I lead a charmed life, for all that I’ve had my share of cowpats and nettles.
The last week (Thursday) another person came up to me at my monthly munch and said they were a fan of my writing. This is the third time it’s happened, the first time this year. They’re always so shy about it, and I’m always so touched. Because the thing I take for granted is something people sincerely love. Because ME. Me. Me! ME! Also me.
I’m kinda, sorta famous in that vague sort of way that means people on the internet into my niche might think to mention me. It’s a fundamental thing like liking salt and fat or craving a warm spot when it’s cold (or a cold spot when it’s warm) that positive attention is amazing.
But I’m also scared of being popular.
You’re not supposed to admit you like fame and adoration and you are certainly not supposed to think you deserve it. Not unless you are playing a character ala Dame Edna, or some other fabulous over the top glitter clown like Lady Gaga. Just about every web celebrity I know talks with the same cliches about how much (s)he is humbled by the love, a hundred, a thousand, even a million people caring what they think. Even smugmasters like my gaming idol Jim Sterling occasionally break character to give the dance of adulation. (If you like vidya games and want to see a funny openly poly pansexual feminist guy riff on all the foibles of the industry, check him out). I kind of don’t feel humbled when you praise me. I feel important. Then I feel fucking terrified.
It’s scary because I worry that everyone will notice I lap up the adulation and because I feel incredibly vulnerable. Internet cool is about a balance between insincere meaness (for the LOLz!!!) and sincere rage (SHITLORD! GAMERGATE!) and gratitude (I LOVE OUR FANDOM! YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!). Everything is pointed out, nothing is ever pointed in even when your art is selfies.
Nobody likes a person who says they are smart, pretty and important. “Do you know who I am?!” is the phrase of social self immolation. On top of that, I’m a woman in an environment known for hostile targeted campaigns of doxing and abuse, writing about intimate sex stuff that could be used to humiliate and deny me employment. I mean I’m pretty sure my bosses, presented with “Pearl is a sexy sex minx!” would be more uncomfortable with the person bugging them than me. My family knows I write smut, even the conservative ones because my father has no filtre. But you never know what sort of damage a determined doxer could do. But it’s still unsettling…
What if I like this too much? What if… putting myself out there means people hurt me?
So yeah… there’s also the general worry that being noticed is, itself, unsafe. Not just from the standard big meanies but also putting myself out there and getting too attached to being adored.
Thus I spill my guts: I don’t feel properly connected to other people, which is ironic given that one of my skills is creating things people can connect to. I create and build things to compensate for the space and distance. More often than not the organizer hat is my way of getting to have friends but having a way to fill the awkward spaces and rifts. I’m not your classic introvert though. I’d love to join community of nooking up with a book and talking to your pets in preference to people but I have an oil and water style compulsion to separate out into the empty space in the middle of the room and then fill it with my noise and presence.
Maybe because it’s being noticed was never a choice? I spent a significant part of my life in Canada’s smelly ulcer, Saint John, New Brunswick. It’s technically a city, but small enough that the eccentricities of my family made me moderately (in)famous long before I had the tools to deal with it. Now, by Montreal standards, I’m a normal person. By Maritime standards (ok Halifax is pretty cool) I had a Reputation. She’s weird. She’s a hippy/goth/druggie (hah!)/so religious (rigid yes, never faithful)/so radical. I grew up with people sincerely thinking I had magic powers, and I am not kidding. Peers called me into account for my grandmother’s lack of bra, my mother’s rapport with small children. And then of course I lived in a fantasy lala land, telling myself stories and trying to include the other children in games based on the world in my head. With mixed results.
Yeah, whole lotta issues there.
I think 99% of my confidence in putting myself out there is because I don’t know how not. Discovering how to get positive attention is like learning to use a small, very pathetic super power. It was a bumpy process. I sort of got a clue in my teenage years but there was foot in mouth and nerd drama, which is just like the usual high school stereotypes, but instead of who goes to someone’s party or dates someone, you fight about your imaginary proxies doing that.
Getting burned really bad doing that social thing made me extra jumpy. But I still see the void and seek to fill it. I write a porn story that doesn’t exist. I write femdom confessionals. I run an event that I notice my city needs.
But there’s a huge pile of self promotion that scares me because I’m scared you won’t like me if you know I do it.
My blog averages around 11K unique sessions a month, and I know I regularly get linked to, for the femdom stories, but also for the how tos. But contrary to what the popular narrative is, that’s not just putting yourself out there. You have to have enough confidence to go outside your canvas and be all “notice me! notice me!”. You need to seed everything you do with SEO, reblog. advertise. Tweet. Aggressively court followers. The first time I put one of my posts on reddit I just about died with embarrassment.
Maybe it’s imposter syndrome. There’s always a distinct possibility I’m confusing the realities of what I do with the ideal of how it should work. I dunno, I’m a one woman operation leaning occasionally on the gifts of others. I look at how amazing the other blogs out there are, and feel like the biggest bad person because a lot of the difference is they’re just whispering and I’m SHOUTING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS via judicious keywords insertion. Cue guilt spiral that I am taking more of my fair share.
But then there’s a tiny hard kernel, maybe what powers my femdom self, of that self importance I mentioned and… whoops. There we go again. Self esteem back up.
— Sarah Andersen (@SarahCAndersen) May 18, 2016
Basically what I’m saying is that this adulation is awesome and I like it and I worked to be popular, so thanks for acknowledging my efforts.