What is it with our obsession for tears?

In today’s New York Times, there is an articleabout Olympic skaters crying. One of the coaches, Frank Carroll, a highly respected skating coach, thinks it is way overdone.

Evan Lysacek, one of the American figure skaters (eventually the gold medal winner) cried when it became certain that he had won.

“I kept wanting to say, ‘Stop it, just stop it,’ ” Carroll, said. “I’m very stoic in a way, very disciplined, and I think, when the ski jumpers, when they win, they don’t start to cry. Let’s put it this way: I don’t like figure skaters to cry.”

But it is not just skaters who do this.

If you watch So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol…an ocean of tears will come your way.

And the news programs are filled with people crying also. Give a newscaster a chance to use someone sobbing as the backdrop to a story…and they will grab it with both hands.

‘Fessing up on television almost requires tears.

I had a friend mention that Tiger Woods’ press conference lacked credibility because he was not moved to tears. (If Woods had shed tears, I guarantee this guy would have faulted the man for faking them!) Some people you just cannot please.

But why the need for tears so much these days?

Different strokes for different folks.

Some are more emotional than others and they are in a high emotion situation. Can’t blame them. Most have spent their lives in pursuit of an Olympic medal so naturally it is something they feel strongly about.

To each their own.

I think viewers may be drawn towards overt displays of emotion. Stoicism may be admirable but makes bad television.

I would have accused Tiger Woods of faking it if he had shed tears, mostly because robots can’t cry. Did you watch him when he made his statement? He sounded like a cyborg.

Anyway, back on topic - Win or lose, man or woman, when someone cries in a situation like that I think its evidence that they have really and truly put 100% of themselves in the effort. I’ve had two situations like that, once on the winning end, and once on the losing end, and both times I wasn’t the only one crying - and we were hardly Olympic-caliber athletes by any means.

So I can only imagine the time, effort, and committment that must be involved for an Olympic athlete. I think it’s quite natural and can be quite moving to see someone let themselves go to the flood of emotion - although watching Federer tear up in last year’s Aussie Open (already had won 13 grand slam titles) wasn’t quite as emotional as watching Murray fight back tears this year (still looking for his first grand slam and he is carrying an entire country on his back).

I think this is pretty close.

So much of what we see in the media is the product of someone’s carefully managed PR strategy. The Tiger Woods apology is a perfect example of this; wanna bet that in the next month or so his agent alerts the paparazzi daily to the time/place he drives up to his therapist, and by the summer has apologizes again in more than one interview with a friendly-but-prestigious mainstream journaist (I’m betting Esquire or a “very special” Dateline)?

the public perceives that emotional outbursts aren’t as easily managed, so in a certain sense they’re more real, a quality we long for in our enormously fake celebrity culture.

I don’t know about you but I do not cry very often. Due to the fact that crying in adults is relatively rare, to see someone cry you feel like you are witnessing something very emotion for them.

Humans are social creatures, which means we communicate our emotional states in a variety of ways. Humans have also evolved and learned to lie in some situations, and to therefore know that other humans will sometimes lie, so we attach more weight to the communications that are harder to fake. It’s harder to fake tears than it is to fake words, so seeing somebody tearing up makes them seem more sincere, and we trust them more.

Some people just cry easier than others. You don’t always get to pick which kind you are, either. I would love to be stoic and never cry, but I’m not.

The ones who do cry make better television, so we see more of them on television.

It’s emotion, and it should be expressed and not suppressed. It shows the intensity of feelings and work they put into winning. It is very healthy to express emotions, laughing, crying, come naturally to us humans, nothing wrong with that.

My thanks to everyone who has commented so far.

I get a bit emotional from time to time…but usually on occasions where others might not even think about it.

Tears came to my eyes when I first set foot onto the streets of Pompeii. When I saw the Roman forum it was more than tears. My guess is if I ever find myself within touching distance of the Sphinx or the Great Pyramids…I will burst into sobs.

My problem is not with people who are emotional.

But I am wondering about the national need for tears.

Perhaps I am just crabbing about television and its intrusive place in our lives right now.

I think you’ve nailed it. Faking crying convincingly can be difficult even for trained actors, so I think that when someone does break down into tears they’re given a lot of weight. OTOH I think tears are ‘valued’ more from people who are assumed not to cry a lot, or who might be risking more by showing a vulnerable side. So when a male soldier gets choked up talking about a colleague, it is perhaps given more weight than when, say, a female soap star talks about her ailing mother (I’m not sure there are studies to support just this, but there do exist ones that support the idea that people have more sympathy for men and women with diseases or addictions that aren’t ‘typical’ for their gender – depression and alcoholism, respectively).

That being said, I think we like tears because they’re the bodily fluid of the genre – confessions, drama, tragedy, exhaustion. Just like blood, semen and vaginal fluid, they’re shorthand everyone can understand! And much cleaner than vomit – another fluid I’ve observed in athletes after a race or bout.

Whether I was hurt or happy, I used to cry easily. In private it was a release. But in public I felt ashamed – especially if I was crying from humiliation.

As an adult, I was eventually given medication that affected my ability to cry and I miss being able to get it out of my system.

Is it true that tears have the same percentage of salt that ocean water has?

I like this. I think you have described what I also experience, though more thoughtfully than I had yet.

I agree with other posters that there seems to be a national need for something more genuine, which we might hope the somewhat uncontrollable crying response would demonstrate. Of course, it’s only somewhat uncontrollable. It’s even exquisite that there is the term “crocodile tears” to describe the opposite.

Not really sure, Zoe…but they do taste salty when I’ve kissed tears off the face of a lady being emotional when I am around.

(Nothing more appreciated than understanding and sympathy when a lady feels the need for tears!)

Thanks for stopping by and for the comments, Cat Fight.

Appreciate the compliment, **Napier. **Thanks for contributing.

Would it be unking for me to speculate that there are more drama queens and more platforms for them to perform on then ever before?

The secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made. George Burns

I get a little goopy eyed when discussing intense pediatric cases I’ve worked, but other than that I haven’t cried since I was in high school, YMMV.

I think the sight of crying on TV gives some people an emotional jolt. Whether or not it draws them more deeply into the drama, it stimulates them.

I don’t watch a lot of TV though, so take it with a grain of salt.