I just sing what I wish I could say, and hope somewhere some woman hears my music and it helps her through her day
- Ani DiFranco “I’m No Heroine”
In case ya’ll haven’t noticed, I tend to overshare on the internet. It’s kind of my thing. And since I’m about to share about my history of sharing it felt appropriate to include a relevant Ani lyric and some fun pictures from my blogging past.
My custom friends only banner from 2004
I’ve been doing it so long that it feels natural to publicly document my life at this point. I think more clearly and express myself more eloquently and honestly when I’m writing than when I’m speaking. I was 11 when I started keeping a journal and 13 when I started keeping an online journal (OpenDiary for those who remember). I eventually moved on to LiveJournal, where I actually had 3 different accounts. My main one that everyone knew about, my “secret” one that was restricted to some of my closest friends, and one strictly for poetry that I don’t think I ever actually shared. Or at least I hope not. It was through a LJ community that I found out a high school boyfriend was cheating on me – which sucked a lot. When I started this blog, I had no idea that it was going to end up as a space that delved so deeply into my own life and feelings. Honestly, I thought it would be all intellectual musings and political analysis. I should have known better. Besides the fact that my politics are intimately intertwined with my personal life, oversharing online has been historically been a powerful tool for me.
Part of the practice is clearly the sense of community online. Whether it is in comment sections, forums, twitter conversations, or even just the cross posting and cross referencing of each other online… being a part of a likeminded community is seductive. It feels gooood. Whether it’s based on shared interests, shared beliefs, or shared experiences, close relationships with mutual trust and respect can be formed online. Even with people I have actually met or am friends with IRL our online relationship can be a major or even the primary way in which we communicate. This is especially true of sex work communities where the internet can provide anonymity and create a safe space to share information with each other. I never would have learned basic safety practices if it weren’t for the vast and interconnected network of sex work blogs and forums. And I certainly never would have found SWOP-Chicago. Sharing my trials and triumphs in such intimate detail is one way I feel that I can give back to my community, and hopefully help it grow.
Tell Me Im Pretty!!
Of course my investment in online communities is not completely unselfish. I get personal validation out of it as well. I am positively gleeful when I’m retweeted, and I have let out squeaks of happiness when someone comments on my blog. I used to get the same happy sense of self assurance when someone on the internet called me hot, but it no longer does much for me (largely thanks to my experiences in sex work actually). But feeling that my ideas, beliefs, and experiences have value to someone? That is fucking magic. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with openly seeking attention, though women are traditionally admonished for it.
One time I came home from a party and made a commercial for chocolate almond milk. And yes, I put it on my myspace blog.
But I’m deeply insecure. And compliments make me feel good about myself. Sometimes a steady stream of compliments that echo each other can even make me change my mind about something I don’t like about myself. I am fully aware that putting myself out there, expecting to be read, and hoping for praise all reflects some of my vanity. And I’m ok with that. I have trouble not staring at myself in reflective surfaces when they’re near me too. Neither practice is solely because I believe that I am brilliant or beautiful, but also because I want to make adjustments and fix flaws that I see while simultaneously validating my brilliance and beauty. It’s not the most noble of reasons for the work I put into sharing so much of myself, but I don’t believe motivations always detract from the positive effects of work that’s done either.
But a more important reason I feel compelled to write so openly is to help fight the stigma I face in multiple areas in my life. So many of us suffer and struggle quietly and in isolation, which reinforces shame and loneliness. I believe strongly in the power of personal narrative and even personal conversations. While sharing myself and sharing my struggles is partly for my own benefit, I also like to think that it is part of a larger project to break down the stigma of sex work, addiction, depression, or generally struggling as a young woman. I have always had high expectations of myself, and it took me a long time to accept that it’s ok to be kind of fucked up. In fact, most of my favorite people and personal heroes are kind of fucked up people. I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion or have developed the ability to bare my soul on a regular basis if it weren’t for the existing tradition of lady-overshare-media. Not only with sex worker blogs and forums, which obviously I read lots and lots of, but also personal accounts, essays, blogs, tweets, tumblrs, books… I consume a LOT of media. Not all of it, in fact much of it, is by people with whom I have little in common. But I come to feel closely connected to them, even when they don’t know or care about me or my work. I just hope that putting myself out there so much does something for someone in the same way. I have to believe that it does. As old as my oversharing habits are, it’s scary every time. I wouldn’t be able to do it without watching others go through the process, help me with my own challenges, and benefit themselves. Most of us are kind of fucked up in one way or another. Maybe if we can find ways to come together anyway and make a kind of fucked up community we can make things a little easier for ourselves and each other. And maybe sharing more with each other is a way to do that.