What Nobody Tells You About Working On The Internet

still from "With You, It's Okay" -- Ana Flores
still from “With You, It’s Okay” — Ana Flores, DP

You, my dear readers, have a very real power. We all know the internet isn’t exactly the kindest place. It’s not some well kept secret. Hell, the whole idea of “trolling” is something even my Grandmother knows about. Comment sections and this blanket of anonymity have become breeding grounds for hatred. It’s like this dangerous costume anyone can toss on for a bit. Say some shit on the internet. Then go on living your life.

But see, you, readers, have the ability to destroy me. You have fingertips that can be dripped in honey or laced with arsenic, and I’m not sure which pair of hands I’ll get. I can come with my bleeding heart and you might accept it or devour it.

But I would have to choose to be destroyed. And yes, I care about you all. But not enough to let this thirst for validation kill me. Because that’s what happens when you allow others to dictate your worth — it will kill you. Maybe not now. Maybe not tomorrow. But it will creep into your lungs. The negativity will become this malignant force that only grows stronger and stronger. And it will ruin you.

If you let it.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I care what you think. I might even care more than I should. I don’t believe this is necessarily a bad thing. If anything, I think it’s been a benefit and something I will look back on later in my career and be grateful. I spend a lot of outside work time figuring out ways I can stay connected to my squad (shout out to my
Shark Squad— you are EVERYTHING). It’s not like I’m getting paid overtime for it. There’s no financial bonus for messaging back and forth with readers. I do it because it seems like the right thing to do for me. For my Squad. For us all.

When I first started working at Thought Catalog, I would actually choose this internet life over my family and friends. And it was a shitty thing to do. I didn’t actively realize I was doing it. But it became pretty apparent. I would say, “Oh, thanks for the invite but I really need to stay home at work.” But my hours were over. I’d done my posts. I didn’t *need* to be working. But instead, I’d spend the night tweeting with fans or brainstorming ideas of how I could keep them engaged and active.

I have always wanted this internet family. I have vivid memories of YouTube first starting, I’d post a video and have this secret shame when I told my mom, “I wish this is what I could just do for life.” And it was a funny concept at the time. YouTubers hadn’t become a thing yet. A career on the internet was such a bizarre thought to me, something I could joke about and wish, but it was just not viable.

But be careful what you wish for. Or at least understand what you’re agreeing to. Because there is always a price. And this new internet life I’m learning, one that today had my first ever Vine skyrocket to 1,000,000 + loops and comments on how much I resemble the exorcist girl (which to be fair, I totally do. I guess I should have brushed my hair and put some under-eye concealer, cause guuuurl, you look dead) – this internet is a place I can’t treat like a relationship. As if it’s someone I need to constantly cater to. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been loving the internet so much, hoping she will feel the same.

But the internet will turn into a Katy Perry/Drake song hybrid faster than you can say, “What’s a Katy Perry/Drake song hybrid??” Hot and Cold, 0-100, and you’ll be left scratching your head wondering what you did wrong. Why don’t they love you? They were so affectionate yesterday!

Self-esteem is a lifelong journey. Those who say they’ve got it all figured out are lying to you. Lying to themselves. Because even the most secure individual can be brought back down by something insignificant. It happens. It’s human. These past few months I’ve been reminded of that. It’s easy to look myself in the mirror when people are singing praises. I get to avoid truths I don’t like. I get to pretend everything is sunshine and roses. But doing that was a recipe for demise. And sure enough, little things start to poke and prod. I notice I’m avoiding the mirror. I’ll champion self-worth, but listen to my own cruel inner monologue, let her tell me I’m not really as great as some people tell me. And that’s probably true.

Because whether or not you work on the internet, if you permit others to form your identity for you, you’ll wake up one day with no clue how you got there.

I guess I really do love you all. But I can’t always depend on you to love me back. TC mark

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Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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