First Person, Singular

I don’t remember just when or where or why I read this, but recently I learned about scholarly research that concluded that a woman’s propensity toward postpartum depression can be predicted by increased use of first-person singular pronouns (“I” or “me”) in her social media posts.

The first question this raises is — exactly what other pronouns should one use in Facebook or Twitter besides I and me?  Social media is a solipsistic medium.  It’s not called a platform or a brand for nothing.  Expressing oneself is the stated goal, isn’t it? 

(And in a sort of corollary to that first question, would tweeting about “they” all the time really be a marker of better mental health?) 

And in this vein, a good topic for future research might be  — does a woman who will go on to have postpartum depression really use first-person singular pronouns more than our current president?

In the 1980s, when I took my first creative writing class, one of the cardinal rules of literary workshops was that the third-person singular point of view was the gold standard for storytelling.  If you were going tell a story from any other point of view, you damn well better have a good reason for that choice.

That rule was so long ago thrown out the window that it just seems quaint.  First-person narration is the default and has been for years.  In fact, I doubt my younger daughter ever read a book told from the third-person point of view until this year, when she had to read Animal Farm for school (Animal Farm as an assignment = more quaintness). 

In the early 2000s, it became au courant to tell stories in the second-person, sort of like this:  You walk into the kitchen.  You make yourself a sandwich, and then you think…

And right now, there are more stories told from the first-person plural point of view than you can shake a stick at: We had been to the best schools, now we had good jobs and good wives and good children…    

The point is (for me), pronoun use is a choice, predicated by the medium and the times in which you (we?) write. 

The second point is, poor women, having children.  They just can’t catch a break.  These days, we even scrutinize their tweets for evidence of shaky mental health.      

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