The World Is Sensitive


An ongoing project by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, We Feel Fine extracts sentences from blogs with the phrase, “I feel…” aggregates them in a colorful interface with the attempt to portray the nature of the world’s feelings in real time. Feelings can be narrowed across various demographics – age, gender, location, weather, etc. – to the point where you can “see” what people as a whole are feeling in your country, in your city, on your street. It’s not exactly scientific, but it does make its point: The World is sensitive because we are.

It feels weird to talk about feelings. Like, our feelings on feelings. There’s not much to say about them really. Some of us are great at them, others of us suck. What does it mean to be good or bad at feeling the F-word? What’s it take to fall into the either category? I guess what I’m really asking is: Within this ever-shifting map of human emotion, where do I fit in?

Being able to show them can mean you’re good, basically. Showing our feelings makes us human. But showing them too much, too often, all of the time, can mean you’re no longer in control of yourself because essentially your feelings are You, and before you know it, you feel Something, show it by giggling at a funeral, sobbing uncontrollably at the bank, punching a hole in your bedroom wall and damn, that was quick, now you suck again.

So instead of showing them, get good at articulating. Being able to spell out your feelings, to break them down and analyze them, to feel your way around the nuances of an emotion, that makes you mature and self-aware. You know what you’re feeling and you feel better for it. Until eventually you’re so good at getting your feelings, at having all the right words, at predicting them before they arrive, preparing to handle them, you’re no longer feeling anything. Now you’re just this fleshy robot, a blinking machine, self-conscious and suspicious. Now you’re Skynet. You’re a little too self-aware. Feeling your way around your feelings only makes you feel…nothing.

Do the opposite and people suddenly want to know what you’re hiding. Some of us are really good at that part, at suppressing and not talking about them ‘cause maybe you feel like it’s not worth it. Maybe you put other’s feelings before your own. Maybe you just don’t want that other feeling: pity. And like most feelings, it’s probably a combination of all three, and here we go again getting it all murky and messy by constantly feeling…everything.

And those are just your feelings. Consider everyone else’s.

It’s like no matter what, there’s never a beginning or an end to all of our feelings. They’re always happening in the middle. Somewhere. Which is probably why I look at something like We Feel Fine; people watching with all of that growing/shrinking effect the Internet is so good at inducing. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to going up in space, looking down at the Earth, in all its lunar stillness, point at it with excitement and whisper-shout, “That’s us! You can see everything from up here, guys!” to no one specifically. It’s me hovering over a dot that reads, “I feel complete,” and thinking, Mission: Accomplished, only to immediately linger across a neighboring speck that reads, “I feel lost” and we’re right back to Houston, we have a problem. Overall, I find this experience to be both frustrating and liberating. Like writing the final sentence of your senior thesis or finally meeting that one person and loving them entirely, flaws and all. It feels thrilling to contain something.

But is this it? What a single human experience looks like? Is this an adequate definition of what it means to be collectively alive? Are we experiencing large emotions in a lazy swirl? Or just tiny ones in an important accumulation of never-ending dot, dot, dot-s that’s leading us towards…what? Understanding? As a species, are we connected in a deeply silent and personal way? Or is it all just a bunch of vaporous and random obviousness? Are you feeling inspired to reconsider yours? Or totally bored and numbed with all these questions about them? (Sorry if it’s the latter, but I’m asking them sincerely, for whatever that’s worth…)

Maybe this is why we need them: Because feelings lead us to one another. I can’t say I’m sure if what I’m feeling inside is real if there’s no one else there to unknowingly feel it with me outside me inside them. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing or if it makes any sense whatsoever, but at least I can feel it’s there. Like, right there. Even if you’re not sure how or why it’s happening, feel it before you diffuse it, as long as it’s genuine. Happy? Embarrassed? Mean? Lucky? Annoyed? Verklempt? Wait, is “verklempt” even an option? You bet it is! Why? Because you’re feeling it, that’s why. Simple. Periodic Table of Emotions closed. Feelings 101.

The World was supposed to end on Saturday, but it didn’t. The World said one thing, but felt the opposite. Funny thing about that is the World sounds a lot like us, go figure. We might run out of oil and water and episodes of Happy Endings, but we’ll never run out of feelings. So be entitled to your feelings. Every. Single. One. Because there are days when they’re going to be all you have, and how does that make you feel? Something, I hope. The World is counting on you to.

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images – We Feel Fine