Whenever I go on a Tinder date, I cringe when they say they’ve read my articles. Not because I think they’re bad—I mean, I definitely have unfavorites—but because this means my date has potentially read about how much I loved my ex-boyfriend, my problem with cheating, or my experience with sexual assault in Italy. You know, normal first date conversation. Sharing my life with anonymous Internet strangers is quite different than having someone in front of you, saying they’re sorry that happened to you, while you try to slam your drink in a classy way that will relieve the awkwardness, yet not make you look like an alcoholic.
There are essentially two kinds of fears of putting yourself online: the immediate (people you will actually meet) and the anonymous (people on the Internet). Even with its facelessness, the Internet can be a very creepy place. We live in an age where Target can predict a pregnancy, strangers can find and threaten your address, and your private pictures can make headlines. Personally, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid major compromise, although I have been found on Facebook by someone I talked to for five minutes at a bar. There is so much potential for privacy invasion; we are taught to be careful with our information online to the point that the people living off the grid and wearing tinfoil hats really don’t seem so off-base anymore.
But you know what, the world is not a fun place if there is no honesty, and I am okay with having my information available if it is for good. I don’t write about myself out of millennial self-importance—I tell my stories because I hope that someone else can laugh. I hope that people see themselves in what I write and finally feel not alone. And—most hopeful of all—I want to help people avoid my mistakes. This is not the ’50s; we do not make disgusting, repressed casseroles and pretend everything is peachy while crying into our nighttime martini. There is a desire now to relate to others on an authentic human level. Just as it is informative for some to read about the news, it might be informative for someone to read about your journey through life.
As far as dealing with people you actually have to see, I’ve had many talks with people who say they don’t understand how I do it—how I allude to sex or personal issues and then look people in the eye. Aren’t I worried my mom will read my writing? Or my future employers? Yes, of course I worry about this. When my boss asked for the link to my Huffington Post article on things I don’t give a shit about, I became MUCH more keenly aware that I used the word “anal.” But I can’t live my life in fear of what others might potentially think. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I am supported to be my authentic self without image reps or brand representatives telling me how to behave. This is who I really am. Why is it supposed to be scary if other people know that?
If someone gets to know me well, eventually I will have to answer the questions anyway (and honestly, in some cases I’d rather someone read it than explain it in person). What’s the worst that can happen from being yourself?
(And yes, I realize that is NOT a question I should ask of the Internet.)
I am not infallible by any means. I’m not proud of everything I’ve written, though I’m more likely to be embarrassed by the quality than the content. The comments section of my articles can be a source of anxiety—if there is silence, if I get 1,000 views, or if there are 30 comments telling me I need therapy (making me to wish I had re-written a few paragraphs so they would JUST UNDERSTAND). I’m sure some people read my articles and think less of me. But you can’t please everyone, and you don’t need people who look down upon you for trying to create. It’s so easy to criticize and so difficult to put yourself out there—but guess which one reaps more rewards?
I don’t think sharing your life is necessarily the right answer for everyone. Just because I am comfortable with it doesn’t mean other people have to be, and with that in mind, I try very hard to keep those referenced in my articles anonymous. I also check with people who might be affected—for example, asking my boyfriend before publishing my cheating article. But I think there is something to be gained from sharing even my small little slice of existence. If I didn’t, what does that say about how I feel about my life?
So, hypothetical Tinder date, I am flattered that you have done your homework on me. I’ve written about my exes, about my insecurities, and yes, theoretically, it’s possible I will end up writing about you, although let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. You now know some unsavory things about me, but you also know that I am in touch with myself enough to analyze those things and try to learn from my mistakes. You know that I have quirks, feelings, and interesting experiences, and that if I am willing to be honest with the Internet, I will be honest with you. If you find my writing distasteful, I understand that not everyone is compatible. If you want to know more, let’s get another drink, and I’ll tell you the stories I haven’t written yet.
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