The first, and probably most apparent, problem with emos is that there is no singular definition that accurately describes anyone and everyone who has ever called themselves “emo”. The social group or lifestyle encompasses so many parts that if you call yourself an emo, it could mean any variety of things, some of which are completely unrelated. Urban Dictionary itself has 1199 definitions of the word “emo”. Although there are some similarities between some of the definitions, there is still no one unifying theme.
Some say that emos are people who listen to certain bands and dress a certain way. Others claim that that doesn’t matter, it’s all about an emotional outlook on life. Others claim that emos are just whiny privileged kids who have no idea how good they have it. The debate rages on.
So when you say “emo”, you really need to qualify exactly what you mean by the term. I have developed my own definition, mostly through the emo love stories that I have been MiSTing for several years now, but also through some interactions with real life emos in a middle school that I helped out at. Overall, I find the emos, to be straight, white, middle-class children who haven’t received what they consider to be their deserved amount of praise and consideration for their perceived specialness.
Instead of realizing that they aren’t special snowflakes who have earned commendation for doing their homework or taking out the garbage the first time they were asked, they create a persona around their belief that no one sees them for the amazing person that they are and anger that no one is there to constantly assure them that they are wonderful, unique creatures that the world wouldn’t be the same without. Then every single thing that happens to them in their lives is another display of the unfairness of the outside forces that are trying to undermine them at every turn.
They create fantasy worlds, such as the stories I’ve MiSTed, that revolve around teens who are horrifically abused and have actual problems. They then get to whine as much as they want that they are being treated badly and life is conspiring against them, while doing nothing proactive to fix their problems or taking responsibility for anything that they have ever done. Emos are blameless, white unicorns who are always the victims and never able to do anything for themselves. Ever. For change to come about in their lives, they have to meet the emo lover of their dreams that will do everything for them and finally tell them, non-stop, how incredible and exceptional they are.
These are what I have witnessed as traits of emo-dom. But there’s a sinister side to emos that I’ve never seen anyone address and that is the harm they are doing to people who suffer from real mental illnesses. Someone who tried to defend emos to me said that he would spend a lot of time on emo forums, just talking to fellow emos and helping them to overcome their problems. He proudly claims to have saved several people from suicide. However, I find this to be misguided at best and delusion at worst.
People who have real mental illnesses, people who are actually suicidal, are not going to be talked down by a total stranger on the internet. It just doesn’t work like that. If it did, then no one would commit suicide, ever. Because all it would take would be the kind word of a passing stranger and BAM! everyone would no longer be depressed or suicidal. Real depression, real mental illness, is a chemical imbalance in the brain and is considered a medical condition.
Just talking to someone that you don’t even know, who has no training whatsoever in psychiatry or psychology is not going to be able to do any actual help. Maybe in the short run, someone will feel better that there is someone who empathizes with them and knows all of the lyrics to Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album, but it won’t correct the chemical imbalance or teach adequate coping skills and won’t yield lasting results.
Emos also engage in self-destructive behaviors with a sense that it’s fun and interesting and makes them more intellectual. I’ve seen teenagers write about cutting, eating disorders, and other harmful behaviors like it proves how deep and intense their feelings are and makes them every inch the super important, delicate person they want to be.
All of these behaviors should be considered symptoms of larger problems and handled with the same medication and therapy that emos seem to either scorn or never think about at all. When an emo does this to show people how special they are or generate enough attention for themselves to feel important again, it puts the thought into everyone’s consciousness that cutting, eating disorders and other forms of self-harm are just ways for indulgent people to seek attention and praise, when what someone with a real problem needs is medical help and support.
In a way, emos are tiny little posers, who take on the traits of someone with a real illness, but can conveniently walk away whenever they want to stop being depressed or sad or anxious or manic. They want to be treated like someone who is really sick because they want the perceived attention that goes along with it, when what they are really doing is draining resources that could be used on someone who has an actual problem and instead grow up and stop expecting the world to recognize how special they are and give them the incredible amount of attention that they claim to need.
Another thing that never fails to annoy me about emos is their continued lack of ability to take any responsibility for themselves. I have never seen an emo love story where the hero or heroine realizes that they have a problem, seeks medical attention and devotes themselves to recovering and leading a full and complete life. Never. Their stories either end with the main character committing suicide to everyone’s horror or a love interest presenting themselves and the main character’s problems all magically disappearing under the boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s loving gaze.
The problems that emos experience and never caused or continued by their own actions. It’s always someone else’s fault and they are helpless to do anything about it. Like children, they either wait until someone comes to rescue them or they kill themselves and thus teach the cruel world an important lesson about how dangerous it was not to properly appreciate them while they were alive.
When it really comes down to it, though, these emos are children. They are expressing themselves in a way that they will undoubtedly look back on with embarrassment and a perplexed laugh in about ten years. Hopefully. What teenager hasn’t cried that the world didn’t understand them or think that they were the first person to experience rejection or heartache? What teenager hasn’t resented their parents for not being millionaires or demanded more than their due for simple existing?
Most children will grow out of this and will look back on their days as emo love story writers as quaint statements of their childhood and the turbulent emotional scene that they were experiencing. But part of being an emo seems to be seeing everyone who isn’t emo as the enemy and emo friends and acquaintances as experts and confidants to be used when making all life decisions. I worry that some of these emo children will never leave the state of helplessness where life is what is acted out upon you by exteriors forces that can neither understand you or appreciate you for the beautifully dark creature that you are.
In essence, there’s nothing wrong with being sad. There’s nothing wrong with being depressed. There’s nothing wrong with becoming overwhelmed by life and needing help. The problem I find with emos is their ability to manufacture their own problems, refuse to seek help through professionals who could actually assist them, their reliance on other people to solve their emotional issues, and their denial that they could have actually been responsible for anything that has ever happened to them.
Also, endless descriptions of skinny jeans, band t-shirts and eyeliner applications just get fucking annoying after a while.