Why the Viral "In the Right Headspace" Meme Is More Hurtful Than Helpful
The viral template for texting emotionally loaded information has taken the internet by storm.
"Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?" That's the text message that Twitter user @YanaBirt recently suggested sending friends or family members, as a way of asking for consent prior to delivering emotionally loaded information.
I just want to say, a lot of y'all dump information on your friends at the wrong time without their consent. If you know it's something that could hurt them, ask permission before you decide to be messy. Please. pic.twitter.com/L3jWGni1FW
— yana (@YanaBirt) November 29, 2019
But @YanaBirt's controversial template quickly went viral, gaining over 15,000 retweets. It prompted a heated debate over whether sending this kind of text was sensitive or simply panic-inducing. For many, it was the latter.
My response would be "I was in a good headspace before reading this and now I'm overwhelmed with anxiety, please don't text me again"
— the elusive robert danbe (@_danbe) December 1, 2019
And if you have anxious attachment style, you likely agree. It's the kind of text that, at best, seems to be indicative of an internet culture in which extreme attempts to be mindful of people's mental health issues can actually have the opposite effect and exacerbate them.
"I get the overall intention, but that particular prompt is anxiety-provoking cause you already know this is bad news and therefore will automatically start building up worst-case scenarios in your head until you hear what it actually is," former teacher Kate Moran told Best Life. "Also, text is not an appropriate medium to deliver hard news at all in my opinion."
Indeed, in this day and age, it seems as if it wouldn't even occur to young people to just pick up the phone or meet someone in person when discussing something serious.
"This is modern version of 'Are you sitting down?" Laine Murray, a volunteer at a woman's shelter, told Best Life. "What about saying, 'I have something important to me that I need to talk about, when's a good time?' Or something along those lines."
But while some can see the "in the right headspace" meme's intentions, other people believe that the phrase itself is downright manipulative—the kind of text a narcissist would send in order to appear conscientious when they're really just trying to make you sweat.
"As someone with tremendous anxiety, I find this text completely wrong-headed and frankly awful," journalist Natalia Antonova told Best Life. "And manipulative too, but in a sneaky way."
It's also framed as a yes/no question but in reality the possibility of "no" as an answer is not realistic. Once you dump that question on someone, even if they are not in the right headspace they kind of have to say yes or else deal with the anguish of an unknown horrible thing.
— JustaWoman (@petitlarcenous) December 2, 2019
As such, it didn't take very long for people to begin mocking the entire idea of the "in the right headspace" text altogether.
are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you pic.twitter.com/ePcFQGsUc6
— Bob Vulfov (@bobvulfov) December 2, 2019
The script became a meme that spanned the whole of human existence. From famous TV shows…
Buffy: Was it me? Was I not good?
Angelus: Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?
— Louis All Is Calm, All Is Bright-zman (@LouisPeitzman) December 4, 2019
To classical literature…
oedipus: so thankful that awful prophecy didn't come true and for my hot cougar wife
the oracle of delphi: are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?
— soul nate (@MNateShyamalan) December 3, 2019
To climate change…
me: i can't wait to have kids and watch them grow into smart, strong adul-
climate change: are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?
— playboi nardi (@avantnard) December 2, 2019
me: aw i look so cute
my camera: are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?
— g (@ghinapalestina) December 2, 2019
Even running out of ice cream applies!
Me: Hi can I get an ice cream cone please
McDonald's worker: Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?
— Chris 🎄 (@bayoulejeune) December 2, 2019
Along with the responses to it, the "in the right headspace" meme proves that delivering news that could potentially hurt someone is never easy, and that there isn't one right way to do it. But if you know the recipient is prone to anxiety, the way to prep them for bad news is definitely not this text.
For some professional advice on communicating effectively, check out The Secret to Better Communication With Your Partner, According to a Relationship Expert.