Is there such a thing as web-induced agoraphobia? If so, I think I might have it.
Lately, I find that I’ll start drafting a post, only to freeze mid-sentence, suddenly close out my tabs, and slam shut my nettybook. It’s a weird startle-escape response, akin to —
Generally speaking, writing online is stressful: the Internet is no country for all women. For anyone who believes otherwise, see INTERNET (all).
On a more personal level, I once wrote a short blog post — without using names or other identifiers — about a relatively minor complaint, which escalated beyond anything I could have imagined. The end result was a family feud of sorts, one that culminated in a physical altercation in which I was grabbed without my permission, screamed at (at close range, so close that the other party’s spittle hit my face), and then followed for a block while enduring profanity, insults, and verbal threats regarding my physical safety. It was terrifying, all the more so because afterwards, I was blamed for ‘starting it.’
They said, “Well, what did you write?” and “Maybe you should have thought about that before you said anything?” and “I hate to say ‘I told you so’, but you did choose a public forum for your self-expression.”
But I’m not sure I agree with that reaction; it feels a bit like “What were you wearing?”
People make ill-advised statements online all the time; some people seem to make, if not a career of it, then at least an avocation. The appropriate response, I’m inclined to think, is a private shrug, sigh, or roll of the eyes before moving on. At maximum, I’ll say something sarcastic or deeply cynical within earshot of a small audience of disinterested cats. Which is how it should be, probably.*
After all, if I were to engage with every person I privately found to be misinformed, offensive, or even just irritating, I’d never get anything done.
Besides, mine is not an especially public forum; I keep a wee, free blog, which collects my thoughts and feelings on a variety of subjects, large and small. I don’t advertise my online presence; I don’t even tag most of my posts. One would have to know my name and perform an entire Google search — which, in this day and age, counts as significant effort — to locate the Gilliad.
Which is why most of my readers are either a.) close friends and family members who are curious about what I’m up to**, or b.) people who share a specific interest, e.g. beekeeping, gardening, books, cats, etc. (Which is how I prefer it; I am not in this for the web traffic, I just like having a record of my days, good and bad, and for some reason, entering them into a WYSIWYG editor works better for me than scribbling them down in a notebook, probably because typing taxes my poor motor skills*** less than writing things out by hand…)
And wow, look, here I am, suddenly questioning my right to have opinions and type them into a barebones WordPress site that barely anyone ever sees. I’m upset that one bad experience has made me so skittish, but I’m not surprised. I imprint very easily; my personality appears to be that of the world’s most mind-f*cked lab animal.
Anyway, I’m hoping that writing this helps me break through this mental block in a way that keeping quiet about it definitely hasn’t. We’ll see.