A note about being vulnerable on the internet

Dissolve by moonandthesea via deviantart

There is a subtle pressure to not be yourself on the internet. It’s most obvious in the “convert or die” atmosphere of social media, regardless of which side you’re on (or, God forbid, if you’re in the middle), but that isn’t what stops the majority of people from speaking up.

It’s the family and friends who ask if you’re okay because your posts make them worry about your sanity and safety.

It’s the “thought leaders” and positivity mongers that you’re compared to and found wanting.

It’s the lack of response that lets you know people are uncomfortable with the you you’re showing them.

It’s questions about why: why you write like that, why you publish it instead of keeping it to yourself, why are you so sad.

It’s the fear (and certainty) of being misunderstood and mishandled when all you want is to be seen for who you truly are.

Because our real selves aren’t happy all the time. Because life is hard and weird and beautiful and awesome. Because we have hundreds of thousands of thoughts and feelings every single day, and the ones that stand out most are those that cause us pain. Because the kind of people given to the introspection required for being themselves in all circumstances are the kind of people who dig deep for the truth at the cost of their reputation. Because what value does a reputation have if it doesn’t reflect who you really are?

Being vulnerable on the internet is an act of bravery, a constant practice of identifying boundaries, choosing reactions, and committing and recommitting to telling the unsanitized story of your soul.

It’s not exhibitionism. It’s not ego. It’s not a cry for attention.

It’s alchemy—transforming the base stuff of your being into something precious. Chaos into connection. Straw into gold.

So don’t stop. On or offline, don’t stop being vulnerable in public. Don’t let the fear of judgment (real or imagined) silence you. Keep writing, painting, dancing, singing your soul. It may not be what they want to hear, but it’s the truth. It’s who you are. A divine being wrapped in dust, stumbling through life, looking for other divine beings wrapped in dust who see and hear you and say, “me, too.”

2 Comments

  1. Mary Hendrie

    I relate to this so much. I’m often hesitant to share things about myself on the internet because I sense that people expect me to be the same person all the time and I’m just not, and I don’t want to constantly explain that. And ESPECIALLY the subtle disapproval when no one “likes” something I post, because apparently getting approval is one of the most pervasive uses of social media, even among those of us who would like to believe we don’t need no stinkin approval.

    • elliedi

      *insert apologies for very late reply here*

      No one is 100% the same all the time, with every person, in every situation. There are some folks who are more consistent, for sure (I’ve had many people express surprise that I’m “the same” online and off, which is gratifying), but a flat experience of life and a person isn’t realistic.

      Social media is TOTALLY an approval-generating machine. That’s what makes money and gets users logging in. I think they’ve even done studies showing it releases dopamine. Wild, eh?

      But I think that our need for approval can be healthy if viewed the right way. We all want a tribe, somewhere to belong, to be seen and understood–that requires approval from others. The trick is to also be sure enough in yourself and in your relationship with the divine to know that human approval can change on us at a whim, and we need to a) be ready and b) be willing to roll with that and not let it destroy us.

      <3

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