I’m not addicted to social media most of the time. I mean, I pull myself away when I feel myself drawing too far; I frankly hate Instagram and barely use it. But I’ve been suspended for Twitter for twelve days and. Well. I miss it. And not for reasons of addiction, but because I feel like, on some level, a crucial part of my personality has been put on mute.
In general, I do not consider myself a very stifled person in real life. I doubt any of my friends would either. In high school, which is weirdly now in past tense, I ran my school’s GSA for two years; I spoke at three assemblies; I was active in the theater program, which, due to my theater teacher’s long-standing dislike of me, meant some very constant humiliation; I was somewhat well known to friends fo making gay jokes about myself. My friends would tell you I give them a new book recommendation every week. I really, genuinely like myself. Well, now I do.
I love my real self, truly, but I loved my online self first; tumblr in 2015, though it was very messed up on many levels, was where I first learned to be confident in myself. As much as we might frown upon using the internet to show our true selves, the facts are that I had no other place to be myself. There aren’t communities of out proud gay people in eighth grade, just a lot of loneliness. There also aren’t good avenues to talk to death about books you like or whatever other nerdy things. There was, in short, not a lot to belong to.
I’ve found those communities now. Well, I think I have. But the truth is that I met a lot of amazing people online who I value deeply, too.
We talk a lot about online identity as a form of public performance, and to a degree, it is. On platforms like Instagram, you can find any number of models making you feel inferior about your life and your clothes. I get it. But a lot of life is also public performance, in different ways depending on the situation. And my real-life self, though she is a funny bitch to the highest degree and definitely a nerd and very, very out of the closet, simply does not feel comfortable tweeting about Good Omens, the 2019 Amazon prime show, fifteen times a day. It is public performance to review every book you read for shits and giggles, but it is also public performance to avoid discussing your actual interests because you know it could leave you open to ridicule.
And don’t get me wrong: book Twitter leaves you open to ridicule, too. There are aspects of myself I perform less on my blogging platform than in real life or when interacting with close friends. But on book twitter I always know one thing: I can never be ridiculed for caring too much.
It has been twelve days since I was deactivated on Twitter due to, and I’m seriously not kidding about this, a joking death threat to my friend Sierra. I would like to get my account back so I can force you all to hear my opinions on Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album, how terrible the new season of Black Mirror was (Andrew Scott’s performance was seriously the only reason his episode was even okay), and the Marvel movie marathon I’ve been embroiled in for the past week (oh, hey, I made an official Letterboxd ranking of my faves). God, and I could tweet this blog post that I have spent an hour writing. And maybe I could tell you one or two details about my life, too.
What’s odd is I don’t care about the public performance of what my life is actually like, because I don’t feel the need to share that. Part of public performance is that when I don’t want to talk about my life, I won’t, and when I do, I will almost certainly tweet something very very vague. This is what we do, as human beings; we pick and choose what we want our lives to look like, pick and choose what we want the world to know about us this week. The question of whether this is an entirely healthy coping mechanism seems to me almost besides the point. Simply talking to my friends about the good stuff in life is performance, but how it is worse, in form, than sitting in your room thinking about how much you wish life could be better?
I run a public platform based on caring too much about things outside of myself, with other people who care just as much (albeit not always about the same things). And yes, there are aspects of performativity to this, as there are to anything in life. But when looked at through another lens, my Twitter, and this blog, are the places I go specifically to indulge in how much I care. Perhaps, just maybe, that can be okay.