I’ve been contemplating my #domagick post last month where I talked about being fearless and writing without fear. Intrepid writing I called it. Not only have I been actively working toward writing without fear, but it’s made me aware of just how much fear the average person carries, especially in this age of social media.
Many people wear carefully crafted masks to keep anyone from seeing who they truly are. Their social media has that picture-perfect veneer that makes the rest of us want to punch them in the face for having such flawless, happy lives. Of course, the reality is that their lives aren’t perfect or always happy, but they would never let anyone know it. So when their lives fall apart (as everyone’s life does every now and again) – everyone is surprised.
Then you have the people who are always posting the beautiful pictures of themselves. If you believed their pictures, they never have bed-head, pajama, no-makeup days. They’re absolutely put-together 100% of the time. We know this isn’t true either. None of us looks appealing when we’re home in bed with a nasty cold, for example. Some of us, after 40, aren’t going to look as young and svelt as we did in our 20’s. So to curb any criticism from our culture, which worships youth and beauty, we often only post photographs where we look good.
In these areas, many of us wear masks on social media without even realizing we’re doing it. Our social media is a reflection of us, and the world’s first impression of who we are. The prettier the mask, the more appealing the individual is to the larger social group. This makes sense because most people don’t want to see the nitty-gritty of other people’s lives. How many of you have had that one person on your feed whose depressing or seemingly bi-polar statuses have caused you to unfollow or unfriend them? On that same token – how many of you have noticed that whenever you post a rant or something depressing/anxious, you get more likes or responses to the post? While some people don’t mind seeing the truth every now and again – they don’t want it constantly. Some don’t want reality at all. They want the facade.
Masks do serve their purpose on social media, certainly. But they rarely serve us well when we want to write without fear. There’s a delicate balance that must be maintained. Especially for writers. People want to read books written without fear, but they also want writers to be appealing on social media. Being your true, authentic self, after all, could cost you readers. Especially if you aren’t always the optimistic, happy, exciting, and grateful person others expect you to be.
I’ve written about this topic before. I have a hard time being like other writers – wearing a mask everytime I hit the keyboard. So on my social media, you get a blend of both my strengths and my faults.
What does this have to do with writing? I sometimes think that when we writers wear our masks too often, if we don’t take them off every now and again, we end up wearing that mask while we’re writing. Why? Because we start to fear the reaction of our audience. If your social media mask is overly professional and cold, the writing becomes colder. If your social media mask is overly sweet and saccharine, the conflict in your stories may be weaker. We subconsciously temper the writing based on what we fear the audience will think.
For the most part, I have done a good job separating my public persona from my private persona. One FB profile gets all my professionalism, happiness, and optimism (with some rants or dark humor thrown in for good measure), whereas my private FB, filled with family and friends, is where I dump my negativity and frustration as well as boring day-to-day details. I spend far more time on my professional FB though, and I’m beginning to wonder – how much does my “writer mask” actually affect my writing? How much do I subconsciously hold back because I worry what readers will think?
As I was editing Eagle’s Talon Gray earlier, I saw some evidence of holding back. My S. J. Reisner persona (or mask) has always been more cold and professional. S. J. Reisner has a stick up her ass. When I’m writing, especially the fantasy novels, I have a tendency to write more rigidly with very little character action. Evidence of this shows up in how I don’t use contractions in the dialogue, making it more stilted. So the goal of this editing pass is to smooth things over and give it more depth. To pull the stick out of S. J. Reisner’s ass and try to turn this novel into something more fearless and authentic than it currently is.
I imagine I’ll uncover more as I go, and consequently learn more about how my social writer mask(s) may subconsciously be keeping me from writing without fear. I encourage all writers to examine their masks and how those masks affect their writing. I’m interested in learning what you find. What do you think? Could I be onto something?