21 November, 2014  |   15 Comments

Didn’t see THAT coming…

This week, a dear friend wrote a blog post about a book I’d bought on sale. The post went viral. I have taken great lengths to duck out of the whole thing as much as possible.

Pamie, however is dealing with all the attention like a pro.
(Probably because she IS a pro.)

This week I sent three proposals and presented a business plan. A friend had a baby. That was cool. I wrote a few press releases, client copy and drove to a lunch meeting. This week I hosted 8 people for bridge. Last night, I went to a birthday party, where we gathered around to watch my family on yesterday morning’s Good Morning America. Tonight we have another party to attend, and tomorrow, another one after that. It’s a busy week.

"Mama, tell me about the time you gave your Barbie a haircut."

This whole Barbie thing has been both embarrassing and fun. I got to see how this silly thing grew and grew and eventually my Google Alert sent me a CNN article about the whole thing in Portugese.

I ain’t mad at Barbie. I’m mad at a culture — especially a digital culture — that devalues women except for how they present themselves visually and sexually.

Most of my friends find this whole viral thing thrilling.
I’ve discovered that this just makes my stomach hurt.

Flight or fight.

As of today, I’m 80 percent closer to taking everything personal I ever wrote off the internet. This is because thanks to my view of this news machine from the inside, I’m afraid. I’ve never been afraid of the internet before.

At this particular time in the internet’s history, anyone with a beef against me, no matter how big or small, can take anything I’ve posted from the last 15 years online and use it as evidence of my… terribleness.

Yep, maybe that thing I wrote when I was 23 was sort of racist/offensive/stupid in hindsight. But I’ll be held to the standard of today’s context-blind digital mobs, not held to the standard of my small group of internet friends.

It’s just too risky.

I’m too scared of misrepresentation.
I’m too scared of what the evidence will tell you about me.

I read no comments about this whole thing.
I’m scared of those too.

(Here is where the voice in my head says, “Oh GOD SHUT UP HELEN JANE, get a backbone, stop your bitching, you were a part of it, own it you cow.”)

When it comes to watching the information machine craft, churn and amplify, I’m not convinced I want to be a part of it anymore.

Are you an enthusiastic member of today’s digital sharer?
Convince me not to box this whole thing up and put it away.

15 thoughts on “Didn’t see THAT coming…

  1. 1
    Helen Jane says:

    And by, convince me, I’m not saying, “Tell me I’m awesome,” I’m saying, “Convince me that it’s worth it to participate in the current internet climate and culture.”

  2. 2
    bob says:

    Well, FWIW, your discovery, sharing, and the subsequent discussions (and the “refactored” version especially) made me realize even more deeply my own unconscious biases, improved how I interact with my female coworkers, and made me think about the ways I can better encourage my kids to pursue what they love. So thank you!

  3. 3
    Alison says:

    I think it’s worth it. I have some strategic things I do which sound similar to what you do: I don’t ever read the comments anywhere besides Metafilter or friends’ personal blogs, I don’t get into political debates with anyone on Facebook, and I don’t share my potentially-controversial opinions (not that I have many!) in any public area. I’ve also unfollowed a few people on Twitter who tend to engage with their detractors/harassers in a very public way (doing that “.@username” thing so that their debate with some jerk shows up on everyone’s timeline)–I see where they’re coming from but it’s not something I can handle on a regular basis.

    I also try not to read too many articles on any one particular depressing issue. I don’t mean that I don’t keep up with the news; I mean that, for example, I have all the facts about the Bill Cosby rape situation, and reading multiple pieces where people argue with each other over the nuances of it makes me feel worse and doesn’t undo what he did to all those women, so I don’t read them.

    And maybe this all amounts to putting my head in the sand, but I don’t know, who cares? I’m not a community manager or moderator by trade, so it’s not my job to try to fix assholes. I figure as long as I’m putting non-negative things online and not being a jerk to people, I’m serving as a net good for the interwebs.

    It’s possible that I’m feeling a little better about the internet these days after taking my Twitter account public and not experiencing any of the weirdness I expected. It probably helps that I’m lower profile these days, but no weirdos have shown up on Twitter to ruin my life so far, so I’m pleased.

    And as far as my extensive blog archives of very personal early-twenties weirdness, if someone wants to bother looking through all that crap for dumb things I said, they’d probably be bored to death before they found anything.

    Anyway, I do understand where you’re coming from. You’re more high-profile than me, especially now, and you also have kids, so the stakes are higher for you. I’d miss your voice if you went away for good, but I’d understand.

    And FWIW I thought you did a lovely job on GMA.

  4. 4

    I’m a lot more careful, and a lot more professional. And I’ve backed off (and will continue to back off) leaving comments, since that’s where I tend to get more candid and chatty, and I think that’s now a mistake.

    I’m also finding myself backing off of private social networks, which is… less obvious. I think I’m just tired. A FB post these days is more likely to get some angry debate response from a not so close friend then a feeling of connection, and I deal with that for work.

    Do I still love internet publishing? Yes. Am I able to look at it as a personal playground for self expression anymore? No. My more or less rule (which I never stuck to in comments, sadly) was always that if I wouldn’t publish it in a book, I wouldn’t put it on the internet. It’s that rule 10X right now. I’d put more in a book then I would online.

  5. 5
    Liz says:

    Please don’t shut up. This is a hugely personal decision, and I think your voice and what you have to add to this online world is so valuable and positive. I can understand amending one’s philosophy for what you do choose to put out there, online. The Internet is as dynamic as our personal lives, and I think it’s okay for change to happen. But let that change come from positive motivation.

    I appreciate what you write on helenjane. As a mom of littles, I am inspired by what you do (Bocce! Little girl parties! Meal plans!) It may seem basic and normal to you, but it gives me ideas & helps me see delightful possibilities. So again, please don’t shut up.

    • 5.1
      Liz says:

      In context with the article, I think it is especially important for women to keep challenging with tech & with “acting”. Both industries are known for being boy’s clubs. I think Barbie (and our kids) need some new books.

  6. 6
    Izy from Paris says:

    This article is how I discovered your blog, from… Paris, France 🙂
    And I read it.
    It’s fun and interesting, and I’m still trying to find a way to make one your recipe with my so different ingredients!
    Please don’t stop.

  7. 7
    Skye says:

    Please listen to this Moth Radio story, click on “A teacher survives a witch hunt.” It’s a really good example of the potential awfulness that comes along with expressing self and opinion on the internet. It might help your current feelings of exposure and discomfort.


    I’ve been a reader of your blog for, hmm. years. I first linked to it through a friend for your Taco Pie recipe and I think you’re charming. I’m sorry you’re feeling ick.

  8. 8
    Alyson says:

    I’m not sure, but I hope you’ll keep your recipes online. They’re incredible. And there’s something so comforting about your uncertainty. I have a two and a half year old and wonder all the time if I’m doing the right things. It seems you are successful and likable and still also wonder and question your choices. It makes me feel less crazy. The OTHER thing that makes me feel less crazy is your white sangria recipe, which a) makes sure I never go crazy trying to provide a “signature cocktail,” and b) is just delicious and makes everything better. Whatever you decide will be right.

  9. 9

    I really admire your thoughtfulness.

  10. 10
    Serial | says:

    […] book that also went viral, thanks to this post. The friend who owned the book, wrote another post about how she felt about this issue going viral based on what had happened in her personal life. […]

  11. 11
    Erica says:

    I totally understand your desire to “box the whole thing up”. I made my blog private because I wanted to be able to write freely. But I could only write freely if I knew who was reading.

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