An experiment in public intimate journaling
A beginner’s personal experience of being 100% honest on social media intended for anyone who has a love hate relationship with the thing.
*(I’m imagining myself in conversation with a social media savvy, fashionable 30 something, who wears large sunglasses, mini skirts on top of gorgeously slender, golden brown, smooth-skinned legs, has long smooth hair that floats effortlessly, eats anything She likes and doesn’t put on an ounce, is liberated sexually, loves Her body and doesn’t mind being naked in front of strangers because She knows they’re all drooling whilst She simply ignores them (but has a mental camera at the back of Her head that knows they’re drooling, of course). She’s blasé about life because She’s gone on so many adventures, She’s not scared of anything anymore. That’s who I’m imagining myself talking to as I write what follows…)*
This may seem so boring to you, but what I’m about to do — what I’m doing right now — feels super edgy to me! I’ve been struggling with this question about what to write privately and what to write publicly and, because I can’t make up my mind about it, I thought I’d try an experiment.
I’m going to write about my struggle with this question in public, despite the fact that this is my (private) struggle.
An open journal in a way, I guess. Yikes, the idea feels super uncomfortable!!
She pops up. “That’s already been done by someone somewhere. So yesterday,” She says, as She glances up lazily from Her bright-screened, oversized iPhone (latest model, of course) to roll Her eyes at me, whilst Her thumb doesn’t stop scrolling, simply out of habit.
I just look back at her and note her presence.
Ok. So here goes.
I’m going to treat Medium as my journal. I’m going to stop writing in my beautiful Pages document that I dedicated to my true self. I’m going to do it here instead. What feels scary about that is that it feels like standing naked in front of complete strangers. I often have dreams of that… 🤔🙈😅
[Skippable tangent: it reminds me why I was horrified when I read that, after the end of the Second World War, in countries across Europe, whole villages would strip naked and shave any local woman suspected of being intimate with the foreign soldiers who were oppressing them. The humiliation of it for those poor women. I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. It makes me want to squirm just thinking about it! // I can understand the local people who needed to externalise their pain, anger, frustration, shame of being oppressed and treated like shit by foreigners. I get it. It’s unbearable to keep inside, but really was it necessary to do that to those poor women? I can also understand that they might want to hang on to some form of humanity by becoming intimate with a soldier. And I mean, it’s fucking normal (pun intended) to be attracted to other people. It would seem that that doesn’t stop during a war. I want to say: thank goodness. Anyway…]
It feels like I’m standing naked because by writing here as if I was writing in my journal, it means that I have to be as honest with you as I am honest with myself (which I am). It means exposing my true self to the judgment of people who don’t know me. Yikes. I don’t even who my true self is! 😂 I discover her as I write… This would be like “uncurated social media”.
Yep. Of course. She popped up. She’s half interested in the concept because She’s thinking of how that could be monetised, maybe become a trend and go viral… 🤩 “Imagine, creating an image that you’re, like, so authentic and strong as a woman that you don’t mind sharing, like, everything about yourself.” 🤑🤤 “It’s already been done, of course, it’s not original”, She hastens to add to make me feel shit about me doing this. “And anyway,” She disses me, “It’s not possible to be totally honest with others because you necessarily change what you’re going to say because you know that someone’s going to read it.” Eye roll from Her.
What She doesn’t know is that I have a secret trick. So I’m going to do it anyway.
Why am I doing this?
For the last few months, I have been having a lot of thoughts about life, what’s ‘really’ going on, how not to go insane in the current insanity of what I conceive of as our collective consciousness (as seen through social media and various news outlets ~ to me that is the dominant voice of our global collective).
I am doing this in response to an urge that I’ve been feeling for months now to share these thoughts because I think they can have a positive impact. That’s why I’m doing this.
I’ve been grappling with what to do with the pressure of that urge for as many months. I realise as I write these words that I instinctively resisted the urge, not because having Her in my head was stopping me from hitting the ‘Publish’ button to save me from the humiliation of insults or tumbleweed (it turns out it’s more the latter than the former and so what, tumbleweed isn’t that big a deal it turns out…).
What that time of me not giving in to the urge to publish gave me was time to really check my intention.
And that matters to me.
I am too conscious of the amount of noise that exists in the virtual space. It is overwhelming and confusing. I don’t want to add to it. On the contrary, I want to help cut through it! I’m trying to do that for myself. I see others complain from the same thing so I figured it might help someone else if I share my process. Not because I’ve got the answers. But maybe my answers will help whoever reads this think with their answers.
And the reason I wanted to share my struggle in figuring what to write about is because I’m thinking of at least a few people I’ve spoken to in the recent past who seemed discouraged and overwhelmed by social media, particularly in relation to their professional activity because it’s a key way nowadays to let people know you exist, and, like me, they are trying to communicate their true authentic self online in a way that doesn’t feel icky and fake.
I don’t want to metaphorically stand here and tell you how to do that because that’s part of the problem I see: people telling other people what to do, pretending that they themselves have got the answers.
I haven’t got the answers! I’ve only got the questions and I figured, the best thing I can do is share my reflections in my personal search for the answers. Even if it feels scary and uncomfortable. Because life has become as tough as shit and I can’t do it alone. None of us can. And I’m tired of pretending that I have the answers. It creates this insane psychological pressure that exhausts me and makes me feel like shit. I don’t want to live like this! Life’s too short and precious.
Ok. This is the first point at which I negotiate in public what I’m going to do next with this story because I know that I am writing for an audience. What do I do? Because I write like this for myself so, if the game/challenge is to write as if I was writing for myself (to keep it honest), do I share the back(mental)stage part? When I write for myself, I write everything I think to avoid falling in the trap of censoring myself. When I’m writing for myself, I need to see all of it on the page. If I try and figure any of it out in my head before I write it down, it doesn’t work. But I’m making up that you (let alone She) are not particularly interested in seeing these bits. Well, the only practical thing that comes to mind in order to deal with it is: ask. 😬 If anyone can be bothered to read this much and then write to me, could you tell me: is this too much? Just out of curiosity about how this feels for someone who doesn’t have Her hanging out in their heads!
Because here’s the thing: I’ve been reading all this advice about how to do your best writing to reach a large audience. The thing is, of course I want to reach a large audience if I can! If I can have a positive impact on lots of people, that would be amazing. But I don’t want to do it their way, I want to be real! I’m tired of figuring out “the best” way to do it. I haven’t got the energy, I just had covid. I want to do it my way because it’s just easier that way. I don’t have to waste all this mental energy thinking about whether what I’m doing is good or bad, the right way or the wrong way.
So in the spirit of that, I’m going to stop writing now without thinking about whether my “dénouement” is striking enough or funny or clever enough for a piece that is going to be read by strangers. It so happens that I feel like it’s done.
Notes on the story
*about women shaved and stripped naked as punishment for intimate relations with the enemy* ~ I read this in an emotionally intense and very well researched book by Keith Lowe, Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II.
*“dénouement”* ~ means “ending” for any non-French speakers. I’m not trying to be clever with the French word tossed in there: being bilingual and a lover of words, there are just certain words that feel nicer in a particular language and I like the word dénouement! And I want to be mindful of any reader who doesn’t speak any French.