Online Boundaries and Emotional Labour


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for a whole month of great cinema for free. The nature of online platforms has shaped
the way we interact in striking, and often profoundly bizarre, ways. While it would be
extremely untoward to walk up to a stranger on the street and “playfully” insult them,
demand their opinions on various controversial issues, or join in on a conversation they’re
having with a friend, online platforms have, at least to some degree, normalized these
behaviours. And not just towards public figures, either: the online world has created an entirely
new sphere of social interactions with new rules and boundaries, and it seems like we
aren’t really sure how we should be navigating it yet. This is particularly interesting because social
media has hastened the spread of sociological concepts that describe various troubling phenomena.
Although terms like “emotional labour” and “gaslighting” and “trigger” have
existed for quite some time, it’s only been in the past few years that they’ve taken
up mainstream usage on platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and Reddit. And when these concepts
factor into the still-unanswered question of how we should set boundaries online, things
can get extra complicated. If a friend is struggling and you’re talking them through
it, is that emotional labour? Is it therefore a violation of consent to vent to your friend
without asking them first? Attempts to answer this question have been
a little bit… messy at times. About a month ago, we saw an explosion of proposed templates
for social interactions with your friends. Phrases like “are you in the right headspace
to receive information that could possibly hurt you?” cropped up in response to this
idea that we have a problem with boundaries when it comes to hanging out with our friends
online. In effect, the argument seems to be that when we’re not receiving consent before
dumping a lot of heavy stuff on our friends, we’re violating their boundaries, enabling
toxic friendships, and forcing them to perform emotional labour. Similarly, other users drafted
template responses that folks could use to say no when a friend asks to vent to you,
with phrases like “I’m actually at my emotional capacity”. Of course, as soon as this template trend
took off, its mockery took off ten times as potently. People were quick to argue that
using these kinds of templates makes you sound like a cold robot who doesn’t care about
your friends, that supporting your friends isn’t what the term emotional labour is
supposed to mean, and that messages like that disguise sociopathy as self-care. The template issue, while particularly contentious,
quickly fizzled out, but there wasn’t a real resolution to the debate, and most of
the questions it raised remain unanswered. This is going to be the first part of a two
part video about how we navigate boundaries online. There are two main types of interactions
I think have been impacted in interesting ways by online communication: there’s how
we interact with our friends and how we interact with strangers. In this video, I’m going
to talk about those friend interactions and how boundary-setting with friends has been
shaped by the online sphere. So first of all, what’s up with friendship
and emotional labour? One of the most interesting changes that comes
with social media is that unlike in the past when we only had home phones, most of us are
able to be reached at virtually any time. I remember before I had a cell phone, when
I used to go out, people wouldn’t really be able to reach me. And then I remember before
I had a phone that was built for texting, people could call me, but people mostly wouldn’t
unless it was really important. But now, my friends and family can reach me
at virtually any time if they really need to. And this is often a good thing; I like
hearing from my friends, and being able to share snippets of my day with people I care
about is important to me! But, the expectation of constant communication can also make things
difficult in certain contexts. Because while I love replying to my friends’ messages,
this constant availability now means if I don’t reply for a while, people might think
something’s wrong. I mean, some people even set up automatic text replies when they’re
driving, so that people who don’t receive an immediate reply can understand why. And the idea that people have to reply to
messages instantly unless they have a reason not to has certainly created issues in some
social interactions. Like, what happens when you suddenly receive a really heavy message
from someone, and you’re in the middle of something really stressful yourself? Debates
about how to handle stuff like this have started to crop up, and the term “emotional labour”
has become particularly popular. The term’s been used a lot on Twitter to
refer to the work we do emotionally in relationships with our friends and partners. For example,
our friend comes to us crying, and we spend hours with them trying to make them feel better.
Some people have described the work we do here to be encouraging and supportive and
keep your own feelings contained as a form of labour. This, unsurprisingly, has been
contentious, with some people claiming that it’s shitty to equate “being a good friend”
with “doing work”. Some analysis has also suggested that this entire mentality just
happens because of capitalism. A system that prioritizes constantly growing profits can
make any interaction seem like some sort of transaction. So, think about posting funny content on the
internet. Something that could just be fun interactions with your friends are now constantly
encouraged to be monetized. This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing in every context- it’s
great that people can make a living off their creativity- but it is true that there can
be a trend of pretty much everything you do feeling like a transaction. Some people have
therefore argued that using the term “labour” to refer to interactions with your friends
is just capitalist brain rot that makes you see all of your relationships as transactional. There’s also a significant subset of the
“emotional labour” arguments that describe it not only as an individual issue in relationships,
but also as an issue that’s divided across racial and gender lines. So, for example,
if a husband and wife both have jobs and supposedly do equal housework, but the wife is the one
who always keeps track of who does what and has to remind her husband what tasks to do,
that can also take up significant mental energy, and some people have described that practice
as “emotional labour”. And if 9 times out of 10, it’s the wife who has to do this
labour and it’s not really acknowledged, that’s kind of a problem. Or, if someone you know says something racist
or sexist that impacts you, and you have to explain to them why that’s the case, those
conversations can be mentally exhausting. Especially when they last a really long time,
and you have to have conversations like that with different people often. In effect, people
have started using the term to describe emotional interactions in interpersonal relationships
that Feel Like Work, and have argued that it often impacts marginalized groups more
often than others. Though these do describe real issues, the
conflation of those problems with the term “Emotional Labour” is somewhat of a new
one. The term actually has a different meaning than how it’s commonly used, and by using
the wrong word for these other issues, we might be making it harder to talk about what
Emotional Labour actually is. So, the term was coined by sociologist Arlie
Hochschild to describe how workers in many jobs are forced not only to do the expected
requirements of their jobs, but also to manage and regulate their emotions in ways that often
don’t get discussed. So, for example, you might think the job description of a Starbucks
worker is just to make coffee and heat up baking items and misspell people’s names
on cups. But, actually, your job also involves a lot of regulating your emotions to make
them palatable to customers and your employer. If you have a chronic pain condition and you’re
talking to customers, you’re not supposed to show it or seem unhappy; you’re supposed
to perform joy for them. If you’re getting yelled at and called horrible names because
you won’t take a customer’s expired coupon, you’re often not allowed to appear angry
about it. On the whole, you’re expected to appear unfailingly happy, polite, and sociable
regardless of how you’re feeling, AND you’re expected to make it seem like your emotions
are completely genuine all the time. Not only do you have to smile, you have to smile authentically
so customers don’t feel lied to. I mean, just look at this description from
a Starbucks job posting in Quebec. “Baristas personally connect and create moments that
make a difference and work together to create a welcoming store environment.” Like, what
the hell? That’s ridiculous. Of course you’re not going to be “personally connecting”
with all the people who come into your store for an expensive mocha. You’re creating
coffee, not “moments”. But because the expectation in so many work environments is
that employees constantly appear authentically happy and create beautiful moments of genuine
human connection with every person who enters a shop’s doors, workers have these bizarre
expectations placed upon them. And that’s genuinely exhausting to constantly
maintain. Especially when you consider how terrible some customers are. You know when
you have a relative you hate and you have to spend time with them and you have to smile
politely and not show a single negative emotion, all the while you’re dying inside? Imagine
doing that, all the time, and if you don’t, you lose your job. Of course, Starbucks was just an example,
and this is a thing in all kinds of work environments. But it’s particularly prevalent in service
and caretaking jobs. So, teachers, doctors and nurses, waitstaff, and similar workers
in particular not only have to do the job part of their job, but also constantly manage
their emotions as well. And a lot of the aforementioned jobs tend to mostly be done by women. So,
when topics like this start to be discussed, people often talk about emotional labour as
something with a gendered element to it. I think this point here is what has most often
caused confusion and brought the term into this mainstream, bizarre discourse. So, we hear that “emotional labour” is
a thing, and we hear that it especially tends to impact people who are already marginalized.
Meanwhile, people are rightfully talking about the mental load that unbalanced social interactions
can create. The term “emotional labour”, if one didn’t know better, could kind of
sound like a term describing anything a person has to do mentally that sounds like work.
And I think this is where we get takes like “asking a friend to explain something to
you is forcing her to do emotional labour”. In actuality, that’s not the case, because
that’s not what “emotional labour” means. It’s not just meant to describe anything
emotionally exhausting; it’s specifically about, well, labour. So, I mean, that fairly
well answers the question of “are you doing emotional labour when your friends vent to
you”? The answer is no. But, while I don’t think that’s the term people should be using
to describe the issue, I don’t think that’s the real question. Despite the fact that the
wording is wrong, I think what people are really asking when they talk about this issue
isn’t “does this fit the definition of emotional labour?”. It’s “is this a
form of work that it’s bad to expect people to do”? And that’s a more complicated
question than simply a matter of definitions. So, from here on out, for clarity, when we
talk about these interactions, and templates to say no to these interactions, I’m going
to try and use the less common phrase “emotion work” instead. Unlike “emotional labour”,
“emotion work” specifically refers to managing your own and other people’s feelings,
and the work that goes into managing relationships. So: what’s up with those boundaries? Most new-seeming interactions that crop up
online aren’t, I think, the result of the Internet changing some fundamental nature
about how we behave. It allows us to connect with one another faster and on a much larger
scale than we used to in the past; ergo, most online interactions are simply faster and
larger-scale versions of interactions we’ve kind of always had. One of my favourite iterations
of this is this web page from some history professor, where it just details translated
graffiti from ancient Rome. It’s all stuff like “my girlfriend left me”, “this
person likes this person”, “the service here is terrible”, and dirty jokes, and
it reads like a message board today. So I think in a lot of ways, it hasn’t fully
changed how we interact, but just how quickly we interact and who we interact with. But I absolutely do think this expectation
of constant availability genuinely has shaped the way we experience relationships with each
other. It’s permeated all aspects of life, from people’s jobs to their friendships.
Because people constantly have their phones and computers on them, they’re often expected
to be available for contact 24/7. It’s gotten so bad that France has actually had to specifically
grant employees the right to ignore work emails after 6 pm, because otherwise you’re basically
on call all the time. Naturally, a lot of times when this critique
of constant availability is levelled, it tends to be levelled to refer to the kind of labour
we’re doing at work. Of course it’s not healthy to be expected to be contactable by
your boss literally all the time. You probably don’t even like your boss, and if you don’t
have a life outside work, you may barely have a life. But, much like people have used a term describing
paid work to describe the work we do in friendships, this might also refer to constant availability
in terms of interpersonal relationships. Think back to what I said earlier about people setting
up automated text replies for when they’re driving. I mean, you can’t even just Not
Reply for the amount of time it takes you to drive somewhere without having to justify
to people why you’re not available to them. And in interpersonal relationships, that can
sometimes be hard. Not because you don’t like your friends, but because having time
to yourself is healthy as well. Being able to take time for yourself without feeling
as though you’re betraying anyone who might possibly want to talk to you is fairly important. The reason I say this is not to go on some
alarmist rant about how technology and cell phones are dangerous and are destroying the
fabric of relationships and of society. Of course, being able to contact your friends
and family even when you’re apart has a lot of benefits as well. Sometimes you need
support, or want to make plans with someone, and it’s just nice to have the comfort of
knowing your friends are there when you are. Many of my friends live all over the world,
and we can’t see each other in person that often. It makes our friendships feel real
and alive when I can message my friend in Armenia and hear back just like that. It’s
amazing. But, it’s also true that there are negatives
to the expectation that as long as you have your phone on you, that means you’re available
to contact no matter what, and if you aren’t for any period of time, that’s something
you immediately have to justify. And I think that’s part of why we’re seeing tweets
suggesting templates for how to reply to a friend when they’re struggling but you aren’t
always able to drop everything and talk to them. Because as awkwardly robotic as those specific
templates ended up being, there is truth to the fact that sometimes, when a friend comes
to you and tells you they want to vent about something, you aren’t always going to be
able to reply in real time. Maybe you’re going through a crisis yourself, or helping
someone else, or you simply need your own time. “I’m actually at my emotional capacity”
definitely sounds like a funny response in certain contexts, but in some contexts, it
can also absolutely be a real thing. I think so many of us care about our friends
so deeply that we always want to be able to help them through anything and fix all their
problems, and there are many situations where that’s just not possible. I have a lot of
friends online who are going through really difficult stuff in their personal lives that
I can’t fix, and it’s often a source of stress for me. I can provide emotional support,
but I can’t literally go in there and solve their problems, and I hate that. And sometimes,
I find myself so disturbed by the fact that I can’t save my friends from their problems
that I drive myself crazy. And that doesn’t help them either. It’s really good and really
necessary to be there for our friends, but when we take no time to take care of ourselves
in the process, we can be stretched so thin that we can’t help them or ourselves. Of course, there are always going to be people
who take stuff like that in bad faith by taking it to an extreme. There are people who will
constantly ignore their friends in times of need and frame it as self-care. And, of course,
that’s wrong too, and I think that’s where a lot of concern over those text templates
comes from. It’s pretty worrying to think that if you need help, your friends will simply
rebuff you if they’re having a slightly bad day. But with social media creating a
sense of constant availability, there does exist this idea that if you aren’t able
to support your friend through anything at any moment, you’re being a bad friend. So
while those specific templates certainly don’t come off well, the principle behind it isn’t
based on nothing. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of
these responses are context-dependent. Not everyone is always going to be able to be in the emotional state to send out a chipper “hey! Is it okay if I vent for a couple moments?”, and
real interactions are often a lot messier than these Twitter templates make them out
to be. When these templates are accompanied by absolutist messages like “you should
never vent to your friend without asking for permission first or you’re a toxic person”,
or when responses have messages like “if you aren’t willing to drop everything for
your friends at any time, you’re not a real friend”, they ignore a lot of nuance. Different
situations will always necessitate different responses, and the same is true for different
people. Think of that message that’s like “are
you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?”. For many
people, that’s probably not going to be a very useful thing to hear. They already
know something is wrong, so a lot of people are just going to be worrying about what it
could be and imagining the worst. On the other hand, that might be a beneficial thing for
some people to hear. For some people, if you know bad news is coming, you might be able
to excuse yourself from whatever it is you’re doing, maybe get some rest, and then come
back to hear what’s going on. I am not one of those people. But I’m also not going
to presume they don’t exist. That being said, I don’t mean to say that
just because templates don’t work for every context and person, no one should use them
ever. Another interesting critique explaining why some people might use these templates
is that for a lot of people, it’s hard to say the right thing to someone who’s struggling,
especially if you aren’t sure how to help them. And for some people, especially if you’re
autistic or simply overwhelmed, having a response already written out that you can use to express
your feelings in an understandable way can be really helpful. I think this is a really
fair point, and while I don’t think it’s a good defense of every template- starting
a message to someone in crisis with “Hey! I’m so glad you reached out” does not
come off well- it does acknowledge that having a prewritten response to something doesn’t
mean you don’t personally care about your friend. Truthfully, I do think the fact that people
got so angry about these templates on Twitter is simply because the phrasing was awkward
and stilted, rather than their actual content. Although many of them suggested you should
customize them to your needs, you probably don’t want to come off as a customer service
representative when your friend is going through it. Using templates is necessary for some
people, but maybe we should be writing better ones. TL;DW Despite some very awkward framing on Twitter,
emotional capacity and emotion work are real things, and I think we should all take care
to make sure we’re looking after ourselves so that we’re equipped to help our friends.
Sometimes, that might mean saying “I’m really overwhelmed right now, are we able
to talk a bit later?”. That in and of itself doesn’t mean you don’t care about your
friends, and being on 24 hour call to instantly reply to every message isn’t a realistic
or healthy expectation for most people. But, of course, that doesn’t mean we have
no obligation to support our friends. Ultimately, a lot of these situations are genuinely context-dependent.
It’s wrong to say that you’re a bad friend if you aren’t always reachable, and it’s
wrong to say that you’re a bad friend if you don’t always ask before venting. Truthfully,
Twitter is kind of bad at nuance, and we probably should all just move to Livejournal or whatever. I also think on the whole, despite the fact
that many people misuse the term “emotional labour”, the fact that the same critiques
we apply to our work environments are now also being applied to our personal relationships
is really interesting. To me, this suggests that the most toxic elements of harmful work
cultures have become so prevalent that they’re seeping into other aspects of our lives. When
you’re expected to be available to your boss twenty four hours a day, seven days a
week, you’re being stretched so thin that it’s even harder to be available to your
friends for that same amount of time. When you spend all of your time at work pretending
to be happy to make a customer’s day marginally more “magical”, it’s even harder to
come home and appear “strong” for a friend that needs it. Truthfully, terrible jobs make
the rest of our lives terrible too. I also think that’s also a big reason why the term “emotional
labour” took off the way it did. When paid labour is demanding so much from us on the
emotional side of things, it can make it harder to manage those emotions in a personal context
as well. I think this is a case not just of confused terminology, but also of trying to analyze
how we’re all impacted by technology and capitalism. The wording might be off, but
emotional labour and emotion work can and do affect each other. Whether or not interpersonal relationships
count as “labour”, I think one fact that’s obvious is that the way actual labour is treated
in society is deeply concerning. Whether it’s forcing workers to swallow any sign of discomfort
to appear “authentically happy” all the time to the fact that when people are unable
to work, they’re often consigned to horrific poverty even if they get assistance, the culture
of both social interactions and actual paid interactions is particularly concerning, and these two things are fundamentally tied together. So I think it’s worth saying, together. When workers
come together and form unions and fight back against these conditions, it can make a difference
for generations to come; it’s the reason many of us have an eight-hour work day. If you’re working and you’re not unionized,
I would encourage people watching this to think about joining or creating one. It’s
not always easy to do so, especially when employers have a vested interest in making
sure people who work don’t come together and advocate for themselves. I’ve put some
resources in my description who want to learn more about unions and how to start them. Keep
in mind, I do live in Canada, and the resources are I’ve chosen based on what I know and
aren’t necessarily going to be generalizable to the laws and work cultures in every country.
I do hope they’re a starting point for some people, nevertheless. I watched this really good film on MUBI called
I, Daniel Blake. It’s a British movie about a man living in Newcastle who becomes sick
and can’t work, and it’s this story about how the systems we have right now are really
failing to support the most vulnerable people in society. It’s a really powerful story,
and I’m very glad I watched the film. It’s a fictitious story, but it’s a really good
and really real watch. It’s one of the reasons I’m really glad MUBI is my sponsor for this
video, because it gave me an opportunity both to watch the film and to share it with others.
I would really recommend it for anyone who wants to watch a powerful film that tells
an impactful story about how people in society should be better working to support one another. If you’d like to watch this movie, or any
other of the films MUBI has available, you can use my promo code, which is MUBI dot com
slash sarahz, for a month of great cinema for free. Basically, the way MUBI works is
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you get a new movie every single day, and there’s always a month’s worth of movies available every single time. It’s basically like being at a film festival that
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better in every conceivable way. Again, you can try a month of MUBI free at MUBI dot com
slash sarah z. On top of a big thank you to all my patrons,
I’d like to specially thank Adam Granger and Thomas P. Tkoch for joining my $20+ tier!

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. There are some people who will dump the majority of their life like you are their personal therapist and that can be extremely unhealthy. Caring about your friends is very important and even outside of the context of discussing hardships, there does seem to be an issue with emotional labor regarding heavy topics carrying into the emotional care you must have regarding friendships. Like sometimes you assume that because people are busy that even attempting to talk to someone maybe weekly or less is a problem.

    It's not that you aren't friends with the person, but sometimes you wonder if ignored messages in a product of being busy or maybe they hold your mutual friendship to a lesser extent, or both, or other unconsidered variables. And you wonder if you've put too much work into a relationship to now where you wonder if it is work for them simply to maintain interactions with them.

    Like it feels like I'm giving people "emotional labour" by virtue of wanting to have a closer friendship with a few and that my friendship is a bother in attempts of doing so. And then I honestly stop giving emotional work because at some point the friendship feels more one sided and then I begin to question whether or not I ruined what was there in some way.

  2. I think people (or at least me, certainly) react viscerally to the term "emotional labor" because what we hear is "it's exhausting to talk to you." Nobody wants to be told that. It's a real issue, though, or maybe a cluster of related issues; I think sometimes we come up with terms that are meant to help people understand a phenomenon and they end up causing more confusion or frustration. At least in the context you discuss in this video, wouldn't "I'm just emotionally overwhelmed right now and can't deal with anything else" suffice instead of something like "I am unprepared to perform emotional labor"?

  3. Review and make Nightvale theories. Stop teasing. Emotional labor in a non professional interaction because capitalism? Really? No, no, no. Technological advantage is just beyond the capacity of the weak developing minds of the next generation to withstand. It's getting kind of old people complaining because they don't know how to be patient or say no.

  4. I live with a chronic illness that has me having some very bad pain days. I've lost a lot of my friends because I simply could not keep up with their pace of communication. I'm mostly bed ridden and sometimes have to take a sedative for pain relief, so I can't be available 24/7 as is often expected. Even my family calls me a "bad texter" knowing my condition. It's very difficult to explain to people even if it seems obvious. I am pretty isolated now except for a few close friends who understand my situation and have patience.

  5. Thanks for blacking out usernames. I hope this community is better than going out and finding the people in question but, after contrapoints was attacked so much for a ten second voice over, I'm not so sure. Even if the community is good though, it's still good practice and I do see some people who should black out names not do it. So thanks, it's a minor thing that shouldn't be necessary but a good one that sadly is.

  6. So, if your emotions aren't commodified (produced primarily for exchange on a monetised market) and the work isn't alienated from you, it doesn't fit under the definition. The definition of "labour" in conversations of transaction is usually carrying a Marxian connotation, while "labour" in the casual sense is just another word for "work".

    Thanks for introducing "emotion work" to the conversation! I forgot that term.

  7. It's been fascinating for me to watch this discourse unfold because I was forced to reckon with all this in my personal life a year ago. I'm currently getting my master's in mental health counseling; I spend upwards of 20 hours a week listening to people grieve their fathers and recount traumatic assaults and describe intense suicidal ideation, and I can't react negatively during any of that. That is emotional labor; the service I am providing my clients is one of emotional neutrality in the face of their pain. At the same time I started seeing clients, I had to set boundaries around my availability to friends. A lot of my friends lean on me during their own mental health struggles, and I am truly grateful that they trust me enough to do that. But, when I was trying to juggle 43 hours of work and 12 hours of school and a nightmare commute every week, I just couldn't be available for every minor anxiety. Now, when I'm swamped and really don't have the time or energy to talk, I send back: "I can talk on ________. Are you okay?" If they're okay enough to wait a day or two, then that's what we do. Of course, if they said they weren't okay and weren't safe, I'd drop everything I could to help. The trick is you have to have conversations about boundaries; you can't copy-paste a solution to all your problems.

  8. Relationships are transactional. There’s no way around it. I think people should model their relationships however it works best for them and in the end, if things are not working out, you are always free to get out of a social contract. I might sound cold, but it really isn’t. I have friends and I very much care about them, but I wouldn’t expect them to stay if I didn’t provide any value to them. Now, this is where people get really upset. Word value carries cultural baggage and people tend to think it means certain acts or things because that’s what overall culture values. Value is about what confirms your self-image and most of us don’t even understand how we see ourselves, let alone think about it on regular basis.
    In conclusion, if you find yourself constantly in similar situations, with similar kinds of people, that’s for a reason. Something in your self-image is creating those situations and chasing those kinds of people. Reflect and try to truly understand why are you where you are. Your subconscious will resist, but push through it and make some tough decisions.

  9. I’m always available, but not in the social media aspect of availability. My friends are available, but only in the social media aspect of availability. This is a struggle for me, I’m fine with connecting to them through text, and hear their baggage, but I’m not at my best in texting them comfort. My comfort comes better off naturally for me in asking to call them or meet with them in person, but they don’t do well with physical contact really.

  10. I don't think venting to others is inherently bad for friends to do, per se, however I think there is definitely a balance: Friendship can be healthy and involve venting (Which they often do) as long as there's the expectation of reciprocity – the mutual agreement that venting can occur between the two, and the burden of listening to the other placed equally. That being said, I don't think it's "sociopathic" to be at your limit and be in a situation where listening to someone else's problems is going to be overwhelming for you. Perhaps the template format can sometimes be seen as cold, but I don't think it should be considered "abusive" or "sociopathic" if a friend tells you they're not in the place to give you advice. As someone who personally struggles with high-emotions situations, having friendships with people who are constantly venting to me can be extremely stressful. At the end of the day, you're not responsible for anyone else's happiness, and if they're putting you in a situation that compromises your own well-being, then in my personal opinion, it's completely reasonable to want to seek refuge, even if you love that friend dearly. The expectation that friends are your live-in therapists is ludicrous and often emotionally damaging.

  11. When you said the actual meaning of emotional labor it clicked for me how great of a term it is in it’s original form. I’m not a fan of the way it’s being used now though.

  12. Now, do you actually buy a topic-fitting awesome mug for each video? Or do you have a 100-year worth vault of them? I wager second…

  13. TL;DW at 17:00
    But you should watch the first 17 minutes too. If this video is too long for you, you've come to the wrong part bun of YouTube.

  14. I'm autistic. The templates were bad, not in concept but in execution. Pragmatics is something autistic ppl have trouble with unless they hang out with a lot of supportive non-autistic ppl frequently (and even then, it's a skill that needs constant upkeep).

    The pragmatics of the templates, which canNOT be fixed by simply changing the wording, need to be much more solid, and people need to explain to autistic ppl how the pragmatics will function in the context they intend to use the templates.

    Without explaining that, all these calls for "But autistic ppl need them!" ring very hollow to me. If people knew anything about autistic-vs-non-autistic differences, the last thing they'd do is give us half-baked impractical advice that we're less likely than other people to be able to troubleshoot and improve upon.

    If it's bad advice for non-autistic ppl, then it's even worse advice for autistic ppl, because most of the ppl autistic ppl encounter aren't autistic. It's setting us up for failure (unless the particular friend is aware of the therapy-esque pragmatics of these templates and endorses that style of communication– from my experience with something called "Compassionate Communication"[tm], most ppl see this style of speech as distancing, self-absorbed, defensive, etc…)

    Even if someone believes in these rather stilted, clinical, corporate (distancing, distancing, distancing) pragmatics, a crusader who's looking to change how most ppl communicate should probably pick their battles and at least warn their friends that this is how they intend to handle boundary conflicts/rejections.

  15. i'm 24 and i feel like a boomer whenever people talk about availability online. it's not at all uncommon that i don't respond to messages for a day or such not because i was doing something but just because i forgot to look at my phone.

  16. You know, when all those templates were cropping up I wasn't interpreting them as being totally literal. Maybe the OPs meant them to be, I'm not sure, but I was thinking they were kind of a general guideline for how to type out your own message — an MLA format of response texts, kind of. That's also what the word "template" evokes for me, frankly. When I saw so many people taking them 100% literally, I was confused and irritated. Just goes to show how right you are about Twitter not being the place for nuance!
    Also, I loved this video!

  17. i find it weird that i heard you explaining emotional labour in relation to jobs and my first thought was "hey! im good at hiding my emotions for the sake of other peoples happiness! i do it all the time! id be perfect for a job like that!"
    …yeah i may be getting the wrong message from this video 🙁
    EDIT
    i quickly realized that my issue with the whole 'emotional labour' thing is that my abusive ex-friends blatantly ignored my timezone and threatened to leave me if i wasnt online 24/7. it wasnt just for venting, it was for actual talking, and online roleplaying using the fictional characters we created. i felt like if i didnt communicate with them all the time, i would be a bad friend and therefore, a bad person. but the problem was, i let them take breaks for school and work, but they didnt for me, so it was more an all take no give relationship on their part and an all give no take relationship on my part. when you made the comment about being online 24/7 my brain went back to that specific time and… well… to cut a LONG story short i suddenly realized exactly WHY the relationship was abusive (well, one of the many reasons but thats a story for another time)

  18. The emotional labour of the customer service persona isn't necessarily the worst, what's worse is being in severe pain and having a retiree with literal hours of free time getting mad at you for not being able to do a new (to you) order process in 30 seconds…

  19. I think texting if you're in a bad emotional space should be avoided if possible, anyway. It sucks to sit on the other side of a phone waiting for a text and because you can't see/hear the person and have no context for why they're taking time to message back, you just feel more isolated. Calling or walking to people is better if possible, because it also just gives you something to do other than sit and stew

  20. Thanks for explaining what emotional labor is, and when it's actually applicable. Now that I understand the actual meaning, I realize from my own personal work experiences how under-talked about an issue it is.

  21. I absolutely think the biggest problem with those templates was that they were poorly written. The hr speak was bad enough but they're also weirdly braggy (sorry, I'm already helping someone else in crisis). The first one in particular just needs to be more specific. Like, "can I talk to you about ____?" would do the job fine.

  22. [and this comment's just for that sweet sweet YT algorithm, since this video is a well-thought-out take on a complex and concerning issue, and I want more people to stumble across it]

  23. the idea that spending hours at a time talking to someone to make them feel better doesnt take some amount of a toll on you is moronic, if you stay up all night trying to convince someone not to kill themselves (or even just thru the day) it' exhausting, working your brain so much for so long

  24. both me and my friends have a lot of mental health problems, but we manage to keep it healthy and simple

    “i’m having a hard time, is it okay if I vent to you? I understand if not”
    either “yes totally, whats up?” or “i’m so sorry, I love you but i’m not up for it right now”
    then you react accordingly

  25. Oh BOY, if someone was like, "are you ready to hear something that'll hurt your feelings?" I think I'd… have trouble dealing with that. I do try to ask first if someone's up to take some criticism, but I also try to say what it's about and how I'm feeling about that thing in the same message, so they don't have to sit around wondering if I hate them.

  26. Being autistic, I do a lot of scripting, but that one was worded so poorly it just straight up defeats the entire point of what it's trying to do 😅 "can I vent to you rn" is good & I find it also helps to make it less awkward for both sides to add if you just want a listening ear, a distraction or if you need someone to help you work out a solution or something.

  27. I think the most important thing to realize is that there is no universal solution because every person, friendship, and situation is different. There isn't a single rule that can be applied to all relationships and interactions because humans are way messier than that! The most important thing to do is to discuss these things with your friends and be open and honest to figure out what works for you.
    For me, I am okay with receiving messages from my friends at any time, but I make it clear that I'm not always able to read and respond. Sometimes I'm in class, sometimes I'm asleep, sometimes I'm going through a major depressive episode and do not have the energy to talk to anybody at all. Sometimes I spend the whole day knitting while watching TV and completely forget that checking my phone is a concept that exists. My friends know this, and know that they can send me something whenever, and if I'm not answering immediately that doesn't mean I'm ignoring them, just that I haven't read it yet. And the understanding is mutual – I know not to expect immediate answers from them either.
    I have ADHD and my best friend is autistic, and we live in different countries+timezones, which means we both have a tendency to send each other multiple messages in a row in a way that's not always seen as socially appropriate, but we have an understanding and we know what works for us. A couple weeks back another friend of mine (who doesn't know my best friend) saw that I had gotten 30 messages in a row from her and they assumed it must be an emergency or something uncomfortable/annoying for me, but that isn't the case. Sometimes I'll be offline for a couple hours and come back to 30 messages from her, but those messages aren't her desperately trying to reach me or demanding stuff from me – it might be 5 messages about something cute her dogs are doing, 15 about an interesting Wikipedia article she came across, and 10 about a weird thing her dad did, and she never expected an immediate response from me or for me to individually respond to every message. The reverse also happens, with me sending her 30 messages in a row. This isn't something that would be normal or comfortable in all friendships or relationships, and it doesn't have to be – it's just what works for this particular friendship, with our particular personalities and situation.

  28. I think there are some cases like this where it's fine to set boundaries, like when someone is constantly venting extreme stuff and never asking how you're doing or listening to you. But I feel like a lot of people do see their friendships as work and only want relationships that serve them all the time.

  29. As always appreciate your nuance and Pro-union viewpoint. As a therapist, the whole "template" discourse was super tiring. Setting boundaries in your work and personal lives is vital to your mental health and shockingly it's also complicated. Who knew twitter sucked so much.

  30. Sound baffles please. They're relatively cheap and a nice gesture to show that you appreciate your audience.

  31. “Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men's behinds. Farewell, wondrous femininity!”

    —pretty much what I post online

  32. I never knew about setting up boundaries when i was a kid (still barely do) which led me to some toxic friendships. Like my closest friend pressured me into answering her about a traumatic event i had, even though i was having an anxiety attack and treating me like a therapist 24/7

    So when i finally heard about it, i didn't know how to express myself which resulted in a poor first attempt. I'm still bad at setting boundaries so i found the template to be a helpful guideline.

  33. I don't usually vent for this very reason. It sucks to bottle things up, but I usually try to offset it by writing or doing pixel art. The only time I vent is if someone approaches me and asks if I'm okay, and if they say that they're able to spare a minute.

  34. Great video, I like how this and "Not Like the Other Girls" are a form an anti-reaction. Like, taking a meme that's popular on the internet and acknowledging the bad things about the meme as popularly conceived while ultimately showing the good roots behind it.

  35. I'm curious to see what everyone has to say about this. I work in technical theatre. Every night after a show, we get an email about things that happened in the previous night's show that either were different or need to get fixed before the next show (scratch in paint, tear in costume, stuff like that). This email can be sent out at midnight or later, and the next show could be a student matinee at 10 am (not often, but it happens). What do people think are reasonable expectations in my position to set boundaries of "I won't answer emails between x time and y time" because constantly waking up to problems I need to fix is exhausting.

  36. me: calling ambulance

    dispatcher: hello, what is your emergency

    me: are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?

  37. Call me a sociopath, but I have never had an "emotional labor" issue.

    Reacting positively to my surroundings, being nice to everyone, attentively listening to any issues one may bring to me, and responding to prompts have always been as easy as breathing no matter what has been on my mind. Indeed, I have found that the best way to improve my mood is through these sorts of casual everyday interactions. Takes nothing out of me whatsoever.

  38. me: calling ambulance

    me: help me I've just broken my leg!
    dispatcher: hey! I'm so glad you reached out. I'm actually at capacity right now and I don't think I can hold appropriate space for you. Do you have someone else you could reach out to?

  39. I never quite got why people expect someone to be on call for emotional support 24/7. As someone who a shocking number of people turn to emotional support (I seriously don't understand why), sometimes you just need to curl up into a ball and sleep. You can only take so much in a day and when you're expected to take on the problems of other people- especially if you're part of the support network of multiple people- it can get to be too much. Sometimes, you just gotta say, "hey look I'm sorry, but not right now." That doesn't make you a bad friend; expecting that a person should be on call to listen to you 24/7 kind of does though.

  40. I do reckon it's the phrasing that made people flip out, I doubt most people would think saying "Bro, are you cool to talk about something heavy rn?" or "Wanna hear about the day I've had 😩?" are unreasonable or psychopathic things to say to a friend, and I think a lot of people would also respond fairly well to "That's a bit heavy for me rn" or "I'm not really in a good place for this convo rn".

  41. come for the discussion of online interactions, stay for the information to help laborers unionize
    never change, Sarah

  42. Love this video. The clarity you can get from a long form youtube video is much better than from a heated tweeter exchange filled with grammatical errors. Almost as if tweeter is bad or something

  43. I feel like when you’re someone’s friend, you’ve agreed that you will try to figure out what your communication will be like to make you both happy, comfortable, and better together to varying degrees, depending on the kind of relationship you want. You’ve agreed to build a very specific context, like a miniature culture (sometimes a really basic and simple one!) for just the two of you. Doing that involves communicating, and forgiving, and learning from, times when exchanges cause problems. Once you get the sense the other person doesn’t really want to take your feelings into account – as opposed to just still needing to learn what you’re like – or once you decide you aren’t willing to do what maintains that relationship or mutual respect, then a friendship can turn sour. Until then, you’re always both still working on it; what bonds you is your commitment to the relationship, your interest in the other person’s happiness, and your faith in their interest in yours. So as long as you’ve got that going, just try to figure out what’s going to work best for both of you, and do it honestly enough so that when the other person asks, you can sincerely tell them you tried.

  44. 19:25 Great, now I'm imagining the timeline where an 8-hour work week is normal and provides a decent standard of living.

  45. im lucky, me and my (pretty small, but not tiny) friendgroup can occasionally interact heavy topics or thoughts, and we all basically agree to help eachother out, but not be too constant about it, spreading the "support" over our whole group, a little for each person (or 2 or 3 of us listen to 1 who needs help) means we dont really "wreck" eachothers days

    but I remember several people ive met online, made friends with by being nice and supportive, then I become their "emotional dump", I try hard to be there for them as much as I can, but Ive had several go mia and havent heard from them, and feel a bit bad and worried (more so back when it happened) but I still occasionally think about the 3 people on reddit, and 2 steam friends who blocked me after a while, and I dont know why

  46. There’s a lot of comments on how customer service jobs “ask too much” of their employees by asking them to smile and be polite. Like???? You’re in the customer service industry?? Your job IS to make customers satisfied!! If you’ve had a bad day, don’t take it out on some random customers, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your personal life, you need to be able to leave it at the door or take the day off if it’s too emotionally difficult. It’s not hard to be polite, if it’s such a huge issue that you need to smile, look for another job that isn’t heavily focused on customer service like retail or fast food

  47. I think of labor as effort. Everything I do is labor. Whether I label a particular action as labor depends on whether I think the effort involved is relevant. When I pick up a pen from my desk, there is labor in it, but usually not effort worth mentioning. If I have to pick up ten thousand more pens, maybe the labor of picking up the first one will be relevant after all.

    Also I think there's a lot of overlap between labor that is physical, emotional, intellectual, creative, etc.. Something that is primarily physical labor can also be taxing in other ways, and being tired in one sense often means being tired in other ways as well. Personally, I find it difficult to be creative when I am physically exhausted.

  48. The extreme result of this emotional labor mindset is that a person who is approached by a struggling friend seeking support can now claim to be a harassed victim.

  49. Due to working in customer service….I tend to talk about problems in a customer service way. I don't mean to. It's just how it comes out. I'm so used to 1. being perky 2. being professional to the point of roboticness and 3. ALWAYS first call resolve the issue. Number 3 is the worst one, I think.

  50. Ofc you're paid for just the job description and nothing extra… Which includes emotional labour.

    And then there's all the Boomers of the world who ignore the emotional labour required for service jobs and believe wages should be kept low because "anyone can do them", often being the kind of customers that require the most intensive emotional labour. YOU TRY PUTTING UP WITH YOUR OWN BULLSHIT, KAREN.

    ….that got away on me.

  51. The problem with templates is that they're well… templates.
    As someone with an avoidant personality disorder the message "Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you," would be much more troubling to me than just getting the news straight away.

  52. Are you prepared to hear me ramble about my ~autistic experience~?

    I still have a difficult time conceptualizing what a ‘friend’ is. Not to suggest I don’t have friends, but I wouldn’t be able to articulate what makes a person a friend or which people in my life are friends and which are acquaintances. I say this to indicate that for me, and I imagine a lot of autistic people, the idea of the "right way" to interact with a friend is troubled from the very start. How do I go about applying these norms if I don't even know who to apply them to?

    A lot of social education for autistic people (and others with various social-emotional challenges) is based on templates (I'm thinking particularly of the work of Michelle Garcia Winner and Leah M. Kuypers). They aren't nearly as formalized as these examples, but you can certainly draw parallels (e.g. at emotional capacity = red zone). Thing is, much of social interaction is already template-based, at least loosely. The only difference is if the template is actually perceived as such. Think on this: is a knock-knock joke a social template? I would argue yes! Now I know to ask, verbally or mentally, "who's there?" when I hear someone at the door.

    The suggestion that employing templates in social situations is "robotic" is particularly disparaging for autistic people, who are already referred to in that way for a tendency for logical thinking and reduced emotional affect. For me personally, social communication is a skill that I've put a lot of effort into developing and cherish the ability to use, and to see that work and care be dismissed because I used templates to get there is a special kind of disheartening.

    Oh boy, there's still so much I could talk about here! But for the sake of all of our headspaces, I'll wrap it up here for now.

  53. I had NO idea that any of this was going on. 0_0 But I just have SOOOOOOO many thoughts. First, I continue to be baffled by this expectation to be constantly available. I think most people in my life recognize that I am somebody who responds in their own time so they know not to expect instant response. But I guess they do have this expectation from other people which is SO INCONSIDERATE. People could have all sorts of things going on and expecting someone to respond to you right away (unless it's urgent) is SO SELF-CENTERED. Second, I do happen to be someone friends confide it, get advice from, vent to, etc. And I guess they usually ask "when is a good time to call?" Similarly when I need to vent to a friend, I ask them when is a good time to call. My friends and I are always aware that we are all very busy and we could have a lot going on. So none of us think someone has so little going on in their lives that they can drop everything at a moment's notice. Third, what is this notion that when you need to vent you need to do it immediately? Fourth, do people actually vent over text?????

  54. I always answer when I want, never immediately after. My friends and family quickly learned it and of course I've been criticized for it. "You're not a real friend, you're don't really care" and so on. But I just keep doing my thing and answer at the pace that is comfortable for me.

  55. I think a big thing being left out of this conversation is the deference between introverts and extroverts. As an introvert, even social activities were I'm enjoying myself the entire time, like a session of D&D, can leave me emotionally exhausted by the end of it. Meanwhile, and extrovert can feel complete refreshed from such an activity. As someone with a family member who struggled suicidal thoughts, I can definitely say that heavy conversations about such things can be the most stressful and exhausting moments of your life. As much as I can understand someone needing to talk with a friend, I also understand how much of an ordeal these conversations, even with someone you love, can be.
    Ultimately, both actions are made with the attempt to preserve ones mental health, and human ego often causes both parties to perceive themselves as the victim. And because negative stimuli causes a stronger reaction than positive stimuli, we assume malicious or apathetic intent.
    We often think of ego in terms of pride, of being trapped in your own head do to a perverse love of oneself. I've seen the opposite be true, were self hatred and loathing can cause someone to be blind to the feelings of others, even when those feelings are of love and compassion. When someone assumes the worst of you, when you can't run anymore and get called lazy, it can hurt a lot. Just like how the person in so much pain they can't empathize with you, the pain caused from a love one so easily assuming the worst from you can make it hard to keep emphasizing. When your in pain, to feel the negative emotions of another becomes a way to invite more pain.
    When two people are carrying rocks on there shoulders, I think it's a good thing for the person carrying less to take on some of the others load, but when both are at there limit, asking one to carry more rocks is sentencing them to get crushed. Yet, when someones carrying so may rocks they get crushed any second, and the other can't carry any more, someone ends up crushed. Both people see themselves as the victim, and the other as someone trying to hurt them. They aren't, however. They're just people acting in the needs of self preservation. And not everyone is equally qualified to carry the load.

  56. This was a great breakdown. I've been struggling a little with boundaries lately, and the freakouts about both sides of this discussion made me feel like I really didn't understand anything. Thanks for this.

  57. All the criticism of the templates boiled down to "fuck you for struggling to articulate yourself". People ask all the time before unloading some heavy shit on their friends face to face, but anything to shit on neurodivergent people who may need a prompt to build on I suppose

  58. Are you in the right emotional space to receive information that might make you want to unionize and resist capitalism's toll on our daily lives?

  59. damn love latestage capitalism where even the most basic of social interactions has become toxic and inhuman

  60. I have had issues in the past with people who expected me to quickly respond to texts, even if it was during work. I tend not to answer messages quickly anyway, but I once had someone call my office phone to ask why I wasn’t answering their texts

  61. As an autistic individual I rely quite a bit on planned responses, better than not being able to figure out something to say or text in the moment.

  62. i was recently involved in a situation where a good friend of mine lied to me by omission about something going on in their life. they thought they were protecting/not unfairly burdening me with their problem by not telling the truth. long story short, the fallout of this created a domino effect that fucked my life over for months, when (and i told them this up front) the reality is that if they had just told me the truth to begin with, i wouldn't be in in sticky situation i was. i have other friends with whom i'll basically be like, "do you need to vent?", "can we talk?", etc., and we know each other so well that i can trust them to give me an honest answer. there are times when my friend will say no, and i'll say something like "whatever you need, i'm here", and i'll do my best to help them is a way that doesn't make either of us uncomfortable. i think the bottom line with stuff like this is trust. if you can't trust a friend to be honest with you about where they're at, even in a vague way where you're not prying, no amount of creepy robotic formalization is going to make the situation any better. i get the sentiment behind these prompts, but ultimately, i feel like it just distances you from the person further and reinforces the toxic idea that your friends are supposed to be your therapist.

  63. I think that emotional labor outside of a job is a fake meme. And the templates are making it a real thing. Think about it, what if you incorporate them? If somebody asks you if you're ready for a vent and you reply "yes", then you're simply agreeing to a certain behavior on your part and lose your authenticity. That is what Starbucks employees may complain about. It's okay if you don't feel like smiling, but when you are forced to, you become fake and it's a burden. It's additional burden to comply with some rules that rob you of who you genuinely want to be. It's like being asked to politely laugh after a joke.

  64. Emotional boundaries are weird. They are certainly a learning curve. I feel that we are all just trying to do our best that we can but it is integral to communicate everything. Expectations in a relationship and boundaries are both equally as important to communicate. Because in the end, the way that each person navigates through relationships is different.

  65. I have an even better strategy, which involves pressing the "log out" button and just waiting a random amount of time, then trying to log on again.

  66. thank you for explaining the history and proper use of the term 'emotional labor' vs. 'emotion work', citing your sources is feminist praxis af

    also the examples you provided that people often point to as emotional labor also have names: the "third shift" (naomi gerstler, building on hochschild) refers to the managerial and care work that take a mental toll on women in the home, and "epistemic exploitation" (nora berenstain) is a theory of epistemic injustice describing how the dominant/oppressor class demand that marginalized folks educate them about their oppression/marginalization

    all of these were recent coinages but audre lorde, who eventually created a framework of "self-care", is an ideological foremother to a lot of these ideas we're still exploring today, and it's interesting the ways they've been distorted but are all still related to one another

  67. “The term actually has a different meaning than how it’s commonly used” no matter what the term is, this sentence is always incorrect. If a meaning is used commonly, that IS a meaning of the term. Language is cool, recognize its evolution.

  68. Sometimes it takes me a while to respond not because I’m busy, but because one of the great things about texting is that you can decide your response more carefully. Instead of immediately having to respond like in face to face or phone conversations you can actually think about it for a little.

  69. I'm not obsessed with my phone. I prefer to be on my laptop and write, so my phone is away from me most of the day. So I often don't answer immediately, but I will once I see the notification in between my 25 minute intervals of writing sprints. Because of this, I have lost many friends who didn't like that I would respond to them 24/7 INSTANTLY and I don't really get that? Like, we're friends and I love you, but if I'm working, I'm working. If it's an emergency, they'll call me. That's the only time I'll drop my shit to pick up the phone. If people I'm friends with can't respect that, then I don't think they'll ever get my number/social medias.

    Not to mention my depression makes it hard for me to do…anything, and I am a very empathetic person. People's shit really bothers me and I used to do literally anything I could to try to make my friend feel better, regardless of how I felt. Of course, in my senior year of high school, I have dropped this bad habit and focused more on myself. If I can't handle my own shit on a certain day, I won't take on anyone else's.

  70. Email is not correspondence. “I don’t owe you a response to every email.” Texts are correspondence not conversations. “You’ll have a response but not quickly.” Conversation is conversation. “Make eye contact and respond to what the other is saying. “

  71. Remember that friendship’s purpose is to provide a net positive to both peoples lives. It is not a substitute for therapy.

  72. Great video! Also nothing against the sponsor, but anyone interested in I, Daniel Blake it's also available on Netflix at least in the U.S

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