Tag Archives: psychology

Facebook Therapy

By: Chris Warren

Twenty First Summer was conceived in part out of my disgust with social media. Somewhat hypocritically, this blog does have a Twitter account that I hope all my readers follow  @twentyfirstsum because it’s an unfortunate necessity for reader interaction. Yet even while I’ve happily been able to keep social media at the edges of my life, there are others, actually many others, who have turned it into their psychologist.

Here’s the kicker: I’m sort of thinking this may not be such a bad idea. Not for me of course, for them. I know that sounds a little way out there coming from a guy who has made mocking the stupid that is Facebook a recurring theme, but venting is a legitimate form of therapy. Just because it’s not done under the supervision of a $150/hour therapist doesn’t mean it’s not effective treatment.

In between the the ubiquitous cute puppy videos and trite “post this on your wall if you love someone with (insert name of unfortunate malady here)” memes, are things along the lines of rants about the weather, the boss, significant other, job loss, divorces, death, gastrointestinal issues, traffic jams, kids. All the turds of life are well represented.

The appearance of “too much information” personal issues may be shocking, but the reasoning behind them is legitimate. The on line catharsis provides a release that in another time would have been taken out on family members, coworkers, store clerks, or held inside until it could be contained no longer. For all its ridiculous vanity, Facebook at the very least gives users a platform to clear their frustrations in a relatively harmless, nonviolent way.

I very seldom post anything on my personal Facebook page but I will scroll through my newsfeed fairly regularly to lurk around and see what others are doing. My feed probably looks like everyone else’s except with different names. What takes me aback is the amazingly revealing public comments made by people I consider to rational, mature, and level-headed, at least when they are not on line.

Since screaming into a pillow is overrated, Facebook therapy works only when the rants are made when others will hear (or see) them. Part of me thinks these people are a bit kooky even though I otherwise respect them and understand why they have these outbursts. The problem: How do I respond? Should I respond? When I say I “very seldom” make a Facebook post I mean maybe two or three times a year, so clicking “like” or making a comment opens the door to an on line back and forth I’d rather not get involved with.

I’d prefer my friends just call me if they have something heavy on their mind. If they’d rather blow digital steam, I’ll be listening there too even though I probably won’t reply. If it gives them a comfortable outlet they might not otherwise have for their frustrations, then why should I hate on that? I still think Facebook is one of the most hopeless wastes of bandwidth since the Kim Kardashian YouTube channel, but even a pile of crap is useful as fertilizer.

Sisu: Why You Don’t Have It (But Will Wish You Did).

By: Chris Warren.

A few weeks back I posted an article that discussed the difference between strong and weak people. It was intended for recent graduates but I hope everyone can get something from it.  A positive attitude is usually discussed in singular terms and applied to the individual, so it’s rare to see the concept in the context of a large group. In American culture, winning sports teams and of course the military are good examples of what group determination can accomplish. Even still, a group is comprised of individuals who will have their own personal agendas even if they are otherwise loyal to the organization and its goals.

The tiny Nordic nation of Finland is the global equivalent of the quiet neighbor: They take care of their place, don’t bother anyone, are not unfriendly or standoffish but do keep to themselves. Perhaps by design it is not obvious, but these understated people have a spirit of “git-er-done!” that would make John Wayne look like Homer Simpson.


Sisu (SEE-soo) is a Finnish word that has no direct translation, but in rough terms means grit, guts, determination, willpower, and perseverance. The dictionary definition of the word does not go nearly far enough, though. The Finns have tapped into a form of strength that is not duplicated anywhere else on such a large scale. To put it in terms Americans can understand, imagine if the resolve to never quit that made the US military so revered and esteemed was ingrained into a culture to the point that it becomes the very heart & soul of an entire nation. That’s the essence of sisu.

The human condition of sisu is not fully understood even though it has been scientifically studied by psychologists and sociologists. We do know what it isn’t: It’s not about situational bravery, such as when an otherwise risk-averse guy saves someone from a burning building. It’s not about merely working hard or being highly disciplined or achieving a goal. Although these things are components of sisu, they alone are not enough. About the only thing everyone agrees on is that sisu is a uniquely Finnish quality. It is their entire national and cultural identity condensed into one single word.

While reading for this article I came to the conclusion that sisu is greater than the sum of its parts; it’s at a whole different level than what most of us think of as determination. Finnish historians and folklorists attribute sisu to the ethical hardening that comes from hundreds of years of fighting the harsh weather, the churning sea, the rugged land, and the Russians. In one description, it was pointed out that Finland has gone to war with Russia forty two times and never won, not even once. Yet, Finland is still a sovereign nation with its pride as strong as ever. No one ever grew stronger by being successful every time. There is room for failure in sisu, but zero tolerance for being a crybaby about it.

finland-flagI do not believe that sisu can be taught to those who were not immersed in it since birth, which is very unfortunate because it’s an attribute we should all wish we had.  We can emulate it to the extent that we can, copy elements of it into our own lives, and in the process become stronger and more resolute. The problem: Those who are already inclined to face big challenges don’t need much inspiration, while the lazy & unmotivated are going to keep doing what they’re doing, or not doing, if that’s the case. I’m sure Finland has its share of shiftless slackers, but the concentration of bums in a society goes down greatly when sisu is is part of a country’s DNA and having a “stiff upper lip” is a national expectation.

There are a few people in my circle who I would say have something close to sisu. Each individual has different character traits, yet there is one common theme: Almost by willpower alone they can carve a path out of any situation. No matter how crappy a deal they’re given, there’s no complaining. They don’t attain complete victory all the time, but they always come out the other end better than when they went in. If we can’t have sisu in its purest form, the hunger for it and a never-ending effort to aspire to its ideals will make us better. Finland may be a self-effacing country that does not call attention to itself, but they are ok with that. Their strength and perseverance comes from within. The Finns wisely know that if you have sisu, no one can take it away; and if you don’t have sisu, no one can give it to you.