So one of my friends has started a tumblr where she talks about the ongoing process of unfucking her life. It's not that her life is an exploded disaster area, it's just unsustainable, at least when health and happiness are considered. (This is not me being judgmental, this is me paraphrasing her first entry.) So she's trying to make changes. (And since one of her entries suggests that she's at least making a gesture towards anonymity with this, I am not outing her, so please forgive the pronouns on my part.)
And let me tell you, I read these entries, and I spent a good chunk of yesterday crying like a child. Because I felt like I wasn't alone. Because it was such a relief to see that someone I know and love and respect made mistakes and honestly, was human, like I am. Because the unfuck your life project? Is also something I am undertaking.
And we sent each other emails that were basically like, "OMG, you too? You seem so competent and together!"
Here's the thing about the internet: it's public, and it's permanent. And if you are a professional, and you interact with other people on the internet, you need to do your best to remember those things always.
As of right now, there are 2,115 people following me on Twitter. Compared to some people I know, this is not very many. But it is ten times the number of people that were in the entire (K-8) elementary school I graduated from. It is over twice the number of people that were in my high school. Even if we assume that half of that number is made up of people who are bot accounts of some sort, that is still a lot of people who pay attention to the 140-character slices of my life and interests that I choose to share. People read this blog, and people read what I write over at Fantasy Matters. People do these things in numbers that, quite frankly, astound me.
And I am always, always aware that people can see me when I write something on the internet, even if it is an @ message to a friend. We've all seen what happens when someone forgets: the author who loses her shit over a bad review, or the one who writes something that is a form of RaceFail or GenderFail or CompassionFail, and then when this is pointed out, doesn't man up and apologize, and say "I'm sorry I said what I did. I was ignorant. I hurt people. Thank you for pointing that out, and I promise to do better in the future," but who goes on a rant about how he is being oppressed. These things happen so often they have their own memes.
So I behave like I know that people are watching me, and most of the time that's fine. But sometimes I wonder what we lose by being so conscious all the time that people are watching, and we need to act like professionals. I remember about this time last year, when I'd made my third pro sale, and so was eligible to join SFWA, and calling my Mom to tell her, and making some throwaway remark about how that made up for the day earlier that month where I had gotten three rejections in one day (an event that, let me assure you, devastated my self-confidence). "Why didn't you tell me?" she asked. Well, we're professionals. We don't talk about the rejections. Everybody knows they happen, but we don't say so. And I'd ingrained that to the point where I didn't talk to anyone about it.
I don't talk about the bad days, personally or professionally, where people can see me, because I don't want to be perceived as whiny, or as a failure, but I wonder how much gets lost, with this perception that pros don't have bad days.
I'm a survivor of sexual violence. Ending rape culture, and supporting other survivors are both critically important to me, but I don't talk about those issues nearly as often as I'd like to, because I don't want to be the girl who won't shut up about rape. I mean, come on - who wants to read about that all the time?
And I don't mean to whine and complain that "Oh, poor me, I can't put my pain on the internet." Because like the poisonous snake, I knew what it was when I picked it up. But I think of the relief I feel, when someone like my friend publicly says, "hey, my life? not so perfect as you might think." And I think of the rules that make us bind our imperfections so tightly down that we don't even dare show them to the people who love us, and I wonder if it's not just the public that we need to remind that there are people behind our avatars. I wonder if it is also ourselves that need those reminders.