Platforms, and why I don’t want one really

“Seeing the aggro writers with a big platform get on Twitter (even from people on their own ‘side’) has made me seriously not want it.”

I tweeted the above to a buddy earlier, and then wrote a post about online/Twitter abuse, misogyny and how aspects of online media culture had put me off ever wanting a big media platform or being a commentator, especially around politics. It was long but it basically boiled down to this: I’m not thick-skinned enough. I don’t think anyone really is (other than the ones who openly set out to provoke), but I’m certainly not. To be fair, I think part of me already knew this at 17, when I designed business websites for women with minor public profiles and had to explain to a man why signing a stranger’s guestbook with: “I’d give your arse a good pounding” wasn’t flattering and why I was repeatedly deleting it. But the way media and the internet have developed since, especially in recent years, has cemented my views.

I don’t want to receive rape threats and sexism daily. I don’t want to be told off for being a feminist, or the wrong sort of feminist. I don’t want my or my family’s background or past dug into. I don’t want any of my (very meagre) number of ex-somethings to feel tempted to blab about me. I don’t want the assumptions about my background that have already been made from certain pieces I’ve written to be repeated on a much grander scale. I don’t want to have to justify everything about myself from my name to my photo to my family’s lives and choices. I don’t want to be called racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist by people on my own side (I’m not, but I’d mess up somewhere down the line because I’m human, and someone somewhere would think I am by default assumption, because, obviously, white people of dual heritage, bisexuals and non-physical disabilities don’t exist. And, obviously, believing that a bum deal in life isn’t an indefinite licence to be obnoxious makes me an oppressor).

I know that all these things happen because I’ve seen them do to others. In short, I haven’t been through twelve years of sporadic depression, poverty and trying to build a career in order to be rained on by the public. I would much rather make my name as a fiction writer and within the areas I already specialise in than as a columnist. And true, the world isn’t exactly bereft of people who look and sound like me, but if we’re losing other, really good voices because of people feeling the same way that I do then that’s very sad indeed.

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2 thoughts on “Platforms, and why I don’t want one really

  1. It’s interesting I was thinking something similar earlier but in a slightly different context.
    There’s a post by the actor Will Wheaton, from about 2 years ago about the presumptuous treatment he gets on a regular basis from people (people camping in hotel lobbies and then screaming at him for not signing autographs at 2am). It makes a sad read. He is by all accounts a very nice man, who gives an awful lot to his fans, and yet the very act of him being publicly known makes some people think he, and others are public property.
    Adoring devotion may well be a damn sight nicer than rampant hatred, but quite a lot of the time the former seems to lead to the latter. Once you are out there in any way, it seems there is always someone who is going to act like a colossal asshole toward you, either because they vehemently disagree with your opinion (or right to have them) or because you don’t seem grateful enough.

    The risks of being in the public eye in any way seem a lot of the time to near outweigh the benefits of doing things you love. I don’t envy anyone who makes their living from their own thoughts being out there, and nor do I envy anyone who has a “following” of any kind.

    The minute people adore you, you are mere breaths away from them hating you for not being the idealised doll that they want you to be.
    People think they own writers because they buy their books, that actors should be forelock tugging grateful performing monkeys because they owe it to the fans, and that musicians shouldn’t have political opinions because they’re not there for that. And if they do happen to have opinions, they should be told why they are so terribly naive, and every effort should be made to coerce them into apology, if earlier Twitter bicker I watched is anything to go by…

    • Yes to all of this! In fairness, I think a lot of the extremists left and right of centre who aggressively target public figures have experienced dreadful traumas in life and don’t have the support system of people to tell them that they’re being insufferable as they’re either friendless or surround themselves with like. If things continue as they are at the moment I think the only people who’ll become prominent in entertainment/the media in future are those so thick-skinned they’re complete off-the-scale narcissists, which is worrying…

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