If you spend most of your life, alone, or being on your own … then you either go mad, or you learn that what other people think or say … people who don’t actually matter in the everyday life of things … should have nothing to do with how you live your life. Mostly this is how I have lived my life. I gave up on trying to prove anything to anybody besides myself by the time I was 11. From moving from one school to another in different towns, in different states … 12 in 12 years … sometimes 3 in a year, and not being given a “heads-up” as to what would be the social rules of this new environment, where I would be landing like an alien, waggling my antennae for signs of kindness or compassion in a sea of – Who’s she? – faces. I learned the hard way, that most of the time people have made their mind up about you before they have even met you.
Yet, knowing this has given me great freedom, because it is basic a green-light for just being me. Now, before you get this idea that I have always lived an “in-your-face” rebellious life, I haven’t. I have often kept to myself, or have been understated about living by my own rules. Not that I am ashamed about what I do that may not be in accordance to whatever “social rules” my present environment may be enforcing , but rather …. I don’t want to deal with the grief of judgement. When people are given the opportunity to judge, they are given the power to control aspects of your life that they don’t have any damn business controlling. It makes good life sense, for anyone except an Artist that banks on their controversies to keep your controversial business to yourself,…. especially these days when one’s life could be attached to a virtual megaphone via twitter, Facebook, personal blogs and so forth.
I can see someone reading this and saying – but why the hell are you writing this … IF you don’t want the special attention of strangers. Personally, I don’t really care what a stranger thinks about me, but I do have this sense of abstract compassion for people out there … who yearn to be themselves and to be accepted and loved for themselves … and don’t get that reaching out to social media for this, can often be asking for trouble. When I write my “confessional” blogs … it isn’t for sympathy or validation … I have paid my existential dues for decades coming to peace with who I am and how I have lived my life in my own quiet way, and with my friends and family … I don’t need strangers to tell me whether they think I am doing a good job or not. Sure it is nice to hear, but it isn’t necessary for my well-being, nor for me to feel that writing “confessionals” is a worthwhile pursuit.
I write, because it feels good to just let feelings and ideas out of my head and into the world, to relieve myself of psychic or emotional pressures. I write because it is a huge part of who I have been since I was 8, writing stories about a travelling band of anthropomorphic animals, or Harriet the Spy fan-ficition. I write when I feel like it, and don’t feel the slightest bit obliged to write when I don’t feel a surging passion to do so. And yes, I want my writing to “connect”, to mean something to somebody, but it doesn’t have to be today – it could be tomorrow, next week, years from now or when I am dust and bones in a decorative urn.
Back to the subject at hand – What frustrates me the HELL about social media is that – Why do people serve themselves up on a virtual platter to be martyred by the tyranny of the social mob? A very good example is the brilliant “confessional” of Kathleen Hale, written several months ago, which has basically jeopardized the success of her latest novel. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/18/am-i-being-catfished-an-author-confronts-her-number-one-online-critic . From this article, I became very curious about Ms. Hale, and was surprised to see her profile photo on GoodReads – a pretty blonde waif in a white t-shirt still in her 2o’s. Her expression was the kind that nice girls give to the world when they are trying to play tough. Next to her profile is a stream of “one-star” reviews from venom-spitting reviewers who have proclaimed her to be the equivalent of a”single-white” psycho – female type, an author to be shunned and shamed, due to their superficial analysis of the article I sited.
Psychos, for one thing, are not self-aware, nor do they air their dirty laundry naïvely expecting the public’s approval for being so authentic. The worst I can say about Ms. Hale is that she is naïve. Otherwise she represented herself professionally via her articles and fiction (1st book – No one Else Can Have You, which is a quirky and entertaining murder-mystery) and personally via twitter – as sweet and sensitive , yet sardonic and at times neurotic young woman with a brain bubbling over with intelligence and wit. She is complex, and neither she nor her work deserves to be reduced to one creepy element via the reductive powers of social media.
Yet, at the same time, she martyred herself, and this is actually part and parcel of the artistic act – laying out the expressions of our souls transformed via the aesthetics of our chosen media for public appraisal. What Kathleen Hale did, was that she revealed that she cared too much in fact about what her public thought of her first work, so much that it fueled her self-admitted O.C.D. tendencies which led her to take actions which some see as WHOA- CRAZY! And I see, as someone who is caught in an obsession to know the truth about something that pains her, which makes her just plain human in my book. And she had the humility and bravery to share it with us … or?
Or … the recklessness. What troubles me, is that I wonder if anyone who experienced adolescence/young adulthood, before the social media craze, actually understands or will understand the following –
- It is possible to live a content, fulfilled, joyful life where nobody outside of your inner circle of REAL life social contacts gives a damn about you or the sandwich you ate today.
- Social media can be a HUGE time and energy suck from the life you actually could be living and paying attention to, moment by moment.
- The more people know about you, the more POWER they have to control your life in one way or the another.
- The opinion of strangers is like the weather, it is not consistent and can never be a reliable source of love and support, in the way that real people can be. Unless these strangers become “real-life” friends, the social media opinion of you will sway according to the winds of the mob-mentality.
- Privacy is becoming a rare commodity in this day and age. And the only people who seem to appreciate privacy are the oldsters like me, and super-famous folks who actually have talent, and only want public attention if they are getting paid for it.
- Another good read – cautionary tales of letting so much hang out that you are hanged by it in social media http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=1
I could go on … but what is interesting to me … is that both the internet and the cell-phone were conceived in the engineering labs of the military-industrial complex decades ago… and here we are now as a society, which used to be vigilant about our privacy, gleefully sharing everything about our private lives, from our snacks to our latest hook-ups to even our most random thoughts, as well as allowing our devices to track our every movement. We have made Big Brother a moot-issue since we have co-opted “his” task for the love of being seen. And before I meander off into conspiracy-theory zone …
What is the greatest concern to me, is that many of us, care TOO much about what strangers think, and not local strangers, but all over the world strangers… to the degree that we seek validation for our every move and moment … As if we don’t exist without this electronic feedback.
And truthfully, one who is so invested in this virtual world, to the degree that their happiness, livelihood, identity is based upon the social media buzz about them … who chooses consistently to connect to their phone or computer rather than with flesh and blood people … we are busy erasing ourselves and our lives, one electronic bit at a time.
It is ironic that I write this … at a time in my life, when I will be primarily alone, often working on the computer … and I often think of the internet as a life-force that often nourishes me. But at the same time, I know its limitations, and I also am wary of its power to distort reality. I think it is time, people started realizing that practicing “safe” social media could be just as much a survival skill as practicing safe sex.
Remember – what THEY don’t know, can’t hurt them, or YOU.
P.S. – if you are like me, who feel the incredible urge to be self-relevatory at times, ask yourself – Could you take it if backfired on you? If the pack of puppies who claim to be your faithful followers turn on you to rip you several new ones?
Me, I am so out of the loop of the world’s great swing of things …. I can’t imagine my writings affecting me in any way. And I like it that way. And I have always preferred to live at the fringes, where my success or failure financially or socially does not depend upon the opinions of a fickle public.
This is the beauty of being a Nobody : )