So, yeah…I took a break for a few days. I’m back now. Sort of. While I’m here, I wanted to blog about a few things and just put some of it out there. Readers are welcome to take it, leave it, or just not read it. It’s entirely up to you, but I’m posting because it’s about things online that have been weighing heavily on me for some time and I’m just kind of done. If you know what I mean.
I am finding it harder and harder to navigate online waters without crashing into huge boulders of negativity, aggressiveness, and downright maliciousness. This is not a good environment for me. I don’t really think it’s good for anyone, barring those who get off on drama for drama’s sake. I've kind of felt like I was in an episode of The Walking Dead, having to machete, slice, and shoot my way toward my goal (the wonderful people I’ve bonded with over the years, positive posts, good things) through a sea of groping monsters. I’m mixing a ton of metaphors, but when I started writing full-time, ten years ago this month, and joined the erotica community, it reminded me of a giant dirty slumber party. Going on to chat and check in was fun. It was pleasurable. Now, it often feels like Fight Club. I’m always waiting for the unexpected left hook out of nowhere.
Ironically, no one has really ever done anything to me. That’s not always the important part of the equation, though, is it? Just because no one has ever done anything to me, I’ve still seen flocks of people go after a lot of writers I care about. It’s unnerving to say the least the way these things start as a seed of truth, or sometimes misinformation, and then boom! Overnight you have a huge towering oak of anger, rage and blame.
Sounds a bit dramatic, I know. But the feelings and the stress of a lot of the online goings on, both in the publishing world and outside of it, are very real. Because I’m a human. And what I absorb I respond to. Simple as that.
So, what did I do while offline? Hmm. Let’s see…
I cleaned. Including approximately fifty pounds of once frozen, now-thawed dachshund poop. That was NOT my favorite part of my internet ban.
I cleaned other things. My house is neater. Things I’ve been ignoring since Jim’s death, well, those things got done.
I wrote. I didn’t necessarily write more often. I wrote for longer sprints. I put down more words. I wasn’t constantly checking in on Twitter and Facebook. My thought process was clearer. My mind more in tune with the task.
I watched Netflix. A looooot of Netflix. And also Durham County S1 and S2 on DVD. You’d think I’d get nothing done, watching all these dark crime shows (hey, it’s research. I want to tackle a dark crime novel). You’d be wrong. Without checking in constantly, I still managed to get a shit-ton done.
I breathed/meditated. When I started meditating after Jim died my brain was like a rat in a cage. My mind had been through a lot. It was traumatic, not to put too fine a point on it. But I stuck with it, and now it grounds me. It helps me with my writing, it supplies the plotline gaps, it also let me release all the negativity I’d been taking in.
Most importantly: I was calmer.
Now this is the point where I warn you that if you’re reading this because you think I’m going to name names or point fingers or supply specific situational information that caused my break from social media, sorry. Not gonna happen. That would simply be perpetuating the things that caused me to flee like my hair was on fire in the first place. Ironically, I once saw a writer publicly called out and persecuted for not naming names. For addressing issues and not pointing fingers at specific people. Quite frankly, that literally makes my brain hurt. But much like that friend, I won’t do it. I won’t change my beliefs or actions for anyone else. Period.
Here I get to an amusing part (not really). I broke my internet ban for approximately two seconds the other day to retweet something from an author that helped clarify a misunderstanding that was causing a lot of people to jump all over, quite viciously, I might add, a person I greatly admire and think is a wonderful person.
The next time I dared to look the very first response to a simple RT was an aggressive tweet. Which served absolutely no purpose other than to be inflammatory.
I retreated back into my turtle shell of Netflix, cleaning, writing and being in real life. Because the immediate off-the-cuff passive-aggressive (not really, more like aggressive-aggressive) nature of the tweet hurt.
Yes, you heard me. It hurt.
I also had an instance of feeling this, if I'm honest~
Here’s the part where people say, “Don’t be so sensitive. Don’t take these things personally.” Yeah but, here’s the problem: I’M A PERSON. It’s hard to not take things personally when you’re seeing someone being falsely accused of a great disservice and you know for a fact that they didn’t do it. Sorry, that hurts. Might not hurt you, but it hurts me and my feelings are the only ones I have to go on. Because I swim around in them all day.
Another part of the internet shunning, for me, was that it’s not getting better. It appears to be getting worse. Every day is a new instance of meanness for meanness sake. Immediate, knee-jerk, decisions to ‘convict’ ____fill in the blank_____ of something. Cruelty, in some instances. What was once a very happy place for me has become a stress trigger more often than not.
Can I change it? Nope. At least not in big ways.
Can I walk away from it? Yep.
It has finally dawned on me, after 43 years, that I choose what goes into my head. I used to say to myself, “You can’t be so sensitive. Everyone is different. Not everyone thinks and/or operates the way you do.” But I have realized, that though that is true, I get to control the junk that goes into my head. I get to control my online environment. And if I don’t want it, I don’t have to have it. Period. Not in the name of ‘sucking it up’.
I ‘sucked it up’ a lot for almost two years during Jim’s illness and then death. What that taught me, along with love someone you love as MUCH as you can love them EVERY DAY, is this:
Live the life you want NOW.
I don’t want the drama. I just want to write.
I told you I’ve been watching a lot of TV (heh). Det. Tom Bykowski on Durham County summed it up best in a S1 episode. My heart leapt when he said it. Yes, I thought. Yes, this is me!
“I just want to do the job. That’s enough for me. I don’t want to play the game.”
I know I’ve changed these last two years. I don’t think you could go through losing the love of your life and not change. It’s sensitized me, for sure. Made me more aware of how we treat one another and the consequences of what we choose to focus our energy on. And that awareness is okay. It’s good, in fact.
To wrap up this ridiculously long blog (sorry about that, folks), I’m coming back online. Albeit, slowly and with great care. This industry and online in general can often feel like a mine field, at least for me, personally. No path is the safe path, but I keep stepping the way that feels the best. To the amazing people I’ve been blessed to get to know after ten years of doing this job. Yes, that’s right, there is, in fact, magic on the internet too. Lots of good. Lots of kindness. I’ve witnessed it firsthand and at one point in my life, it literally saved my sanity. The online world of support and love my family and I received was astounding. When I go online, I work my way toward the people who supported me and mine in so many ways, ways I can’t even describe, during the slow and horrible loss of my husband.
So…"I’m back, baby!" to quote George Costanza. It will be in measured doses with a healthy chunk of perspective I’ll carry with me at all times. I’ll gravitate to the good, the happy, the uplifting.
All the rest I plan to blow away with a breath of kindness. Or, ya know, unfriend/unfollow/not look—but kindly-like ;)
This blog is strictly for and about me. I’m not preaching to anyone or judging how you spend your online time. It’s not my place to do so. However, I’d encourage people to not gut react and trash talk online w/o a healthy slab of facts at your disposal, but I fear, in some cases, that’s probably a wasted statement. Instead, I’ll leave you with this…