For more than 20 years, my father had osteoarthritis in both hips. It slowed him down, caused constant pain and frustrated him greatly—you could tell at times by the look on his face. But I never heard him talk about it, let alone complain. Ever.
I did not inherit the gene for silence.
And if you take even a casual look at Facebook or any other public forum, you’ll find that many people didn’t. You’re almost certain to see or hear someone explaining a health problem. Often in great detail.
Reasons vary as to why this is, and why it seems to be on the rise, but lots of people say they want attention. One self-proclaimed whiner told MSNBC, “I know what my reason is. I want a pity party. I want people to go, ‘Oh, that’s terrible.'” And with Facebook, the Internet forums, texting, blogging and a host of other networking tools, she and others like her have a huge potential audience.
As a result, some believe we’ve become a nation of whiners. Dr. Srinivasan Pillay, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told MSNBC:
It does seem that there's a diminished motivation around sucking it up. Generalizing, I think Gen X and Gen Y people have had a greater degree of security and when you have a great deal of security, there's this kind of allowance about being able to complain.
Martha Crowther, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Alabama, adds:
We've had a proliferation of talk shows for the last 20 years where they talk about issues that were just not discussed before. There's a proliferation of medications and commercials for various conditions. We're putting names on things we didn't know the name for before. We think, 'Well, maybe I have a problem with that.'
Yep. And we post or chat about it all. “When there wasn’t an Internet, you couldn’t randomly call someone’s telephone number and say ‘I hurt my arm,'” Pillay adds. “The Internet has upped it because there’s a platform for complaining. It makes it easier.”
Is this complaining something terrible? Are we coddled wimps who don’t know how to tough things out and “get over it?” Or are some people just looking for support, solidarity and comfort through the Internet, a valid place to find these things?
Has, as MSNBC writer Diane Mapes says, “the Internet and social media … helped turn every trip to the doctor into a shot heard ’round the world”?