Photo courtesy of Jennifer Nash
Listen, Lucy's pay-it-forward cards encourage good deeds.
When we talk about anonymity on the Internet, it’s almost always a bad thing. It’s what enables the casual vitriol, the cyber-bullying, the catfishing, all the stuff we associate with the worst aspects of online life. But anonymity has its upsides. Listen, Lucy
, a Pittsburgh-based organization, is tapping into the good side of anonymity to provide a forum for people suffering with anxiety and other disorders.
Listen, Lucy functions like a group diary, where anyone can read and contribute anonymously. Users post about their experiences with anxiety, depression, panic or anything else that they’re struggling with, usually through written pieces (opening with “Listen, Lucy”), but also through videos, music, poetry or whatever they want to share. You can sign your name, but few do, except for founder and inaugural poster Jordan Corcoran.
“My mission is simple,” Corcoran, a North Hills native, writes on the site. “I want to create a less judgmental, more accepting world.”
The seeds for Listen, Lucy go back to Corcoran’s college days as opinion editor at The Merciad
, Mercyhurst University’s student-produced newspaper. For her first three years there, Corcoran used her columns as a platform for “little complaints,” entertaining diatribes about the daily trivialities that irk college kids.
But behind the rants, Corcoran was struggling. She had been diagnosed with anxiety disorders as a freshman and continued to work through different treatments throughout college. Medication and counseling helped, but writing became a significant coping technique, albeit privately. That changed her junior year, when she decided to shift gears and share her struggles with anxiety in her column. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and changed the way Corcoran thought about her treatment. She realized there were other people out there who wanted to share their stories, like she had, but were afraid to put their name on it.
After college, the idea wouldn’t go away: an anonymous, public place to air private pain. So in 2013, with a full-time career, Corcoran officially founded Listen, Lucy (her mother’s nickname for her as a baby).
“I came up with Listen, Lucy because I wanted to create an outlet where people can express themselves freely and creatively,” Corcoran writes on her website. “We are all dealing with different issues, and I want to create a community where people can tell their stories and feel comfortable.”
Knowing she needed submissions before the site launched, Corcoran reached out to her favorite teacher from high school, who offered extra credit to any students willing to share their stories (anonymously) on Listen, Lucy. The response was enthusiastic.
“It was so cool,” says Corcoran, 27. “I will always remember the day I got my first story.”
Now, two years into its existence, Listen, Lucy is celebrating with a Re-Launch Party on Thursday at Sweetwater Center For The Arts in Sewickley. The party also marks Corcoran’s decision this year to leave her job at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, in the South Side, and commit full-time to managing Listen, Lucy and speaking publicly about her experiences.
In its two years, Listen, Lucy has received around 100 posts, Corcoran estimates. Some are brief and vague, some are long and detailed; some are from students, some from new parents; some are encouraging and optimistic, and some are heartwrenching. That’s part of the appeal of Listen, Lucy: diaries don’t have style guides. There’s no such thing as a typical post.
Beyond user-submitted posts, Listen, Lucy is also home to Corcoran’s Pay It Forward Cards, business-card sized handouts encouraging people to pass on good deeds. There are also T-shirts for sale as a part of something she calls #TheAcceptanceMovement, emblazoned with a quote from Augusten Borroughs on the back (“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions”). Despite the flood of online negativity that usually follows projects this optimistic or earnest, Corcoran says the response has been very positive.
Listen, Lucy might not be the only place to post anonymously online, but that’s not an issue to Corcoran.
“I think the community Listen, Lucy is creating is a huge draw to the site. It is all about accepting people and giving them support if they are looking for that,” Corcoran says. “I also hope that my story and putting myself out there helps bring people to the website. I am hoping if they see me sharing my struggles confidently, it will encourage them to do the same.”
The Listen, Lucy Re-Launch Party takes place from 6-9 p.m. Thu., May 28. Sweetwater Center for the Arts is located at 200 Broad St., in Sewickley.
Tickets are $10 and can be found here