It’s not that deep, or is it?

Enya Eettickal, Staff Writer

I love and hate the malleable way our generation uses language. We quickly create and pick up on new phrases and slang from ethnic or internet cultures. While there are several reasons why our use of language in this manner is admirable, a number of problems also arise on the same grounds. When we frequently use new phrases or words in inapplicable contexts, these new sayings end up losing their original meaning. 

I realized this was an issue when one of my favorite phrases was used one too many times: My friend was relaying a series of arduous circumstances they had to navigate and ended it all by saying that “it’s not that deep.” While my friend’s dismissal of their struggles is alarming in its own way, it keyed me into a larger issue. I’m someone who confers importance to the use of language, but I also say “it’s not that deep” at least once a day (usually to myself); nevertheless, my friend’s use of the phrase started to bother me a bit. The expression itself has a particular meaning, but its accidental and purposeful misuse has slowly started to remove its connotation. Therefore, it’s important to discuss what “it’s not that deep” means, how it’s misused and why that’s a problem. 

I’m sure you’ve all heard someone say the term at least once before, but “it’s not that deep” comes up fairly regularly in my circles. To be clear, “it’s not that deep” conveys that the topic or subject should not carry a significant amount of emotional weight or be made overly complicated.

I’m sure this phrase was used in a comical sense at first, only poking fun at friends for being dramatic or overly reactive, but over time I found the phrase being used in heavier situations. As a response to experiencing emotional distress for extended periods of time, friends might say “it’s not that deep” as a genuine reminder to diffuse some unnecessary tension or pressure. “It’s not that deep” has become a mantra for a number of people now, all of whom try to minimize their complaints and worries by experiencing life at face value. And for a generation that is perceived as “sensitive,” trying to adopt this opposing outlook on life is greatly beneficial. However, because of both the comedic and serious intention behind “it’s not that deep,” there is a disconnect in how it’s said and perceived. Whether a misuse of it is intentional or accidental, an insensitive response from the listener is still a potential outcome. 

The biggest miscommunication that can happen is when people use a joking iteration of the phrase for a significant situation. The risk of harm is that those who are overwhelmed with legitimate struggle are met with a dismissive response. Our generation has a tendency to overcompensate for its perception of being sensitive by trying to act like a “realist,” removing emotionality from trivial and serious circumstances alike. However, not everyone who says they are level-headed realists actually are, with some using the mindset as a cover to be covertly dismissive. Beyond just the phrase “it’s not that deep,” these individuals refuse to validate or respond to the emotions displayed by anyone else to affirm their so-called realism. This type of approach ruins the duality of the phrase “it’s not that deep.” It’s one thing to use it in one capacity or another—however, using it intentionally incorrectly to be dismissive isn’t okay. 

The best solution to this problem is to simply call out misuses of the phrase as they happen. If someone is purposefully trying to convince you that your circumstances do not warrant distress or discomfort, draw a boundary. Therefore, the next time one of my friends is venting and ends by saying “it’s not that deep,” I’m going to ask them to take a step back and reevaluate because maybe, just maybe, it is that deep.