“I like talking about getting fucked at Whole Foods,” LA-based poet and essayist Melissa Broder confided over the phone. “That’s not normally something I can delve into!” As the Twitter celebrity responsible for @sosadtoday — her rising multimedia project that spans tweets, a biweekly column on Vice and a newly released book of essays entitled “So Sad Today: Personal Essays” — one might have assumed Broder would sound a bit less good-humored.
With the expansion of social media as the contemporary mode of cultural exchange, Broder’s artistic position in online culture is not unusual, though it is impressive. Started as an anonymous Twitter account in 2012, @sosadtoday began simply as a means of expressing how very sad she was each and every day, focusing on topics such as anxiety, depression, addiction, love, sex and fantasy with brutal wit and clarity.
The account remained anonymous for three years, amassing followers and engaging in consistent bleak metacommentary with a rapidly changing pop cultural landscape. Broder, already an established poet in her own right, admits that she found a great deal of enjoyment in curating the account. “@sosadtoday addressed plenty of the same concerns as (my) poetry, but it’s more playful,” she said. “Pop cultural accessibility is really fun for me to play with and inhabit.”
Based on her work, it may be surprising that the two things she seemed most excited to talk about were her dog Pickle — @sosadtodog on Twitter — and Twitter politics. (“I’m a big tweet deleter. If I tweeted the tweet, I can delete the tweet!” she said.)
With Vice essays titled “What You Call Depression I Call the Truth” and “One Girl, Six Shrinks,” Broder’s writing conjures up a very particular fantasy image of her. She’s no stranger to this expectation. Telling the story of the first time she was outed as the curator of @sosadtoday in public to a stranger, Broder describes a similar circumstance. “I think she was actually disappointed, because, I don’t know, I wasn’t something enough,” she said. “I wasn’t goth enough, or hot enough, or not hot enough, or sad enough or funny enough.”
Behind the pop cultural frenzy surrounding her brilliantly curated work on @sosadtoday, there exists a full person with the same sort of complicated, hidden pain as everybody else. More than simply an expression of memefied sadness, the account began centrally as a tool of survival for Broder. “I started @sosadtoday because I just didn’t know what else to do to be OK,” she said. Broder channels that intentionality directly into her tweets.
Her work on Twitter is public, freely accessible, and widely circulated. @sosadtoday has already amassed widespread acclaim from established sources such as Elle and the Rolling Stone. But truly her fan base on Twitter speaks for itself. With more than 300,000 followers and thousands of likes and retweets per tweet, she has considerable reach. Outside of her followers’ support on Twitter, Broder receives countless fan emails reaching out for support for everything from love and sex to depression and mental health.
Scrolling through Broder’s tweets, it isn’t a stretch to characterize @sosadtoday as part of her art, or indeed as valid art on its own. The tweet as a mode of artistic and intellectual expression is a frontier that is yet to find much respect.
With the success of the Twitter account came a @sosadtoday biweekly column of her essays on Vice. Then came a book of @sosadtoday essays, published and released Tuesday, for which she had to reveal herself as the Twitter account’s longstanding curator. Her steady rise has been incredible, as more and more flock to her on Twitter and discover her long poetry career.
To promote the book, Broder has been on a whirlwind, weeklong city tour, ending with an event at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland on Friday. The event will be a chance to connect with her followers in person and to simply revel in sadness together. As to be expected, she confided that she was anxious about the tour, but the outpouring fan support for the book has been incredibly positive.
Underneath her light-hearted wit, Broder has proven unafraid of revealing herself, and she concedes that with great pleasure. “All I have to share is my experience and my truth,” she said. “We all know the terror of being alive!”
Some, like Broder, simply know how to talk about it.
Contact Justin Knight at[email protected].