A while back, a close friend sent me this article about Robin who documented every time she cried.
I love data and I cry a lot, so naturally I had to make a Google form and begin filling it out with each cry.
Between July 28th, 2016 and March 3rd, 2017 (218 days) I collected 116 responses.
I wanted to be able to collect a decent amount of data I would be able to analyze in a year, but I also wanted to be able to fill out the form rather quickly.
I settled on six questions, all multiple choice. Google automatically documented the date and time of the submission, but I wasn’t always able to fill it out right when I was crying, so I ignored the time and only kept the date.
I felt these six questions were easy enough to answer while crying and would allow me to later analyze my cries on an individual level, as well as all together.
The first two questions were very objective and being a self-conducted psychology experiment, the answers aren’t very reliable- but I’ll go on to unbox those later.
The third question helped me understand the intensity of the “episodes”- was I claiming to cry all the time, but in reality I was just frequently tearing up?
I identify a 1 when people around me wouldn’t be able to tell and a 5 was when I literally couldn’t do anything else.
This just relates if I was upset enough that I would actually cry in public. I have a strong willpower and am also easily embarrassed, so risking mortification meant that I was REALLY upset.
The last two questions were added in an attempt to either prove or disprove an assumption for a cause. I’m aware that I frequently get overly emotional when I’m menstruating and/or overtired. However, to associate one or both with the outcome (crying) I needed to see what percentage of “episodes” these factors were linked to.
Over the years leading up to the experiment, I worked very hard on understanding my emotions, my thoughts, and their sources. I spent a lot of time thinking about my own emotions, thinking about my own thoughts, and just largely being introspective. Having spent this time making this thought process a priority made evaluating the “episodes” pretty easy- I was already going through the process, now I just needed to document it.
Largely, this was non-intrusive. It wasn’t often that I wouldn’t be able to document in the moment. This would only happen if I was crying while fighting with someone or driving. In these scenarios I was still able to do so within the hour.
Most people close to me knew I was doing this experiment and didn’t really inquire much- which was definitely appreciated.
Why I Stopped
When I began this experiment, I intended to document data for at least a year. I really wanted to be able to compare seasons and understand how the weather and my access to sunlight impacted this.
Evidently, I cut it quite short. From a data perspective, I do wish I had gone on longer, but ceasing made the most sense for me and realistically did provide the most accurate data.
A few months into the experiment a close friend pointed out that they thought I was crying more than normal and was worried that I was crying just to cry. With some internal reflection, I found I was definitely using it as a crutch “Well I just cry a lot” and being overly & unnecessarily emotional.
I believe that I stopped before it was skewing data, but had I continued it definitely would have. Situations like this are always a possibility in self-conducted psychology experiments.
Unboxing My Results
Between July 28th, 2016 and March 3rd, 2017 (218 days) I collected 116 responses. I was crying every other day on average.
The most “blame” from my cries was placed on my best friend. With distance, it’s evident to me that it was wrongfully placed, but at the time I truly believed it made sense.
My best friend was my closest ally and the only person I felt comfortable discussing most of the stressors and large issues in my life with. For that reason, I began wrongfully associating my negative feelings with them. If work was pissing me off and they couldn’t hang out or talk about it, I was associating my anger/sadness/stress with them, instead of work.
In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious to me that including them as an individual option on the form made it really easy to use them as a scapegoat every time I was upset.
Past that, media also led to a lot of crying (which is still accurate- don’t watch Coco with me).
Stress from school & dance as well as complications in other relationships comprised the next highest categories.
There were a handful of times I couldn’t identify a reason for my tears. I’m genuinely surprised by how small this amount is.
I was sad a lot. Majority of the time, actually.
I was also angry, afraid, and, occasionally, happy. What I was categorizing as “fear” was my anxiety about the future and the possibility of failing, so those responses could be easily lumped in with stress — I wasn’t crying from horror movies or anything like that.
Again, there was a handful of times where I was unable to categorize my emotions.
Unfortunately, most of this data is not valuable. I often found that I would log a cry right when I started, when it was just a one, but if I had logged it afterwards it would have peaked at a 3 or a 4.
That considered, it was still pretty rare that I had a debilitating “5”.
It wasn’t rare for me to cry in public- about every fifth cry was a public one. I found this a bit surprising. When I was creating this form I had hypothesized that I wouldn’t really see many of these if any at all. I do think my definitely for public was too loose and could be misconstrued there.
I only had about 23 public cries, but the intensity lined up fairly well with the entire data set. About 17% of my public cries were 5’s. For these- and for the rest of my public cries- I think it’s safe to assume that these weren’t situations in which I was crying for the sake of crying.
At the time of documentation, my menstrual cycle was always 28 days with a period lasting between 5–7 days. This means I was menstruating just under 25% of the time.
I definitely hypothesized a large correlation between my period and my cries, but this really doesn’t suggest a correlation as the cries are fairly evenly distributed.
Past that, there was a more even distribution of intensity here, with the majority landing on the 2’s for the first time. I was definitely more likely to have a more intense cry when menstruating which makes sense as I generally feel emotions more intensely during that week.
This one is my personal favorite. I had mono for most of this experiment and was essentially indefinitely exhausted.
This data on it’s own isn’t enough to draw a correlation. However, now that I’ve been able to rid myself of the indefinite exhaustion I’ve been able to find a very distinct link between being overtired and crying irrationally, but not necessarily crying as a whole.
I cried a LOT my senior year of high school. It couldn’t be attributed to any one cause, but having mono and being largely exhausted was likely a key player. After a while, I began using crying as a crutch instead of actually unpacking my emotions.
I cry a lot less now. I think it can generally be attributed to changing my environment in a big way- moving out of my parents house, picking up multiple other jobs, and actually sleeping regularly. Not having mono helps too.