Staying honest and in love in the social network orgy

“And so the reddit orgy begins … self-fulfilling prophecy much?” a redditor recently commented on one of my blog posts, in which I was exploring how we consume information on the web in much the same way as we consume goods in RL. I suspect that he or she had caught onto the fact that I was in the process of submitting several of my other articles to various subreddits, and they were referring to how (by undertaking such mass-submission) I was falling into the exact routine that I was criticising.

They were right. I am a hypocrite. In other posts, for instance, I criticised the tendency we have online to aggregate rather than originate - using Jaron Lanier’s arguments as my basis. I was either exhibiting unintended irony - or simply bad faith. What I think is really going on, however, is that I’m blogging less to describe where I am at, but rather, where I want to be, and the ideas by which I hope to live.

It’s tough being honest on the web: I might mean what I say, but I don’t necessarily say what I think. Many of my blog posts, for instance, are exploratory – taking stabs in the dark, rather than shining a light into the darkness of my own ignorance (which is what I try doing with my academic writing). Consequently, I can come across as dogmatic and argumentative, though I like to think that I am just being a social critic, using intellectuals like sock puppets.

Then again, maybe I am their sock puppet.

I put a call out for reviews of one of my novellas recently – one that I am coming to realize is not as professional looking as I had thought. I am stressing out about being inundated by my Google+ followers, many of whom are literary minded (and probably better spellers than I) with remarks about my crap proof reading skills.

I have been in this situation before: shot down for making (admittedly) stupid online remarks. And I know that one response to that – and the one that I probably take more often than not – is to emotionally distance myself from my own work, and to play down in my own mind the enormous value of an intelligent online community. Each little criticism makes me fall a little more out of love with my own work.

I continue to plug away, posting articles of web-unfriendly length on my blog – however, I suspect that mine is now more a platonic relationship to writing than it was, say, ten years ago. That saw a much more intimate relationship between my work and I – in which my poetry and short stories didn’t get out that much. Some might even call it obsessive. I would very desperately like to believe that there is some middle ground – where I can expose my work to the light of the web, but not deprive it of the rich spring of my own ‘heart’.

Instead of cushioning myself behind a protective layer of irony, or other people’s authority, it would be good to ‘reconnect’ with my own creativity, and lay it bare. Yet it is difficult to do so amidst an online culture that encourages both intertextuality (linking to others’ work) and an emotional exhibitionism not far removed from sexting. We need to unplug our Ethernet cable and deactivate our wireless connections, as John Franzen recommends, if we hope to create anything honest and original.

Just don’t wait for me to be the first to do so :)