“Take 10 minutes a day to write as though no one will read it.” That’s the advice I often give my students. I tell them to write honestly and without fear, and to do that they should write as though they won’t post it online. To write as though they’ll throw away the paper or delete the word document.
Why? Because it’s dangerous to seek validation from social media (particularly Facebook and Twitter – the blogging world offers more space for engaged conversations). I’m not saying writers don’t care about what their readers think, many do. But social media has turned a conversation between writer and reader into a courtroom where the writer is essentially judged too quickly, often out of context, and by many who probably didn’t even read the piece – only excerpts of it at best. Everything moves faster than the time it takes to click a button, leaving no room for reflection.
Once a judgment has been made, it’s often irreversible. There is no supreme court that will reverse the judgment. You’re either innocent or guilty, there is no grey. There is no room for nuance. No room for thinking outside the mainstream. There is no room for us to be wrong, but sometimes, we need to be wrong.
The fear of being excommunicated from ‘the community’ has deprived many of us of taking risks. It has deprived me of the pleasure of writing out loud. Self-censorship has muted me. I feel the loneliness of desiring something unattainable. I feel deliberately silenced. I know I silenced myself.
I don’t want to follow the herd. I don’t want to be a silent coward, but sometimes, I just don’t want to deal with the backlash. Sure, many people are extremely supportive, but others have a talent of humiliating others in the ugliest of ways.
When I used to be super active online (over three years ago), I had my share of trolls and online harassments. I was spending too much energy explaining myself and my intentions, and reactively trying to prove them wrong.
I have limited my online presence considerably and I no longer comment, respond or even share posts, and yet, I still feel chained. Maybe my mere lingering online presence is enough to distract me from writing. Maybe subconsciously I fear the wrath of the cruel trolls. logically I know it’s a silly thing to be worried about, but emotionally I somehow can’t shake it off.
I want to be that person who doesn’t give a fuck if she’s wrong. That person who doesn’t give a fuck if people dislike her. But the truth is, I do give a million fucks.
How do I free myself from the need to please? How do I become someone who doesn’t get hurt when I’m personally attacked? Is the answer to “work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet,” as author Zadie Smith said? or am I supposed to accept the reality of this virtual battlefront and learn to decipher what matters and what doesn’t – maybe after many bruises it just won’t hurt anymore?
“Remember, just 10 minutes a day,” I remind myself that I don’t have to share my writing with the virtual public. (and yet, here I am doing it.)