The Shout it Out! Project

I can't decide if this idea is brilliant or terrible, but it'd make a great basis for a thesis paper...

I was over at deviantART surfing for artistic inspiration (and finding it, and wondering why I don't draw every minute of my waking life) when I came across this, a project called Shout it Out!

It's all about writing down on paper the things you don't usually say about yourself - the good, the bad, the quirky - the things that you keep hidden for fear that people will judge you poorly, look at you differently, or ignore what you have to say. It's the chance to shout out who you are as a person, proudly and without fear. Because it's a deviantART project, and because deviantART is geared towards artists, the Shouts are all heavily influenced with each person's own artistic style.

The artist who started it says this:

"Someone told me once, that she believed we make life hard for ourselves by keeping things bottled up inside. Whether it be due to shame, embarrassment, fear, pride or some other emotion we don't share the things that are on our hearts like we should. We wallow in them and never realize that everyone else feels the same way. Our conflicts, our dreams, and the things that make us who we are should be free to be spoken out loud."

When I first found out about this, I loved it. It seems like much of the conflict we have as people stems from a lack of understanding, the not wanting/not trying to get to know each other for who we really are. The more you know a person, I am convinced, the more you will be sympathetic to their point of view, even if you don't agree with it. You will be more likely to compromise, or at least stand your ground with kindness, less likely to hate. I believe that communication without competitiveness is a powerful tool. Knowledge to understanding, understanding to love. It was one of my reasons for beginning to blog, and I wrote about it in my first post.

But as I read through some individual Shouts, I began to have doubts. Many of the artists on this site are teens and college age, lots of angst and emo, and no shortage of frustrated sexuality. People seem drawn to revealing their brokenness, their struggles with depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts. There were too many of these in the few samples I read, and I wondered, is it more common to find these dark thoughts in artists? Is it because of their age? Is the next generation struggling more than my own?

Other Shouts were bursting with angry thoughts. The freedom opened floodgates for the type of hate and stereotyping normally held back by our PC culture. One person admitted to being fascinated with Nazism. Another mentioned that they partly enjoyed causing people pain. Reading through these made me increasingly gloomy. True glimpses into the thoughts of others, and yet so much darkness to be seen, so much anger.

And so I wonder... is the Shout it Out! project a good thing? Does revealing yourself free you, or does it make you turn your focus inward too much? If your hidden thoughts include hate, is there anything to be gained by revealing them to people who do not know you, who never will? At that point, the thought becomes stronger than the invisible internet person, and my idea of knowledge leading to love requires a living, breathing person. A person can change, can be reasoned with, but an isolated thought is immutable. It can be ignored or rejected but never killed, and in repetition without argument only gains strength.

Which leads me to think that Shouting it Out best serves a purpose only among people who know you, a tool to help people better understand you. But if you knew who was to see it, would you be honest? Would you expose your deepest self? Wouldn't you still hold back, defeating the whole point?

I'm torn. I can't decide. If you guys have any thoughts, please weigh in.


Erin said...

It has been my experience that people don't often keep the positive things about themselves completely hiddden, so it would figure that the Shout It Out program would be filled with negativity and hard to handle discoveries about people. I think though, that if you truly want to understand, love and sympathize with a person you need to take the bad with the good and not go from "you can tell me anything, I just want to understand you better" to "I must reason with you and change your mind." Everybody has dark thoughts from time to time. Maybe if we just acknowledge that it isn't the dark side that rules the person (we hope), we will find acceptance for the whole person, not just the personality facets that we like the best. :)

And on a lighter note, might it be possible that some of the entries were intended to shock the readers and might not be literally true? :)

Kt said...

Yes, that's a very good point. "Hidden" often equals "negative," although I think we all have plenty of positive secrets that are never shared simply for lack of a good forum.

I'm not suggesting that understanding can only be achieved by ignoring what we do not agree with. No, quite the opposite. Nor do I think that I should shirk the thought of changing anyone's mind, since we are all constantly changing ourselves and each other with each interaction, whether we want to or not. But in reading some of the Shouts, I wonder whether people are cleansing themselves of negativity or reveling in it, and it's the latter possibility that gives me qualms.

I would love to do a study on the history of graffiti, self-expression, and cultural identity, especially in the context of our society's struggle with identity. That's an aside.

And yeah, I'm sure some people were fibbing for the shock value, although that sort of defeats the entire point of the project.

-W- said...

Another thing to think about is simply maturity. I think a lot of young people find they have quirks, and then they don't know what to do with them. They get sucked into thinking about them and painting them with broad one-colored brushstrokes. I can remember being fascinated by dictators when I was younger and having all kinds of obsessions with power and control. My diary entries read like a conversation with Muad Dhib. But then I grew up and realized I just like to be in charge and that I didn't have a lot of good leadership role models.

I have a feeling a lot of younger art-types are drawn to this Shout-Out program because as a younger person, you're a little bit obsessed with the creation of your own self. This site is probably incredibly tempting as a place to work through things. And yes, to revel in negativity. It's something delicious to the "tortured" soul. I sympathize. I can think of some open-mic nights I went to and subjected my friends to my personal torments when I was in college. In the same vein, I imagine most of these people will look back in a few years and feel mostly ... embarassed.

As a member of the older-and-wiser set, you and I are probably better off skipping out on this kind of thing, unless we are willing to be gentle mentors. These kids probably need somebody like that, though.

As to your aside, if nobody in a Culture Studies program has written that disseration (graffiti, culture and identity), I will eat Velveeta. Yuck.

Kt said...

Uh-oh. What does it say to my maturity level that I really want to do one of these things? Really, so we ever outgrow our need to express ourselves?

I would love to see a Shout Out kind of thing for everyone I know. Imagine the things I could learn that I wouldn't know otherwise? I think the end poster would be drastically different from age to age, but surely even we older and wiser could make use of such a forum?

Though if I ever work with kids again, I might try to incorporate this as a project.

Erin said...

I think too, that there is trust in the anonymity a person can have on the internet. It is a lot easier to reveal things about yourself if you are reasonably sure people won't hold you personally accountable for them, which is what it sounds like the Shout It Out program was people the chande to go "okay there's this part of me that I don't understand so I'm just going to put it out there anonymously in the hope of finding out that other people feel that way too. I don't need to know names or see faces, I just need to know that I am not alone."

To your growing up=growing out of the need to express ourselves, I think it is both yes and no. I think there is an aggressiveness to self expression that people gradually grow out of. I know that I no longer feel the need to shout out "this is who I am!" or center myself around one facet of my personality/personal taste. I'm pretty content to just be who I am and let it show by itself, but that's an entry for my own blog :)

Oh and -W- you can remain Velveeta free. I worked with a girl in Vegas who did her Cultural Anthroplogy thesis on taggers and tagging. (also, in terms of art, there is some graffiti out there that I would much rather look at than at least a quarter of the art that hangs in fine art galleries now). Also I think there are several books written on the subject :)

Kt said...

But the anonymity of the project sort of makes it useless for the participants, don't you think? They would rarely get feedback on their own personal expression. Maybe the purpose comes with the accumulation of many contributions. No one will say to you, "Oh, I feel the same way," but you can go around and read how other people are feeling. Yes, I could see that.

That changes my mind on one point. I thought such a project would be no good at all unless you knew who was making it and could give them feedback, but now I see otherwise.

At some point between the teen years and retirement, passion dies. Yiy, that sounds depressing when I write it like that, but think about it - aren't youth generally considered to be more passionate and idealistic? Don't adults find it more difficult to pick up and change, be it lifestyle or mindset? Perhaps this is just a stereotype, but if not, I wonder if it's a path to be avoided. Maybe it varies from person to person.

Me, I'm afraid of losing the ability to be passionate, which is why part of me still wants to shout out and express. I'm not sure if it's something I should ever change. Be who I am, but be it loudly.

Foo, I'm not surprised such a thesis has already been written, but here's an interesting question: What was the *first* dissertation ever written about graffiti? I'll bet that would be pretty interesting.

-W- said...

Man, I really have to disagree about the passion thing. I think that youth's bluster and boil can come across as great passion while the activity of those in their prime years comes across as dull, steadfastness. All that bluster and rage usually comes from frustrated outlets, though, not any more depth of feeling. I think those of us in our thirties and forties have just reached a point in our lives when we have finally acquired the skills and abilities to *do* something about what we care about.

Also, I don't think people outgrow their need to express themselves, but I have a feeling that a lot folks our age have used a lot of outlets by now to hone their message. And there's a little bit of a 'been-there, dealt-with-that' thing going on. I mean, ten years ago, me and everybody else I knew was going "My god, I'm a bisexual! I'm a total freak and pariah!" And now it's like, whatever, do some volunteer work and stop the right wing if you're worried about your sexual proclivities.

Huh. I think the whole theme of this comment is that when you become a "grown-up," you focus a lot more on doing stuff and a lot less on whining. =)

Kt said...

The paper just ran a pertinent article on artist, old vs young. The young are typified as geniuses, often planning out their work; the old are "masters," more comfortable with experimentation. (Which is odd, since you'd think it'd be the other way around.) I guess it's just another example of how a passion develops over a lifetime.

W, I'm glad you disagree, because the thought of losing passion at some point in one's life is not a happy prospect. At some point, the factor of different personalities comes into play more than age. For example, I never went through a freak-and-rebel phase, though I know many who did. And there are many an adult who shouts out more than their peers - the personality type that does street art, or goes skydiving, or becomes a politician. Perhaps this kind of graffiti would favor a study of character, rather than age.

Whoo! I'm next to tapped out on the topic!

Penelope said...

I think that knowing who is going to read it helps deal with the subjects that have been opened. I made two of them, so far. And even though there are things on them that I am sometimes worried about people reading, I embrace it, because I know that people will learn to understand me better if they know what goes on in my head.
And I think the whole point of the Shout it Out! Project is to not hold back, no matter who might see it.

Sam said...

i think that the shout it out project is mainly for things that you have bottled up inside, which are usually negative and self centered. i dont think that it has anything to do with youth or emo-ness, because im not even going to go into the emo thing. i think it has to do with passion. and often times passion is the polars of emotion. the very bad, and the very good.