Talking about talking about anxiety

by Sofia

I’m not sure what exactly it is about Ira Glass that makes him so compelling, but with 2.1 million weekly listeners, I’m not the only one who finds him a joy to listen to. Perhaps it’s the brilliance and originality of the shows he puts together, or his endearingly nasal voice (the only person on earth who can boast such a trait). But mostly it’s the fact that he is strikingly intelligent, thoughtful, and accessible all at once. He is very artful in the way he shares himself and his guests’ stories, and it creates an intimacy with the listener that makes you open up, ponder, and interact with these stories. Sometimes I get the feeling I’ve just heard the most meaningful exchange I was either privy to or part of all week.

Case in point: in an interview published yesterday by the Guardian, he talks about the feeling of anxiety, which he calls the baseline of his life. He recalls being pleasantly stunned to feel this anxiety disappear when he took ecstasy for the first time. Perhaps I’m projecting what I want to hear in this—maybe all 2.1m of us are—but that’s exactly what I love about him: his presentation of himself, of the full acknowledgement of a general malaise of insecurity that underlines everything he does. (“I am mostly a pretty worried person,” he says in the interview. “In conversations, I am always worried about what to say.”) Mike and I talk about it a lot, and I think about how it relates to how I present myself through this blog.

I think one of the difference between the net generation and older ones will be the awareness that everyone is sort of bummed and lives with a niggling feeling of worry. Before, introspection and self disclosure was more the province of countercultural writers and theatre majors, but on the net everyone gets to be their own Sartre. That conflicts with the conventional (modernist?) wisdom of presenting ourselves as competent, wholesome, and having our shit together. At work, do you share your worries about your competence when you’re asking for a raise? When a prospective employer Googles you, do you want for them to see your LinkedIn followed by your social media accounts where you process your struggle with your personal demons? Probably not. It’s something to be negotiated and balanced, which is extremely difficult. And, to me, it’s part of Glass’ appeal.