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Losing Our Emotion — Is it Now Cool to be a Flatliner?

lara stone

There is a noticeable decline in the amount of emotion we use when we communicate with each other. It seems that somehow, there is an accepted perception that showing feelings of sentimentality, passion, hurt, and shame is…embarrassing (even weak).

A  flatliner is a more recent term that is used to describe a person who expresses himself through emotionless communication through:

1) matter-of-fact texts and emails,

2) robotic responses by companies during a crisis, and

3) benign stone-faced speakers at press conferences dealing with controversial topics.

And so aside from the sensationalism we see in the media today, the other end of the spectrum is pressure to deal with life on a personal and professional level without showing signs of being moved emotionally. As flatliners adopt the philosophy that the purse strings and the ego are best protected by staging”Spock-like” attitudes and  Dragnet–“Just the Facts Ma’am ”  approaches, we fall into the world of  the film set of The Stepford Wives, going about our business while being numb to the world around us. The absence of emotion in today’s world has its advantages, but something is lost along the way and we may find that we miss understanding the true sentiment behind the message. We are human after all…and the capacity to experience emotion on a high level is what differentiates us from the other species.

As I write articles on style, I stop to understand how “flatliner mentality” may affect how we dress. Of course our mood and the occasion plays the main role in affecting the way we dress. If we are in a festive mood, we dress with more flair. If we are attending a more somber event, then we dress conservatively in more toned down colors. Even so, while living in a flatliner society, we watch how the flatliner way of thinking influences how we present ourselves. One result can be that we find ourselves dressing “safely and carefully” — subconsciously avoiding creating too much emotion.

I am intrigued by the idea that our clothes can also symbolize our philosophy of life. Consider the process that a person goes through to select a tattoo. Although I’m not a particular fan of tattoos, I’ve watched person after person plan for months to make sure that the image that he or she selects to display on the body conveys a certain meaning, or symbolism of who he or she is as a person. While our clothing choices are not inked onto our bodies, the choices we make can still convey meaning.

So, I reject this wave of flatliner thinking and choose to put sentiment and real feeling behind most everything that I  do. I assume the risk of being too emotional…I assume the risk of rejecting what society sometimes tells us we must do in order to be “good”…and live my life unabashedly with fully-loaded emotion-based elegance. And, if that makes me uncool, then so be it.

Elegance is all about emotion and the ability to share emotion with others. ~Hugo Jacomet

~Sonya Glyn Nicholson


22 thoughts on “Losing Our Emotion — Is it Now Cool to be a Flatliner? Leave a comment

  1. I think part of this sensation is that people have become so precious about having their own emotions misinterpreted or under valued by others that people no longer respond to emotions or fear of being confronted on it.

  2. i think flatlining can be an appropriate response in certain circumstances. it does make me queazy when used in circumstances where sympathy or feeling is appropriate. but in my line of work the impeccably polite flatliner is what keeps me on the steady. even serves to calm the irate. I do take your point though, aloofness is very fashionable and totally egregious.
    nicely written!

  3. This was a beautiful post, so thank you for it. Before I hit 25 I was a person who dressed how I felt, but due to a number of circumstances and of course work my clothing went from vibrant to boring and plain. I was also someone who laughed and cried and tripped and fell but now all I want to do is hide away my clumsiness and shame of feeling a certain way. I also miss dying my hair, I used to do awesome things with my hair. 🙂

  4. Thank you for your reply. It sounds like you enjoyed life when you weren’t guarding your emotions so much. It’s OK, even a relief, to get back to your authentic self, and even tripping can be charming, absent of getting hurt, of course.

  5. Interestingly, I’ve never really had much of a sense of style until well into my adult life. I’m introverted, so my color choices are neutrals or earthy colors, but I also have bright jewel tones throne in the mix. I’d like to dress with more flair, but as with most, working in an office environment limits my choices.

    I read a business article the other day that said wearing bright colors to job interviews automatically makes you a *less* desirably candidate, versus helping you stand out. I thought that was strange. I like color, it speaks to confidence and assurance. Why wouldn’t those be good job qualities?

  6. Just yesterday while working on a very beautiful tailored jacket made in a cream colored rayon suiting, I was thinking about the challenge I have of liking more formal clothing when I live in one of the most informal areas of the country. I find that I make things I hardly ever wear, because they are “too dressed up” for most occasions. People wear jeans to the opera here for goodness sake and there is an almost anti-formality attitude; one is viewed with supsicion of having false values if they look too nice. I started thinking about “doing my own thing,” setting my own style, wearing my beautiful jacket with cropped pants or leggings and flats to dress it down… anything just to be able to wear it. You are soooo right about what we wear reflecting what is inside of us. I’m at the stage where I am confident enough to do my own thing, but I always feel a certain level of tension between my desire for self-expression and desire for fitting in… at least to a degree.
    I went to jury duty for two days and I couldn’t help but notice that everyone, and I do mean everyone, hundreds of people, were dressed in jeans and drab grays, olive, and faded black tops. It was remarkable how little color I saw. That is the flatlining in fashion you’re talking about. Interesting! I’m going to start observing that phenomenon more closely. I have noticed it in automobiles… all black, white, silver, few reds, greens blues like in past years.

    • Sorry, I forgot to tell you something yesterday about the award nomination: you may ask whatever questions you want to your nominees, you do not have to re-use the same questions. Have a great day and congratulations! 😀

  7. What a thought provoking post on style, it really made me think about if I’ve ever subconsciously decided on something to wear based on emotion, or an underlying philosophy about self expression when getting dressed. I’m going to think about this… It does seem like there are “rules” that people have to play by in certain settings, like work for example. If you work in a specific environment, that is say, conservative, your mentality kind of switches to a “mode” and when thinking about what to wear, you can’t help but prepare for that day with some sort of emotion about how you may be perceived.. great topic.

  8. Hmm I do believe that flatlining keeps one’s self control in check but that’s not always a good thing. I’ve worked in various jobs, print media where there is no flatlining whatsoever. No flatlining in clothing worn, no flat lining in topics discussed and no flatlining in articles sent to print. It’s a very fast paced, full on environment. I also worked for a firm of chartered accountants where I almost flatlined completely. Flatliner clothing, speech, meetings and colleagues. No,I need emotion, colour, vibrant work colleagues. It’s amazing how we flatline ourselves for interviews when we are unsure of what is actually appropriate just to be in the safe place. Well I’m not dead yet. Having said that it’s an interesting concept of how I don’t want to be.

  9. It’s an interesting dichotomy in a world that often trades intellect for emotion, although flat lining as you describe it isn’t so much intellectual as just… death-like. I wonder if this doesn’t come from corporate circles and politics where flat lining is perceived as a value — it removes or reduces the risk that someone might actually have a reaction to you (the problem being that that reaction may be — gasp — negative).

    I wonder if the modern tendency to polarize issues is at play here, too. Do people get pushed into the extremes of emotionless or emotionful behaviors? No middle ground?

    • Thank you for your comment. Good point about the risk of polarizing flatlining and an elevated state of emotion. If an emotion is genuine, I’m not sure if it can be carried too far, though…the point being that real emotions are seen “as they are”, instead of as a theatrical performance. I’m not in the “faking it” camp (if faking it can be avoided). Of course there are exceptions.

      • Oh, absolutely! No matter how genuine, some emotions can be destructive of the self or those around us. That said, I would vastly prefer living in a world of authentic human interaction than artificial. Political correctness, for one, can be so stifling.

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