Here’s the thing about social media; it’s cultivated.
I mean, you know that. Duh. It’s public and obvious, signed and stamped. You put your face out there, your words, and build a personal brand, if you’re especially odious or determined.
And, whatever. In a way, the internet is less anonymous than we fear. The need for attention mostly trumps the dark temptations of anonymity.
The problem is when those things don’t overlap.
If that sounds like you, it’s because this is common.
In the age of “be yourself” there’s often an awkward caveat. Be yourself if it makes sense to show online. Be yourself if it builds your personal brand. Be yourself if it’s relatable, like a humble, fake-mewling concession. Does anyone else prefer Netflix to parties?
Reliability becomes the currency of comfort, and there becomes a need for implicit acceptance before we air our true selves. So what happens if you, like me, have an unsympathetic vice?
To be open with mine, I have a lot of envy.
Envy is about as unsympathetic a vice as they come. It’s a close cousin to the noun, title, and epithet of hater. Hater. Nobody wants to be a hater! I mean, I’m not a hater! Because a noun defines and an action acts. But I have it. I seethe with it. It leaks to friends and enemies, acquaintances real and imagined.
My stomach twists to see you succeed.
Hey, I don’t like it either. But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And when we deny it a space, a semblance of acceptance, we engage in a dangerous holier-than-thou stunting.
In a world where being relatable is prized, where public personas are pruned and cultivated, we push unsympathetic honesty deep down, which isn’t the same as curing it.
So, let’s talk about the public internet.
The main thing is that you’re in the strange position of being known and being a stranger. You have all the ability to gain or lose social currency with none of the benefit of the doubt or the clumsy need for politeness.
People don’t really know you; waves of strangers come, get a cursory view, and stick around if you agree with them. That’s fine! Likeminded people should hang, and you’re not required to banter with hateful idiots.
But fuck up and you will be devoured.
It’s true, and perhaps inevitable. The public and anonymous come together in an interesting way. Without knowing you, or seeing you, or needing to cooperate with you as a human in any way, fickle and immediate extremes are possible- consider how you’d talk to a cousin you disagree with versus a commenter online.
A stranger online isn’t a person. It’s a sentence. And, empowered with all your passion and genius, and beholden to none of the clumsy civilities of the human, you can finally strike righteously.
But bloodlust, even well-deserved, still stains red.
I’m not even sure this article is right.
Really; this isn’t me hedging my bets. I could be falsely preaching moral equivalency because I’m more afraid of being called out than I am of being wrong. This could be cowardice, a pre-emptive, mewling “please be nice to me!” that deserves your eye-roll. Really, it might be.
And if it is, I hope you can accept it as a thought I had, one I thought was worth thinking out loud. I hope you can go “hey, this is wrong because of X” and leave it at that, because you too have fucked up.
I dunno. That’s what happens when you wrestle with thoughts and weakness that embarrasses you online. At the end you have fatigue and weakness. I dunno, you say, and you want to delete the whole article to save yourself the risk and the struggle. And that, again, is the cowardice above.
I’m so afraid of offending I added a disclaimer and nearly scrapped this whole piece.