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Writer Wednesday: Revisiting Author Identity and Social Media

Hello authors and welcome to another Writer Wednesday. Occasionally we get into heavier topics and I think it's time we do a bit of a revisit to Author Identity and what it means to social media engagement. I've covered the ups and downs of #ownvoices in a previous post and rather than rehash that, I would rather talk about what it means to put your identity out in an internet environment that can toxic as often or more so than it is supportive.

Bite Sized Identities

How do you cram all that you are into a 40 character bio? How do you pick and choose the pieces of yourself to put on display for others? Do you choose the most palatable parts? The parts of your identity that will appeal most to other faceless profiles in the social media sphere? Or do you stick to the titles and accomplishments you've worked your butt off for, with nothing more than a hint of emoji, a subtle wink and a nod to your individual diversity.

No matter what hashtags and emojis we drop into our profiles, it fails to cover the depth and breadth of anyone's identity. Yes these choices, these bite sized pieces of ourselves are often given so much weight, especially when it comes to identity representation in our writing. Not all identities fit so easily into emojis or hashtags. Not all identities can be safely put into a Twitter or Instagram bio. For so many of us, too many of us, there are pieces of ourselves too painful to share.

The Faces We Show

All Social Media is, in one way or another, a façade. Author accounts are strange mix of somewhat personal moments of joy, intermixed with all things writing. We talk books, share pictures of pets, and maybe even our faces, but we often don't show the painful messy bits. Occasionally, we may allow pieces of truth to slip through, in tweets and posts, lamenting our struggles, but it is a peek behind the curtain. A strip of the landscape. A nod to the tangled mess inside. Sometimes we share grief and loss, but the general rule is to show our good days, our best days. And when we get too messy, we apologize to our followers, as if we are ashamed for revealing that spill over of pain.

The personal lives of authors are more exposed than they have ever been. We walk a fine line of personal and public, that craving to know and be known. We often struggle with how much of ourselves to give away, depending on the communities we find ourselves in. So many of us have found deep connections in those who were once strangers on the internet.

Where We Are Now

Which brings us back to writing and the idea of identity. It's 2022, and we are still forcing identities out of people through the pressure of social media.

This has been an ongoing issue, one that has really come to the fore internally in well meaning communities that attack and criticize authors for the content of their work and how it concerns their personal identity. How do you approach such a mess? Identity and representation are important issues, but the way we often open conversations about these issues is through toxic social media engagement, forcing authors into an uncomfortable and often painful spotlight.

Our bite sized social media bios rarely reflect our full selves, and they shouldn't have to. An author's identity is not beholden to their readership. We are allowed to keep pieces of ourselves private. Somewhere the lined blurred between what was necessary knowledge about an author and what was supplemental or optional knowledge. That beneath the hashtags and emojis, there was a full person with a great deal more going on.

There is no easy answer here. This is about changing the way we engage with one another in a place that thrives on anonymity. That gives voice without a face or context. We have to find a way to be safe and keep ourselves safe in such a landscape. The best advice I can offer? What I say all too often but always bears repeating: Be kind to yourself. Don't offer up more than yourself than you are comfortable with, ever, and remember you are not required to disclose pieces of your identity to satisfy anyone.

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