The Sunday Blues & The Creatives
#sundaybluesedit by Rebecca C.
This is a story about how Instagram helped make me, and thousands of others, happy. I am not a scientist and I’m not going to try to prove a theory. This story is based on my experiences in life and my observations with my Sunday tag.
To start I have to get personal. I’ve waged a full-out war against depression since I was 19 years old. I’m now 43. I’ve won some battles, and have been badly beaten by others. I’ve watched members of my family struggle. I’ve read books. I’ve listened to and worked with psychiatrists and therapists. I’ve downed dozens of medications and medication cocktails. In 25 years I’ve learned not how to win the war, but how to cope with its existence by carrying better ammunition and wearing better armor. I know now that I can tolerate it as merely background noise.
At 19, I was also beginning to take my love of art more seriously. I went to college and majored in painting. The work kept me focused and grounded. There were assignments to complete and deadlines to meet. Feedback, common interest, social interactions, and sometimes praise were all motivators for continuing to work. I didn’t know this at the time but I do now: art saved my life.
Photo Credit: @redlilith
Statistics show that art viewing and art creating can improve many aspects of existence, especially those associated with mood. I recently heard a story on NPR about Alzheimer patients taking field trips to a museum with young kids. Just looking at works of art and being in a social group helped the patients speak and interact more. They came to life viewing and discussing works of art.
The creation of art is used in all kinds of therapy, from abused children to people with Down syndrome. It’s used in the therapy of children in war torn countries suffering from posttraumatic stress and patients with terminal illnesses. Basically, the making of art can be used to help almost anyone improve physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. So even in a layman’s world, that tells me that art is good for us.
Photo Credit: @mineowneye, Jamie Stewart
Although I had some concept of this, it wasn’t until I joined Instagram and started sharing my newfound passion with others that I realized how powerful this was.
I’ve had the blues on Sunday ever since I can remember. These blues were compounded by a feeling of guilt that it was the weekend and I should be happy and doing things that were not work. It’s also a day when I have felt lonely, regardless of the fact that I have 3 daughters, and don’t spend much time alone. Sundays filled me with dread and a feeling of hollowness I tried hard to shake. Over the years, I developed some Sunday coping skills, but for whatever reason, Sundays have always seemed harder than other days.
Photo Credit: @lou_askew, Laura Jennings
On one of these Sundays 15 weeks ago, after being on Instagram for 30 some odd weeks, I started a tag. For those unfamiliar with tags, in the Instagram world, if you add a # in front of a word it will drop your photo into a group of like tagged images. People use tags to have their work seen by others or to keep their own images together, to join groups or participate in various challenges. By this time I had a tag to join for every day of the week: Monday is #Decim8nday (a day to decim8 one of your images from your past 12), Tuesday is #Texastuesday, Wednesday is #blackandwhitegrunge, and on through the week. These tags helped me stay motivated and inspired even when my creativity was low.
At some point I decided I wanted to create a tag of my own. My biggest fear was that no one would participate. I dreaded my tag being a flop. I noticed a lack of weekend tags, which, in hindsight, makes some sense. Lots of artists take “breaks” on the weekends or have other routines. I, however, had already been posting to #bluesunday or #sundayblues, both tags which had already been created by someone else and didn’t appear to have any organization.
I noticed that when I would post a blue image to Instagram on Sundays, I would get support as well as empathetic comments from my followers. I wasn’t alone. There were others out there who were blue on Sunday too, and we were finding each other. It was then that the #sundaybluesedit tag was born.
Photo Credit: @elvisandme, Izzy
By creating the tag, I stumbled upon a sort of Sunday fix; only the fix wasn’t just for me. So many of the artists who participate in the tag say they “look forward to Sunday;” they feel supported and embraced by their fellow blue artists. They feel they can express themselves in a nurturing and understanding environment. Sundays were starting to look up.
I’m not going to pretend I had any idea what I was creating at the time. I was being selfish. I didn’t want to spend Sundays alone with my emotions. What I discovered then—and continue to find every Sunday—is that blues and creativity many times go hand in hand.
Do creative people feel more intensely than others? Is creativity just an outlet for emotion? I don’t know for sure. Is the moody artist just a stereotype? For hundreds of years the question of the link between creativity and the blues has been theorized. The speculation was so frequent that the idea has become a cliché. It’s true that humans make unreliable test subjects when it comes to subjective things like feelings and emotions so we may never have conclusive studies.
An article by Jonah Lehr in Wired magazine discusses this widely controversial issue. Lehr looks at the scientific literature that suggests depression not only gives us the blues, but also makes us more creative and may even help with focus. In his article, he writes about the research of a social psychologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, Joe Forgas.
Photo Credit: @savagemoon, Luna
Forgas’ research centers on the benefits of negative moods. He believes sadness makes us more attentive to detail and more focused on our tasks, and that angst and negative moods promote “information-processing strategies best suited to dealing with more-demanding situations.” In his research, Forgas’ test subjects were better at “judging the accuracy of rumors and recalling past events; stereotyping strangers and made fewer arithmetic mistakes.”
So, according to some research, not only do creative types appear to have more of the blues, but also creativity can help ease the suffering that comes with it. Perhaps it’s this ability to focus and stay persistent in a task that allows people with the blues to be more creative? We know that statistically, underprivileged youth who have training and access to the arts have a much higher success rate staying and finishing school. We know that all kinds of art therapies help thousands of people express and recover from traumatic situations. For me, the mere act of focusing on the task of creating can ease the feelings of the blues.
I’ve been an artist for the better part of 25 years. I’ve made tons of art on Sundays and the focus and work did help some, but I was still basically alone, in a creative vacuum of sorts. Enter social media…the Sunday tag was the convergence of all the elements that were required to help move me through the bluest of Sundays… I was now spending my Sundays with artists, with or without the blues, from around the world. Of interest to me was that a majority of these artists were women.
Photo Credit: Deena F., @deena21
I don’t know the gender make up of the sundaybluedit tag following, but I do know that the most emotionally expressive in my tag tend to be women. And it is women who thrive under this umbrella of social media.
At the risk of stereotyping, many women spend lots of hours without other adult interaction, least of all with other creative people. This was my situation for many years raising small children. Now, with the invention of cell phones, 3G and Wi-Fi, social media can be carried around in your pocket or purse. You can shoot and edit pictures almost any time or anywhere. And you can “connect” 24 hours a day with other artist.
Instagram, and other photo-sharing sites that are likely to attract artists, allow the user to participate in social media in a way that shares ideas and emotion through image and not words. The user is not “checking in” or posting a “status” like on Facebook but with an image that speaks to how you are feeling or what you are creating. What better way to spend your blue Sunday than carrying around a pocketful of friends willing to listen, comment, and support anytime this creativity strikes?
Photo Credit: @jenntofriends, Jennifer Reeves
It is estimated that less than 1% of academic papers written on the subject of psychology deal with the creative process, but recently there seems to be more interest and studies on the topic. Although these studies still appear to have a ways to go before conclusions can be drawn to a link between depression and increased creativity, I have seen the surprising popularity of my tag on Sundays. I’ve also seen the support that social media elicits to people who are struggling with these issues allowing them to share ideas, images, and inspiration.
To say that Instagram has cured my depression would be an overstatement, but when I’m shooting and editing photos, I am fully engaged. There is no thinking. The little world in my pocket has brought me and many others true friendship, the return of my lost creativity, and a cure for my Sunday blues—pretty incredible for an iphone and an app.
Photo Credit: @antitheist82, Wade
Here are a few photos from #sundaybluesedit. Join in on this creative movement.