About once a day, celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson takes time out from his schedule of astrophysics research and planetarium management to tweet to his 8.38 million followers. Sometimes it’s because he wants to tell a dorky joke. Sometimes it’s because he wants to point out that a movie about invisible telekinetic energy and swords made out of light is not entirely realistic. And sometimes — more often than you might assume — it’s because he has something utterly devastating to tell us about our station in the universe:
But is deGrasse Tyson truly bummed? Is his existential malaise on the level of, say, @sosadtoday? He claims that you can only be depressed by your cosmic insignificance if you start out with “an unjustifiably large ego,” adding that he finds such self-awareness empowering, because “I’m connected to the universe and the universe is connected to me.” That sounds nice, yet also like he’s crying on the inside.
You can claim there are more important things to worry about right now — nuclear war, climate change, getting the good dryer at the laundromat — but I’m sorry, I just can’t move on with my life until I know whether or NDT is a genuine sadboi. For those of you who don’t spend too much time online, a “sadboi” is someone who stays up late having feelings about failed relationships, probably while watching anime or listening to Drake (Tyson is a confirmed fan), and generally indulges negative emotions vis-à-vis the web.
So does deGrasse Tyson fit the bill? Let’s look at the evidence.
This is a genre of Neil-tweeting I like to think of as “lonely teenager who would try weed if somebody, anybody, were to offer him some.” There is no real scientific wisdom in it, nothing to suggest the author has read or studied anything beyond a couple of Vonnegut novels. It tilts toward cynicism, but the tone is weary, almost hopeless.
Here we see Neil escalating to “Reddit libertarian” mode, as if concern-trolling the planet about cultural divisions that arose over the past 10,000 years will make everyone put their guns aside and learn Esperanto. Also, he’s worried about us looking like a bunch of jabronis in front of Space Aliens. But is he actually sad about this? Hard to say. I get the sense he’s just going for “wry and above it all,” though maybe to disguise his heartache.
Yep, Neil deadass tweeted this same sentiment twice — nearly four years apart. That’s a long time to weepingly stargaze, my dude. Could it be that you are, uh… not okay?
Verdict: You don’t need a telescope to see that Neil is sad.
Fucking hell, dude. Did we really need to hear this? Look, you’ve upset Nancy Sinatra.
I don’t want to rain on your parade of faux profundities, guy, but “damn, I’m so old” isn’t even a common reaction to a photograph of oneself — we’re usually more concerned with setting the Snapchat filter just right, or cropping out an ex so we can use the picture on Tinder. In other words, I think you’re projecting THE CRUSHING SORROW WITH WHICH YOU PASS THROUGH THIS VEIL OF GHOSTS WE CALL HISTORY.
Verdict: Sadder than missing a solar eclipse because you overslept after a night of sobbing to Douglas Sirk movies.
Hmm. I’m tempted to see some melancholy here, though I guess it really depends on what kind of ballet he’s seeing. Is it tragic? Ecstatic? And is he picturing the planets in leotards? That’s not sad at all — it’s funny! Hey, maybe Neil isn’t a buzzkill after all.
Verdict: Cheery and whimsical.
Ah, c’mon. If anyone else did this, you’d be copy-pasting the Wikipedia definition of “pareidolia” in their replies. The banana isn’t sad, Neil — you are. Go write some poetry.
Verdict: I’m too sad to talk about this anymore.
In sum, Neil deGrass Tyson is sad, and male, and these two qualities combine, not infrequently, for an overall sadboi effect. It’s true that he has yet to start wearing Arizona Green Tea gear or talking about vaporwave memes and cloud rap, though I assume that’s for professional reasons. Besides, these superficial trappings mean little in the scheme of greater sadboi galaxy, which, as Neil keeps telling us, is built from a consciousness as fleeting as it is limited. If he’s not a sadboi, then the term means no more than we, the specks of dust scattered by solar wind.
Go ahead, Neil. Tell me that’s scientifically inaccurate. It still won’t make you happy.