To share or not to share, that is the question..
Well it has been a while...
I'm writing to you from half way through the second part of my therapist training - which for context is basically just the inside of an emotional washing machine placed on a 90 degree wash. To say I'm questioning everything in my life would be an understatement - and if I didn't already know that this is what usually happens in counsellor training I'd be feeling pretty cuckoo right now.
Anyway, in the last year I have oscillated back and forth on what to do about this blog; do I close it? Do I keep it? What's it really about? Do I want to keep writing? Does anyone even read this stuff?!
I read a hell of a lot - online, books, magazines, everything. Yet with social media, the internet and the whole pandemic things - there are now so many voices, so much noise and so many opinions - that the long and short of it has been; does the world really need another person yapping away online? And if so, why me?
Writing is vulnerable with a capital ‘V’. No matter how hard you try there is always ‘you’ in what you write. No matter how hard I edit, I’ll always accidentally reveal more of myself than I mean to (In fact I’m probably doing it right now), yet the paradox is that your best work will likely be when you’ve been most 'real'. A couple of years ago the posts where I hit ‘publish’ and ran away from the keyboard usually ended up the most read. And all the writing I’ve most enjoyed has come with a hint of voyeurism. Like you’re telling me things I’m not sure I’m allowed to know - but please, GO ON…
However, the sheer amount of money that can be made from casually documenting your dinner on a blog, Instagram or tiktok or whatever - is something I feel is really starting to undermine the importance of what it means to ‘share’. The possibility of monetary gain has allowed cynicism to enter the picture, and its beginning to affect our appreciation of a good old fashioned honest story. Knowing the level of fame, power and financial gain that can be accrued from being candid and vulnerable online has ignited judgement and cynicism, making it a lot harder for us to appreciate (or even believe!) a personal story or a brave opinion without the suspicion of an ulterior motive.
In a time prior to the internet, writing stories, publishing photos, watching films were all simply a way to connect and be entertained. Financial gain was not guaranteed, and we consumed books, magazines, television and film to learn and understand each other and the world around us.
If an author had a book published, they were simply sharing a great story, yet the internet has added new dimensions enabling the written word to quickly become less about connection, and more about ego, individual recognition and fame.
My ambivalence about this blog has been about all of these things. An abundance of personal sharing online has maybe made us all a bit tired of it. The world has information fatigue - because not only are we saturated, but we're tired of watching people get rich off simply selling their lives when the rest of us have to get up and go to work everyday.
Another concern for me has been the rise of calling those who share their lives ‘attention seekers’, a phrase so laced with judgement and contempt that it can mute someone in an instant, something which I simply cannot condone when we have no idea how hard it may have been for that person to find their voice in the first place (even if they are just waffling on about their dinner).
Yet as a counsellor, the power of an individual story, or the importance of speaking up for yourself, is something I simply can't ignore, and in returning to the profession, it also returned me to the reason I started this blog in the first place; there are few things more toxic to our mental health than the belief that we are alone in our weirdness. Which means being brave enough to share the real of who we are is fundamentally important in keeping the wheels of human compassion turning - so maybe it is important to keep sharing stuff that's real - even if we are at a place in time when we've had enough.
In 2018 I didn't do this to be an influencer or to make any money, I had just become acutely aware of how many people were sitting side by side - yet secretly fighting exactly the same battles. And in my 3 seasons as a holiday rep interacting with hundreds of people every week, it shocked me how upon knowing I had a degree in counselling, this was usually followed by a revelation of a personal brush with mental health - from even the most unlikely of characters. So I decided to write.
The price of sharing is kick-back; trolling, judgement and mis-interpretation. Yet if no one ever shares, then there is a price there too. It’s vulnerable, because it requires the surrender of control and opening yourself up to the harsher side of humanity.
I had an enormous vulnerability hangover in 2019 when I started working in an office job. The corporate world was absolutely not a place for woman sharing her thoughts on a pink blog - but it was a lesson in realising that whatever you do, whatever you say, it will inevitably land badly or incorrectly with someone - but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
Insights breed insights, and the pandemic for me has thrown into even sharper focus how important it is to use your voice and share the truth of what you think and feel - you never know who's struggles you may be validating.
I’m still on the fence about how much I’ll publish going forward - still figuring this one out - and as we are all very saturated with the ‘candid and vulnerable’ - maybe I’ll try and keep it light.
I do still wonder (even as I write this...), ‘but AM I just an attention seeker by writing online like this!?’ - then I think about the people who would say something like that, and the therapist in me just goes ‘and you care about that because…?’’