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.