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So It Goes: An Ode To ‘This Isn’t Happiness’

September 24, 2011

The internet has given rise to an incalculable number of esoteric inventions, but one that I appreciate multiple times daily is the “curated” tumblog. I’m talking about one in particular, which of course is thisisnthappiness.

Where else on the internet can you turn when you are up to your ears in the optimism of others? What other photo blog deals directly in the dark, whether its images are funny, beautiful, or terrifying, as they often are?

There is no central theme to thisisnthappiness except a broad approach described by one of the only bits of text present on the website at all times: “Art, Photography, Design, & Disappointment.” Within this broader perspective emerge mini themes–smoking, chicks wearing socks, Calvin and Hobbes, Batman–which appear with some amount of regularity. But largely the content, updated daily, is unique unto itself. Then every once in a while, during a holiday perhaps, or after a major world event, images will appear with a perspective on the current–a perspective that often reflects the frustrations of its viewers, both necessary and unique in its dark and artistic bluntness.

But thisisnthappiness is not some posterboard for all of the sad baggage of one disillusioned man. Far from it; the blog is thoughtful, careful, and not without humor. Indeed, the curator Peter Nidzgorski’s fingerprints are essential to the website; not only does he select the content and provide the captions[1], but he also creates many of the images himself. Whether through a striking visual, a hidden punchline, or simply, as in the case of the recent “sex positions for the lonely and loveless” a skewed take on a joke, there is always more depth than depression.

Over the years thisisnthappiness has become a part of my daily ritual. I would venture to say that every time I open my laptop, I open tabs for gmail, facebook, and thisisnthappiness. Its content is updated often enough that there is usually something new every time I check, but not often enough to make it impossible to keep up. Its selections are carefully made, unlike the deluge of information that is Twitter, or some other, lesser photo blogs.

Thisisnthappiness reflects the tastes of one individual curator, but appeals to the humanity in all of us. The world as reflected in this blog is a stunning and surprising place, a world whose beauty and brutality are delivered without consideration for those in it. Still, the effect of the website is not a depressing one.[2] To see so much darkness in one place is to understand that others need this kind of website as badly as you do, that others share your perspective, your love of the sublime, perhaps your depression. Paradoxically, by appealing to us when we’re alone on New Years or when we just need something good to look at on Monday morning, what thisisnthappiness creates is a feeling of connection, a source of possible optimism in a strange, crazy world. So it goes, and so do we.

[1] The captions are often the very source of the punchline of a post, and within these, recurring themes—“Might as well,” “Never Quit,” “I Feel Fine/Nothing”—also emerge.

[2] As the website reminds us, “There is, after all, a kind of happiness in unhappiness…”-Jonathan Franzen


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