I am experiencing mixed feelings about my entry into the blogging world. On the one hand I am incredibly grateful and feel surprisingly supported and understood. It is an amazing and unforeseen element to this world that has really got me thinking. The endless array of blogs I read are so real and raw – it is literally like people are bleeding their truth – and the honesty of it takes me breath away. In this way it is quite different from other forms of social media. These other forms – facebook, twitter, Instagram, tinder etc – seem to so often be based on superficialities. People can craft themselves into whatever they want to be, or appear to be, in those places. They are escapist forums. Within them are tangled webs of deceit, and veils draped over everything meaningful or real or dark. It is for that reason that they have always held little value for me. I refused to even join face-book until last year. And the only reason I conceded was to create an artist page. Up until then I was dead against facebook or anything remotely like it, and I still am to a degree. The world of social media is stripping humanity of its ability to relate on a deeper level. It is robbing our children of the ability to interact face to face, and create meaningful relationships. My feelings on it are probably best surmised through the speech of one of my book characters, Tanner, in my first novel, ‘Chase Hope’, set in 2008:
“‘Facebook Chase, is the epitome of this generation’s problem. It represents the degradation of modern society. The technological age, though it is glorified and adored by the masses, is, in fact, destroying everything that’s good about the world. Real human contact is becoming obsolete. People don’t need to actually talk face to face and engage with one another anymore. Instead they pin up stupid insignificant details of their lives, equipped with photographic evidence of the meaningless nature of their identities, on a computer screen so that the people who they misleadingly refer to as friends, can keep in touch and up to date with what they are doing, without that individual ever having to talk to anyone directly or in a personal way. They think – I’ll just pin it all up on my wall, then I can’t stand accused of not keeping in touch with my overwhelmingly large number of acquaintances who I offer nothing of value to, I can’t stand accused of not inviting people to my social gatherings. I, in fact, don’t have to even open my mouth to converse again because facebook is happy to do it for me. Facebook says these are the details of my life if you’re interested, and if I’m at all interested in who’s dating who, or who has updated their status, then I might consider checking their page, but it’s my choice.’
Tanner paused for emphasis. ‘The thing is Chase; it’s this collective mentality that is stripping the world of meaning. People go about their silly business not ever really connecting with others, and then when they actually want to have some sort of meaningful relationship, they find themselves completely unequipped, and confused about how to negotiate one, let alone keep one. BASICALLY facebook (and modern technology in general) is an excuse for people to be lazy, whilst simultaneously sating their voyeuristic need to involve themselves in other people’s business‘.”
I still believe this to be true, except now the world of facebook has branched out even further to include many other forums of superficiality. The world of social media is, quite literally, a screen for people to hide behind.
The blogging world, however, is proving to be the exact opposite of that. Sure, there’s a lot of superficial crap being written and read, but the stuff that I engage with is deep and honest and courageous. People are spilling their dark spaces and black wounds onto the screen. They are revealing their deepest vulnerabilities and insecurities, their biggest mistakes and most heartfelt desires and regrets. It is really a remarkable phenomenon that I did not expect. Rather than isolating people, it is bringing strangers together who identify with one another on a deep level. That is something really wonderful, which should be embraced. I am deeply touched by the strangers who follow me, who find some value in what I am putting out into the world, and who take the time to offer kind words and understanding in their commentary. And I’m finding that I am more and more compelled to reach out to others too. I read the dark, haunting things written by younger women, some who are struggling with depression and self-harm tendencies, and my heart breaks for them. I find myself wanting to reach out through the barriers of time and distance to help them. If I can convince one girl, who feels completely alone and fucked up because she cut herself last night, that she is not alone and that someone understands, then I am offering something of true value. And that, in turn, is helping me find value in myself, and making me feel that I am not alone in the things that I battle.
But there is another side to the blogging experience that I struggle with. And it is the popularity contest element of it. I think this is a product of the imprint made by all the social media forums that came before it. The number of ‘friends’ on facebook, the number of ‘likes’, can be taken as a reflection of your worth and how ‘likeable’ you are to the world. It shouldn’t be of course, and that’s why I refused to buy into the world of social media until now. But even I am not above that crap. I want to be liked and valued just as much as anyone else. I eagerly pounce on my phone whenever an email notification pops up, to see if it’s another like or follow. I want more. I am greedy for them. They are fuelling the need in me to be worthwhile and valued. And I hate that I am not above it. I hate that I am buying into the popularity contest of it. Because it’s not a popularity contest. The things that I am writing about, and that I am reading and liking, are products of the darkest and boldest elements in humanity. For that reason alone it should have nothing whatsoever to do with being popular. It runs so much deeper than that, and that’s why I love it. And I think that’s why I care about the likes and the follows on here, whilst I never have on facebook or any other type of superfluous media. I bleed into my blog. So if people like or follow me, then it is the real, authentic me that they are accepting. That is a wonderful and refreshing feeling. I was worried, when I first started, that some of the things I had done, and confessed, would be shunned and criticised, as well they should be. But I have been surprised and overwhelmed by just how kind, accepting and forgiving people are of the fallibilities in me. It actually gives me a whole new perspective on the world. It gives me, for the first time in years, a strange sense of hope for the future – that even in this day and age of technological advancement and the general degradation of intimate face-to-face connections – strangers can find and identify with one another on a deep level. We just have to use the technology that has been forced on us in the right way. I realise now that I don’t have to fight against the rise of technology and social media, forbidding my children to access it and all its flaws; I just have to use it the right way, and show my kids how to use it the right way – to build human connections, explore and share ideas, unlock their individual potential and find support when support is needed.
I need the blogging world. I found it at the most critical and crucial time in my life. I thought it would just be a way of using my inherent need to write to get my feelings out. But it has proved to be so much more than that. What I have found is a world where I am accepted and supported, just as I am, right down to my deepest and most vulnerable core. And it is a world where I can reciprocate that understanding and empathy on a daily basis. I thank every soul that has followed me, or given me a like, or even taken the time to read something that came from me – for you are all helping me to rebuild the very foundation of who I am.