Some Wellesley students, after crying, some beside the lake or in the dining hall, in the middle of a cafe in the Ville or during a long walk to Stone Davis at night, have turned to the “Wellesley Places I’ve Cried” Facebook group to describe the experience. The group, moderated by Kari Gottfried ’23, is a place where students post descriptions of places where they have cried. It declares itself a page “for crying in the past, present and future.” Since its creation in April 2018, the group has amassed over 1,200 members and more than 100 posts, most of which include short jokes or graphics, speaking with humor of emotional moments.
A way to build community and solidarity
“We all cry … It’s kind of nice to know you’re not alone,” said Gottfried. “I really appreciate knowing that people care.”
Gottfried became administrator of the page in 2020, after previous administrator Caitlyn Chung graduated, and wants the page to be a place where people can share their experiences of crying when they want to, be reminded that they are not alone in needing to cry sometimes and remember that people care about them.
In February, Gottfried created a “Pisces season crying thread.” In December, she invited members to share the number of masks they had dampened, and last summer, she posted a TikTok video showing the places she has cried and inviting others to duet. According to Gottfried, she prefers to cry near the lake.
“There’s water in my eyes and water in the lake,” Gottfried said, laughing.
The Wellesley Places I’ve Cried group has become a part of an online community of social media pages run by Wellesley students. Eshika Kaul ’23 and Sarah Meier ’24 started following the page because it was created and followed by other Wellesley students.
Meier posted on the page in March. She was having a bad day following a break-up and found herself crying spontaneously in different locations on campus.
“In the past six hours … Bates dining hall, tables outside Bates dining hall, behind the trees outside Bates dining hall, Stone Davis common room, adirondack chairs outside Stone Davis,” she wrote.
Meier did not post because she was looking for reassurance from others but because she wanted to acknowledge and express her emotions. According to Meier, trying to write with humor about her experiences helped her to acknowledge her own emotions and to feel some relief. However, she also took comfort in the fact that students read about her experiences. 16 people responded to her post, some with likes, others with hearts and virtual hugs.
Meier appreciated that the page encourages people to express their emotion. She knew that she was not the only person to have cried on campus, and after posting, she felt supported.
“I feel so perceived,” Meier said. “We all have feelings. We’re all people.”
Meier called crying an important emotional outlet. Sometimes, crying helps Meier to find some release of tension or emotions. She has a memory of sitting in the Spoon Holders at sunset, looking out at the lake and crying at the sound of a Taylor Swift song.
A perpetuation of stress culture
While Meier enjoys interacting with the page and believes it to be a helpful outlet at times, she worries that it might also promote some competition, encouraging students to compare their experiences of stress and perpetuating Wellesley stress culture.
“It’s definitely a mixed experience,” Meier said.
Meier is not alone in her concern. Gottfried has noticed that larger numbers of people join the page at times when the volume of academic assignments is especially high. During the first finals week of the term system, she received a high number of follow requests. Gottfried agreed to run the page because she has appreciated its interactive community and its sense of camaraderie. She values having a place where people can vent stress, express their emotions, support each other when they are stressed and be reminded that crying is an important outlet. However, she also worries that the page sometimes glorifies stress and pain.
“It’s part of the Wellesley stress culture to glorify the pain and suffering of being in college … In that sense, I don’t think [the page] is very healthy,” Gottfried said.
When Meier first arrived at Wellesley, she was worried about the possible stress culture and felt intimidated by the other Wellesley students whom she found so impressive. When she began interacting with the Wellesley Places I’ve Cried page, she was glad to see that students were supportive of one another and that they felt comfortable sharing their emotions.
“At least here … people are in touch with their emotions … and people aren’t trying to keep up this image of being perfect,” Meier said.
However, she recognizes that the group could play a role in the stress culture at the same time. When discussing stress culture, Meier, Kaul and Gottfried all mentioned that they have heard conversations during which students have compared hours of sleep to prove that they are sleep deprived, commiserating but also sometimes glorifying sleep deprivation. Meier and Gottfried fear that a similar competition to prove stress levels might arise on the page. Kaul believes that Wellesley students are generally more supportive than competitive, but added that Wellesley can be a high-pressure environment.
“[The] pressure I feel comes from me,” Kaul said.
Gottfried suggested that stress culture contributes to pressure, sometimes causing people to doubt themselves when they are not stressed.
Gottfried acknowledged that a lot of people are going through hard times, especially this year. She hopes that the page will be a place of comfort or catharsis and that it will remind people that, though each person’s experience is distinct, they are not the only ones who have started crying somewhere on campus.
Most importantly, Gottfried wants students to take care of themselves, their own needs and their mental health. The Facebook page reads “crying is valid, but also, please take care of yourself.” Important resources for finding professional mental health care and support are listed on the page.
Gottfried encourages people to seek care for mental health and to remember that their feelings are important and valid.
“My advice is … remembering, it’s okay to cry. You’re not alone. It’s also okay to not cry. Your feelings are valid, and drink lots of water,” Gottfried said.
On the Wellesley Places I’ve Cried page, some students find a sense of solidarity and the opportunity to express their emotions within an accepting community, and some try to find humor in the ways that they describe their own crying experiences. Some believe that the page reflects stress culture at Wellesley. Regardless of how it is perceived, the page has amassed a substantial following and resonates with many Wellesley students.
If you are in need of mental health care, please reach out to a professional.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Stone Center: 781-283-2839 (https://www.wellesley.edu/counseling)
Other Resources: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists