanking people so I’ve started working at that to avoid getting lectured by my mom about something a 2-year-old can grasp when I’m 24-years-old).
There are plenty of ways to thank people that is more personal, but people (especially young people) don’t want more personal. They want to show off how exciting their lives are, how attractive their friends are and get the validation of dozens of likes and nice comments from people about these kinds of sentimental posts. Social media and other parts of the culture turned a lot of people into either being or desiring to be “shy exhibitionists.”
That term comes from the book, “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself,” by David Lipsky, David Foster Wallace (DFW) talks about his issues as a shy exhibitionist:
“I think being shy basically means being self-absorbed to the extent that it makes it difficult to be around other people,” DFW said.
That quote about shyness may seem harsh especially to anyone who considers themselves shy (I am one of these people, making this quote is hard to swallow). But I think, outside of mental health issues, it’s ultimately true — the reason I’m afraid to talk to people is that I’m overly concerned with what they’ll think of me.
Then, DFW explained why writing was the way for a shy, egomaniac like himself (and most of us) to perform for people and get the attention he (and we) desired.
“There is an unbelievable arrogance about even trying to write something,” DFW said. “You’ve gotta know not just how it looks and sounds to you. But you’ve gotta be able plausibly to project what an alien consciousness will make of it.”
This may seem like it doesn’t fit with social media, but it does. DFW said this in the mid-90’s when every American with internet access didn’t have a platform to promote their everyday lives. Today, everybody with a social media account thinks about what they post in the same way DFW did writing because they’re concerned with what combination of words will garner the most likes and comments.
“My heart is so full,” is a phrase that games the “liking” system. It is a way for people to brag about the great things going on for them (which is a way to get likes) while also seeming humble by thanking or celebrating their friends and family. The phrase — like social media and reality television — ultimately means nothing.