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November 18th, 2015

shadesong: (Hearth)
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 09:45 am
I've had this essay by s.e. smith, entitled "My Private Life is not for your Consumption", open in a tab for a while. And I'm going to quote heavily from it here:

As a public figure, I cultivate many different personas; like anyone who performs for the public to any degree, I face certain public expectations, as well as the natural desire to appeal to the people I write for, and with. My public personas aren’t fake, but they are facets of myself rather than the entirety of who I am at all times. They aren’t an unfiltered view of myself, the view that my personal friends see when they encounter me in private. They are components of a whole, parts of an identity, and I like it that way. I prefer to retain a private life and there are some things I don’t care to discuss in public.

The same is true of many other public figures — certainly of the people I talk to about the issue of private and public lives. We want to interact with people, we want to forge genuine connections with people, and we want to be active in our communities, but we also want to maintain distance. Otherwise, we become objects of public consumption, something that makes us deeply uncomfortable and that at times can be actively dangerous.

Yet, many of our fans seem to struggle with this. I hesitate to use the word ‘fan’ because it makes me feel weird, but people use it self-referentially, so I’m tentatively using it here. Despite the fact that what they see is only part of who we are, many exert a strong and troubling sense of ownership over us, and it’s especially disturbing in an era of collating data about every aspect of people’s lives. There is a sense of familiarity that can feel very offputting even as I encourage people to talk to me, to not be shy around me, because I genuinely like talking to people who enjoy my work or have interesting thoughts about it.

I see this as a passive observer sometimes when I see people with very high public profiles struggling to balance the desire and need to connect with their fans with their own personal desire to have private lives. The high-profile author who had to politely ask fans to stop ferreting out his old address and sending things to it because it was creeping out the people who bought his house from him. The author who was criticised for not providing details about a medical condition even as she was opening up about having health problems. The film star subjected to scrutiny for wanting to be left alone while doing ordinary public things like getting some food or going to, well, a movie. The person who wants to be able to ride the train without being photographed and mobbed.


I'm sharing this because it's part of why I haven't been blogging here as much.

To fully explain, let's go in the Wayback Machine and take a look at when and why I started a LiveJournal in the first place. It was early 2002, and I had just moved from Florida to Georgia, to be with my beloved [livejournal.com profile] yendi. And while everything with Adam was wonderful... Adam is an introvert, and he didn't really have a community that I could step into.

So I started my LJ, as is apparent from the first posts, to keep in touch with my Florida friends. Because I was disconnected and horribly lonely. And that's the place LJ filled in me - connection. First with existing friends, then with new people who found me because LJ was very small back then, and suddenly I had 500 "friends" and, well, I was a performing monkey there for a while. Because I was deeply lonely, and here I could get little snippets of connection, even if it didn't mean much.

There was that hideous mess of harassment in 2003-2004. There was me documenting my epilepsy diagnosis and the side effects of the almost-dozen meds they put me on. Those were the days of the several-times-daily posting - not so much out of loneliness anymore, but because the drugs fucked with my short-term memory, and I needed to keep a record.

And then I moved to Boston.

I haven't looked back to see if there's a marked decline in posts then, but it wouldn't surprise me. I didn't *stop* posting, obviously. I did daily good-morning posts til quite recently. But my LJ had shifted to conversations with friends I already had.

While remaining aware of hundreds of lurkers, watching. But trying not to think about them.

In the early days, yes, I really did put everything out there. It stung during last year's harassment incident that someone accused me of being disingenuous because I hadn't posted about something that happened, that someone told me that I expose my entire life and thus the lack of a post was proof that I had not been hurt by action X at time Y.

And... no, I don't. I never did expose my entire life. And for the last five years or so, I've been exposing very little.

Except when I was forced to, in 2013 and 2014.

And my refusal to dig up receipts and screencaps during the harassment in late 2014 mostly because I was in the middle of prep for the court case against my rapist and therefore had zero spoons, but it was partially the decision that no, I don't owe people this.

This is not me saying LJ is bad. This is me saying that viewing people on LJ as public figures of whom you find it natural to make these demands, to hurl abuse at when you don't get to see as deeply into their personal lives as you want - that's bad.

The people who need to read that sentence won't. I know.

But that's not why I'm not posting as much. I've said I'm busy, and that's true, though anyone who follows me on Tumblr knows I can take a few minutes to reblog a few things. :) But the real thing is: my life is full. I have a large community - so large that it's become a challenge! Since finishing my first novel, I know that hey, I can finish a novel, and now that I have writing time back I'm focused on that. I have dates, I have stuff I'm doing around the house, I have art stuff, I have shows and parties and museum adventures. I've spent the past couple of weeks wishing I had more time, and some time to rest.

Which doesn't lead to having much time to write long introspective posts on LJ. :) Plus, the emotional energy that went into that? I do hope y'all get to read the novel someday. Because I do it better there.

And I could be here daily telling you all the stuff I'm up to and finishing with a breezy "gotta run!", but...

The direction I've been going the past several years is the opposite of where I went when I first came to LJ. I have had the hell of fame. (That's part of what the book is about.) Whether you noticed it or not, I had been withdrawing for my own emotional well-being.

Until 2013, and being forced to reveal everything, everything, everything.

Look at that. Is it any surprise that I don't post much anymore? That I haven't done a big namecheck post about that last party, that I didn't tell you about that conversation Adam and I had?

For a while there, I had my right to privacy, my right to silence, my right to self-protection, repeatedly violated.

It used to be that me being quiet here was a sign of trouble. Now it's a sign that I'm listening to and taking care of myself.

You may or may not have noticed that the way I use LJ has changed. But I'm telling you, and I'm telling you why. I'm listening to myself, and what I need to do is have quiet spaces. What I need is to assert my right to a private life.

And if you think that's contrary to the person you've seen so far, you've been reading me wrong.

I'm still connected. I do read my friendspage, and I'm on Facebook and Tumblr, and I'm happy to interact there. And here, when I feel moved to post. But here is different now.

And now I gotta run - my boyfriend will be here soon, and after we spend the day together, I'm going to a Marian Call concert with Adam and Aimee. All good things.

I hope you're well. I may do an ask me/tell me anything post sometime soon. I'll see you then. :)