I’m actually not talking about internet dating. I’m talking about author persona, friends on the internet, patreon, crowdfunding, author visibility, and all those kettles of seafood medley.
I’ve been trawling through Robert Jackson Bennett’s blog and there were a couple of posts that struck a nerve. Struck a nerve and then proceeded to strum them hard in a fashion reminiscent of a rock metal-esque riff.
I’ve made incredible friends over the internet, solely through the internet, but I would argue that is the exception and not the rule. I have a RL friend who drove more than 500 miles in the summer heat in a black Beetle with a broken A/C to pick me up from college in Ohio and help me move out to Boston. Do I think that it’s possible to find a friend willing to do that on the internet? Yes. Do I think it’s terribly likely? No.
Twitter. Facebook. Blog posts. All of these handily packaged bytes of people. How easy is it to actually know someone and love them deeply enough to truly sacrifice for them through those channels?
Especially since we’ve entered an era where it feels like posting anything on the internet to get attention falls into three camps: happy happy fun fun promo or angst-ridden please help me not kill myself or HULK-rage.
And depending on what your online persona needs and wants from the world, you have to pretty much pick one and lock up the others in a box. Maybe you can bring out one of the other two to play with, occasionally, once you’ve established who you are and your audience is aware that it’s just a fluke when you have any other emotions than what you’ve habitually given them.
Otherwise you run the risk of alienating your audience.
Which is fine if you don’t need them to support you. Which is definitely not-fine if you’re an artist or any sort of creative who wants to make money off of essentially being liked by a whole lot of people.
It’s true that oftentimes knowing too much of a creator can mar the work for the consumer. There’s at least two authors I won’t read because I find them distasteful on a personal level. I’m not sure it’s fair to the work but it is what it is. It’s why I understand why it’s suggested that no one talk about anything potentially divisive on their professional fronts. You want your work to stand for itself because as Bennett points out, it really is and should be the reader interacting with the work. And distracting the reader with other things is possibly a terrible idea when there’s already too little signal to noise ratio.
So there’s the line of revealing just enough to be attractive and human and yet keep behind enough so that you don’t send people running for the hills.
Women have it both easier and harder.
It’s no secret that women have always found it easier to build community, online and off. It’s almost genetically hard-wired into us.
However, I think for women there’s a larger backlash when we step out of the roles that other people cast us into. Women aren’t really allowed to be angry. We’re not really allowed to be anything other than calm, pacifying, nurturing, happy, cheerful supporters.
What that means for knowing someone, for expressing yourself as a woman on the internet troubles me greatly.
What that means for being a female creative on the internet hoping to be loved troubles me some more.