I was walking to the bank yesterday (this is when I do much of my thinking) during a fairly mundane day at work, and my mind wandered to a topic I visit often – my presence and aspirations on the internet. By this I mean my blog(s), social media presence, photos, etc, and the plans I have for them.
Halfway through my walk I switched to the question of why I spend so much time thinking about my presence on the internet (even when I’m not walking to the bank). Why do I do the things I do on the internet, and what is my purpose?
Perhaps it was the irony of dreaming about my lofty goals on the internet while running an errand for work, or perhaps it was just the fresh air, but the answer hit me like a crate of cassavas*.
The internet is my ultimate form of self-defence. It’s my way of showing the world that I’m Talented, Interesting, Fashionable and Above My Day Job.
“Kate, you’re not very fashionable,” phantom voices say. “Oh, but I beg to differ,” I reply, pointing to my fashion blog posts and Polyvore account. “If I had an infinite pile of money, that’s what I’d look like. So, see? I am fashionable.”
“Kate, you probably aren’t very Talented or Creative, otherwise you’d be getting paid to be Talented and Creative. Instead you’re just working an admin-based day job.” “Ahh, but have you seen my blog?” I reply, demonstrating that I’m so Talented that I don’t require pay to share my gift with the world. As a matter of fact, I’m above being paid to be Creative**.
“Kate, your life doesn’t seem exciting or glamorous.” “But have you seen my Instagram account, where I’ve romanticised my daily routine, which largely takes place in an office building, using well-edited photos with soft lighting, capturing the beauty of the mundane using the formerly-exclusive-but-still-cool VSCOCam(TM) app?”
It goes on.
(Aside: It’s worth pointing out at this juncture that this isn’t intended to be a rail against the internet. In fact, I tend to recoil at the idea that the internet (particular social media and blogging) is somehow inherently evil and solely a means of self-promotion. Like money, I think the internet is neutral, but wields a lot of power in the hands of self-interested individuals.)
Realising that self-defence plays such a large role in my decisions and presence on the internet brought more questions than conclusions.
Who am I defending myself to? When did I adopt these standards? Why am I not just content to be? Why am I not content to work hard at my job that I love (even though it doesn’t directly involve my university degree or ‘passion’)? Why do I worry about defending myself to unnamed, unnumbered people, rather than concerning myself with how I act toward people I see every day?
I did come up with one conclusion, though. It’s clear that I have adopted these standards somewhere along the way – these hundreds of measuring sticks I use to compete with others. And as much as I’d like to think that these values were foisted upon me by some nebulous ‘The Man’ (to whom I just have to figure out how to ‘stick it’), I adopt them every day as I engage in constant ogling of other people (through the internet, and not) and compare myself to them.
It turns out that if you compare yourself with even 100 people, you’ll come up with at least 100 values to measure yourself against. And the internet is a great place to make halfhearted attempts to meet those standards without really getting anywhere.
*I don’t see why this is any stranger a simile than ‘a ton of bricks’. Who gets hit by a ton of bricks, anyway?
**No I’m not.