can you share and still be safe, defining safety, do no harm, Facebook, Facebook is not safe, free speech, freedom of expression, my blog is my sacred space, sacred space, safe place, safety, say what you want, social media
I’ve been having an existential un-crisis (more of an ongoing preoccupation) about this blog. Why did I start it? Why do I keep it? Who is reading it?
Last night I had to introduce myself to a group of relative strangers–intelligent people to whom I didn’t want to appear either dumb or oh-look-how-smart-I-am. I gushed about my boy, because when your child is almost three, motherhood can feel like the most enormous part of your identity. I mentioned my MFA, because it was an academic crowd and an MFA in creative writing is really only ever important in an academic crowd. I don’t talk about my MFA much. I have friends who don’t know I have one, and friends who have probably forgotten I do. All good.
Then I mentioned my blog. I said, “I run a blog about being a single mom and trying to balance that with working and writing.” I said, “It’s not the most original premise for a blog, but there it is.” I wasn’t being self-deprecating (well, not too much). The premise itself is not original. Single working/writing moms consider balance constantly.
At least, the ones I talk to in real life do. I’m looking for their blogs, I really am, and I have a decent list, but it’s not very long.
If I’m completely honest with myself, I started this blog not as a way to increase my visibility as a writer, to build some elaborate online presence, or to garner hundreds of comments per post hahahahahahahahaha. And I didn’t start it because I think I have anything original to say about being a mom. I started it so I would have a safe space online to write and share my thoughts. A space of my own. A virtual room in which to be myself.
Here’s the existential
crisis preoccupation part: can you share and still be safe?
Some writers and editors are talking about safe spaces with regard to issues of intersectionality and trauma survival. There are too many of these conversations going on, and in informal capacities like comment threads, to link to. Others don’t care, and they’re showing it, which at least allows the rest of us to identify UN-safe spaces.
What is “safety,” you might ask? Ha, me too. Here goes: for me, safety is literal. I am (probably?) physically safe from the threats of my recent past. I am not emotionally or psychologically safe from them. When I’m online and all the headlines are gendered violence and drowned children and racism racism racism and just so much hate and ignorance and zero compassion, I have emotional responses. I am triggered. Facebook is very triggering for me. I quit Facebook a while back. And by quit, I mean, I read a bit but I’ve stopped posting anything except links to this blog. I felt myself being pulled into every controversy, every argument, every potentially triggering or upsetting occurrence in the lives of everyone I know, in person and online. Engaging in conversations about these topics and experiencing the backlash, victim-blaming, ignorance, logical fallacies, and absurd justifications is even more triggering. So while I still care so much, I don’t hang there anymore. It isn’t safe for me.
Then you have this woman, who is tired of hearing about your kids on Facebook. I mean, sheesh, even our most innocent, sweet, relatable shares are under fire. Sharing a photo, or 800 photos, of your baby isn’t hurting anyone. Being annoyed is not being hurt. I think your kids are adorable, for the record. Social media is an extension of freedom of expression, right? Online spaces where we have free leave (only please do no harm) to say whatever we want–and others have free leave to scroll past, ignore, hide from timeline, etc.? No, it’s easier to put everyone on blast and write nasty essays, I guess. Because free speech is only important if you’re pissed off about something?
Important note: You have free leave to say what you want on social media, on your blog, anywhere you want. But that does not mean that everyone else does NOT have the right to disagree with you, in equally free speech that is hopefully not abusive. There’s a lot of confusion about what constitutes bullying, dissent, censorship, and free speech violation, so I wanted to make clear where I stand on those topics. To define this safe space, as well as why I don’t think Facebook IS safe, for me. I don’t want people to stop having difficult conversations, even if they trigger me. And I don’t want to stop writing or being present online.
So I made my own space. Here is where I talk about difficult things. Where I can say it and then leave it. Where you can respond, if you want, but you know you’re on my turf, not a communal space of etiquette anarchy, like FB. Where the door is open, but there is most definitely a door. Where I can craft what I say–always preferable to the instant gratification of spouting off an FB comment and then getting notifications for days after, drawn back in to read this and that tangential remark spiraling off and away from the original point because someone misunderstood, or you misspoke or linked wrong or were too emotional, or someone else is derailing, and the whole thing becomes a huge mess.
This is MY room, and you’re all invited. Don’t make a mess; this is sacred space.
As for those single and/or writing/working mom blogs, link me! I would love to see this comment thread fill up with doors into other women’s rooms.
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Robbie Williford said:
This is fantastic. I vibe with this as someone who wrestles with sharing my writing and keeping it completely secret. Some stuff is online–snippets of poems or creative pieces that have come to me all at once or over 8 months–but the majority of it is written at my desk and with no audience at all.
Love the idea of creating a space for myself.
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Thank you so much, Robbie! It’s funny, I publish some poems and essays and don’t stress that sharing as much as I do some of my blog posts, because I can’t hide behind “speaker” or “persona” here. I USED to stress it. I wonder when that changed, or why? No matter the style or genre, writing is solitary and audiences grow and shrink. I guess the most important thing is to be right with what we share to begin with, no matter who is reading. I’m glad you were reading today!
omg I feel this so hard. Especially the feeling of being constantly pulled into all of those “conversations.” I’ve been wrestling with the idea of looking away, the privilege inherent in doing so as a straight white woman with economic security, etc. Add education & the moral impulse to at least *try* to enter those spaces is so strong.
I started doing FB breaks about a year ago & was astonished by how much better it made my writing life, which made no sense — a writer has to be engaged with the world, right, which is what I thought I as doing by paying such close attention to every controversy & tragedy. Then I read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast & Slow. He cites a bunch of studies on intuition. In one, participants were given a list of words and asked to identify whether they were linked in some conceptual or denotative way. Like, the whole experiment sounds like it could be tryouts for Poetry School. Anyway, researchers found that one of the variables affecting accuracy — your ability to intuit — is mood:
“[The experimenters] found that putting participants in a good mood before the test by having them think happy thoughts more than doubled accuracy. An even more striking result is that unhappy subjects were completely incapable of performing the intuition task accurately; their guesses were no better than random . . . . When we are uncomfortable and unhappy, we lose touch with our intuition.”
This blew my mind in a couple of ways. One, it explained why I could not write poetry for seven years. But it also made me reconsider my ideas about privilege: if I consider myself called — as I do — to make poems, is *that* where my sense of moral obligation ought to come from? Don’t I have the responsibility to protect my intuition — my ability to make metaphor — despite the perhaps antisocial consequence? So I have been trying this out, conceiving of my vocation as the means by which I effect change. It is making my writing life a lot better. And saving me some of the triggers 🙂
Anyway, I love your space & I’m glad you made it. I love reading about how you process all the stuff that gets so quickly snatched up & tossed aside in social media, that you spend time thinking, like you said, crafting your response. It encourages me to do the same.
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I love what you have to say about intuition, because it cuts to the heart of why I backed away from FB to begin with. I was starting to have a Pavlovian response to certain stories and issues, which I think runs deeper than just, I was being triggered. There was no intuition, only response. I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t even really feeling, only experiencing and acting on previous feelings, if that makes sense. And of course, straight white privilege makes it easier for many of us to disengage. Only I don’t want to disengage. I try to be a good ally, and maybe the best way I can do that is to not be the loudest voice in conversations about oppression I don’t experience, but to call out and object to that oppression in real life, instead of just shouting on FB about it. That’s what I’m trying to do. Even conversations about oppression I have, in fact, experienced–I can’t fully participate in them, in a way that would benefit me or anyone, if I’m emotional, purely reactionary. Maybe someday… For now, I have to slow down and think before I speak. You always have the best book recommendations, and the most thought-provoking responses to my posts. Thank you!
I’m happy you made a room for yourself. And that you leave the door open for us. I know you help other mothers, other writers, other survivors feel less alone. My blog started as a way to get into a writing routine and a place to house a freelance portfolio. It’s evolved into this odd public safe space where I pieces of my heart in hopes that maybe even one person feels a little less crazy. Keep on keeping on.
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Thank you so much, Susan. Yours is one of the blogs on my list, and I do feel less crazy when I read your words. Do you ever get anxious about what you share, after you share it?
Susan’s blog is http://www.myinsidevoices.com, bookmark it!
Yes! All the time. I’ll write something close to the bone and then close my eyes when I click Publish. Ultimately, it’s that “should I or shouldn’t I moment?” that lets me know it’s probably something that needs to be shared. If I’m not taking a risk, then why did I show up? Who is that helping? I’m sure you can relate.
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Yes, ma’am. I also worry about who’s reading, and why. Plenty of us are silent lurkers on blogs–if we commented on everything we read online, it would be too time-consuming, I know. But you’re right: if we’re having the “should I or shouldn’t I?” then that signifies, necessitates, risk-taking. Thanks again for your kindness and readership. ❤