Do you remember just a few months ago (October to be specific) when I vowed to write again; and gave everyone full permission to shoot me if I didn’t stick to my word? Well load your guns, aim and fire, because I failed again.
I don’t even have a valid excuse; but I guess I could say I have a reason.
You see, I have a confession to make. My name is Zoë, and I suffer from writer’s block. There I said it. (I almost feel that was a more harrowing story that Kendall Jenner’s apparent struggle with Acne, but there she is with an 18 million dollar net worth, and well here I am…)
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be another post where I just apologize for my absence. This time I do actually have some thoughts to share, some that are admittedly more profound than others.
Let’s go back in time shall we? Back to the birth of my writing career, where at the tender age of 13 I began carving out my place in the internet landscape, through the medium of a blog. At the time it was an incredibly new concept, and my journey certainly dates back to before the term ‘influencer’ was coined and long before bloggers held any power.
I always knew that I wanted to be a writer. At first I said I wanted to be an author; originally settling on some concept of historical fiction (stemming from my love of Phillipa Gregory) but later, I transitioned into documenting what would become my own history, and getting a hell of a lot more personal. If you did the Leaving Cert (you poor soul), you would remember the essay section of the exam quite well. This was where I thrived. I never even glanced at the short story-esque titles (my hopes of being an author long abandoned), but instantly gravitated towards the personal titles which allowed me to exploit my own personal experiences with the aim of obtaining a good grade.
It was from here that my writing style was truly cemented. I finally had something that I could write about, me. As I progressed from school essays to weekly and monthly columnist positions in my hometown, my writing style remained largely the same. Everything that I experienced was documented, because it was what everyone else my age was also experiencing; making me “relatable” and granting me with an audience. If you go back through my articles from all those years, they all tend to center on exams and on all the other teenage stresses that one goes through (including mentions of alcohol and drugs, which proved popular with concerned parents who wished to know what their kids were really thinking).
I went back on these topics again and again, until that fountain of content was well and truly dried up. Yet still I clung to it with all I had in me, until I eventually stopped writing almost altogether. The truth is that I am a little embarassed to read back on some of my articles, because for me they serve as reminders of what was really on my mind as I wrote yet another article about the ‘stresses of exams’. Perhaps thankfully it is only me, and my closest confidantes, who can decipher some of the pointed digs that littered those essays, metaphors and triads galore poorly masked whatever major personal event was going on at that time in my life. My articles almost bordered on diary entries; and now that I’m leaving my teenage years (time to rename this ol’ blog I guess) I don’t want to be that personal anymore.
But where does that leave any writer or journalist in today’s day and age? The media landscape has trained us to believe that if you are not exploiting someone’s personal life (whether it is your own or some poor celebrities) you are doing something wrong.
Take a look at any influencer you know. Vlogs, instagram stories, snapchats; all various mediums of allowing you into someone’s own personal sphere. An influencer’s job relies on them being able to exploit content from their own lives in the hopes that it will be deemed interesting enough for mass consumption. We all buy into it. These people take us along with them to such an extent that you click off a video or a post with the innate sense that you were actually there with them.
Of course, this influencer business is a dangerous game.
You see, the line between what should be public and what should be private is inherently blurred. I have said for years that instagram is not real, instead it documents our own highlights, our own personally curated ‘best bits’ which we choose to project to our followers.
But you can never please everyone. If people choose to curate their feed in such a way that allows some of their personal life to remain in the dark (usually masking their love lives or family relationships), they can often be accused of being ‘fake’, or find themselves on-slaughted with questions about all the parts that they are not showing to the camera.
Then if someone does decide to rip back the curtain and expose every detail; many deem this to be ‘too much’ and preach about the dangers of being so open on the internet.
Then there are those elusive few who retain no personal social media accounts at all; like the likes of Jennifer Lawrence who hasn’t graced us with so much as an instagram handle. This kind of conscious self-exemption from the social landscape is seemingly only reserved for the A-listers, as all up and comers probably would be scolded by their managers for not injecting themselves into every aspect of the consumer’s life.
This leaves those who wish to write authentically in a difficult position. To be more upfront, this has left me in a place where I have not known what to write at all, unsure where to draw the line. I could write a million posts about my favorite foundation or my current skincare routine (and maybe those topics will crop up) but I could also write another billion about the in’s and out’s of my own little world.
To anyone who knows me that is reading this (hi Mom); you guys may find this kind of piece almost comical. Because with my friends, I am not a private person. I tell my friends everything because I trust them. However, a few years ago now, soon after being labelled as a complete open book (an accurate analysis of my young teenage personality I must say) I actually started to retract a little from these actions. Not saying everything about myself on meeting, not trusting people, not telling people things (often rather significant things about myself); and I’m not entirely sure if this is a good or a bad thing. But although my friends right now generally have to endure far too many details about things they could probably live without knowing; it is still accurate to say that I have found new meaning in the word ‘private’, and I value it a lot more than I ever thought I would.
I’m unsure thus far where I want to draw the line when it comes to this platform; but maybe acknowledging the difference between creative expression and intrusive invasions in the name of content creation, is what I am going to classify as the first step.
Now, since this is beginning to sound like a philosophical version of an AA meeting, I am going to leave it there. I know I only scratched the surface of the implications of the public and private spheres that exist in the media world, but hey, I’m a little rusty.