My husband told me that when he was in college, many of the architecture students would dress in black turtlenecks, and black pants. It was what students wore to look like architects. Many people that are poets and artists do the same thing, they try and develop a “look” so everyone will know their preferred identity as an artist.
On social media, people frequently try to “brand” themselves. I think this is quite successful if done intentionally or not. I know if you showed me a hundred posts written on social media there are several dozen people who, without any identifying information, I would know because of the way they said something or the words they used to say it. Some people who I have followed for years just have their own style of writing.
I don’t have a unique style on social media. I post other writer’s books. I post other writer’s articles. I post workshops and classes put on by writers. I sometimes will post a call for submissions, writing contest, or a residency. So many times I have posted something political, either something that outraged me or an article I read on an online news source, only to take it down within a few minutes to an hour later. A few years ago, I posted much more personal stuff on social media (I can tell by the memories that Facebook shows me on a daily basis), but I stopped that when I started using social media as a networking tool.
I know why I am willing to write my inner life and daily happenings on a blog but not on social media. I am afraid of the “call out culture” on social media, and what people will think, do, or say. I have strong opinions on most of the things happening in our society right now. I have strong opinions about politics, about disability, about the use of the word, “schizophrenic” (which I happen to see far too often). I have strong opinions about a lot of things, but I am not willing to fight and take heat for those opinions. I know it sounds like I am a coward, but it has to do with schizophrenia.
Making enemies (which seems to be easy online these days) and getting threats (I know many writers this has happened to) is not something I can tolerate when I already battle paranoia. So many people tell me how brave I am and how courageous I am and honestly, those words make me feel like a fraud.
I think it is easier to talk about living with the most misunderstood and feared of the severe mental illnesses than it is to post something I feel strongly about on social media. Although people often unfriend me when they find out I have schizophrenia, they don’t usually argue with me about it, the worst thing that happens is people give me advice about how to “cure” it or “treat” it or they will go on a tangent about “Big Pharma.” I can handle most of those things, although they are disheartening, at least they aren’t hateful.
I think people who put what they believe out there in public no matter what the consequences, are bold, brave and courageous. We all have a different tolerance for what we create and share about ourselves, and that is what makes the landscape of the Internet such diverse terrain – you can find every type of person, opinion, lifestyle, hobby, obsession, etc.
No one should feel alone on the World Wide Web, and as far as bravery and courage go, well that means something different to different people. If you want courage and bravery to be part of your identity or “brand” you can’t count on it the way you can an outfit that defines you as an artist or architect. Bravery and courage have to do with our own tolerance for dealing with fear and what one person fears, another person craves. I happen to fear too much and crave very little.