on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

where i can take off my mask

Recently I’ve been getting some feedback from multiple sources that they appreciate I am able to write it as it is. In parallel I’ve also been thinking about why I share so much of my life online. It is not just the writing here, but I publish a ton of statuses (mostly on mastodon now) and photos on the things I eat, the sights I see, the relationship I have with my partner and sometimes with myself, etc. 

There are people who think this sort of behaviour is narcissistic: it is like look at mesee what I am doing, me, me, me. I will not bother to defend myself, but I would like to provide another perspective, something I’ve only recently probably re-realised after some contemplation. 

I share my life online because I don’t hang out with people offline. I was already on that trajectory before the pandemic, but it made it more extreme. The only person I hang out with is my partner. Still, there are emotions and thoughts I can’t express verbally even with her, so I write them down. 

The average person has a bunch of friends, so they share their ups and downs with them. There are probably multiple outlets for their expression. I do have a few close friends, but due to the pandemic our friendship now only exist on texts. Even when we were able to meet in person, it is difficult for me to communicate as my self regardless of the intimacy of the relationship. 

This is mostly because I wear a mask – something that neurodivergent or queer people can probably relate to. I’m so afraid of making people feel uncomfortable that I automatically adjust my behaviour. I can’t seem to take that mask of even though now I no longer wish to wear that mask. When I am with people I laugh and cannot stop making jokes. I do that even with my partner. I did try telling the truth of my reality to some people and that made them visibly upset. I cannot stand bringing sadness to people I care about, so I stopped trying to let them know the self behind the mask. 

So where does my sadness go? Here, on this page. There is nowhere else it can exist, except in my words. Sometimes I suspect I don’t even allow it to concretely exist in my self. Alone with my self, I still wear a mask.

There it is. I have to write it as it is, because without doing so I’ll practically die. There wouldn’t be much of me left within me, and I’ll be slowly eaten away by my own mask. I may still be biologically alive, but what then would be the difference between me and a programmed robot? A programmed robot comedian. 

adding layers to my partner’s original art

My online life, is my way of surviving. There is so much I am unable to say. I don’t know if recent readers of this blog know this, but for many years I was unable to verbally talk to people I don’t know well. My social anxiety was so intense that I would only accept clients who are willing to work with me through email or chat. I slowly grew out of that fear, but it was probably then my mask became even more complex and layered. I have to compensate for my social awkwardness and sense of inferiority. 

I am no longer that socially awkward. I don’t necessarily feel a sense of inferiority these days, but I do feel a sense of alienation – like I don’t belong to this world. I don’t even feel comfortable in my own body, and my mind feels oppressive sometimes. But so much of my life revolves around managing my chronic illness, and this is something that people are not comfortable talking about. Maybe I don’t even know how to talk about it myself. So I write about it, because during a writing session I am able to slowly contemplate what it means to bear all of this, and try to distill my feelings into words. Such sessions bring my sadness to the forefront, like how I am feeling now while writing this post. But this sadness is very much part of me, and it is vital that I give it a proper space to exist. It feels like at the very least, I am able to be truthful in these writing moments. 

I can no longer interact with people normally. So I interact with the world through broadcasting online. Once in a while I experience a deep resonance with an internet stranger, and that makes all that vulnerability and brazen sharing worthwhile. I have learnt that I can’t expect resonance and connection with my very specific type of experiences within my geographical proximity.

Chronic illness aside, there is something very deeply rewarding about being able to share our inner world. There is just so much that does not get expressed in everyday conversations. Many emotions are just unable to be translated into words verbally, or they just cannot exist in a two-way verbal conversation. Maybe some experiences can only exist in a rambling monologue where no one else can interrupt you. Some parts of our inner worlds can only be shared through art.

I’ve slowly come to accept the strange way I prefer to communicate. Asynchronously I guess. I no longer expect myself to conform to social norms. I post stuff online when I feel inspired to, and I am okay being offline living in a co-created bubble with my partner. I am not bored most of the time, and have no desire to socialise.

There is a belief that we must be social as human beings but I think that only applies people who are happier when they are socially connected. I feel more alienation with people, most of the time. It is also often too much stimuli for me, to be in a live conversation. Sometimes I develop headaches even during video calls because it takes too much out of me – I feel like I have an auditory processing disorder.

I have exchanged my anonymity and privacy in favour of catching some resonance every once in a while. Considering the person I am and my circumstances, I think it is a worthwhile exchange.

This is why I write as it is, because there is nowhere else where I can be as I am. There are fragments of me all over the internet, but they are disseminated as my attempts to be whole. My physical person is just a tiny fraction of who I truly am. So despite all my misgivings and frustration with the internet and social media, I am glad to have a place where I can take off my mask. At least transiently. It allows me to unfold, in a world where I feel extremely constricted.

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5 thoughts on “where i can take off my mask”

  1. Euan Semple says:

    I just wanted to say that I love your posts, Winnie. I was one of the very early bloggers, been doing it for 21 years. The sort of writing that you do, and the value that you give through your openness, was what got us all excited in the first place before it all turned into social media and went horribly wrong.

    1. Winnie says:

      thank you for stopping by again and taking the time to write this comment, truly appreciate it very much. I too miss the old days of blogging and even livejournal. but I don’t think it is social media’s fault per se, but what social media demonstrates is the quality of our society’s psyche…though I agree it magnifies and accelerates our inherent issues. I could imagine an alien civilisation using social media in an entirely different way. ;p however, I agree that the profit-focused nature of current social media platforms has affected us quite negatively because of the type of content they prioritise through algorithms.

      1. Euan Semple says:

        Many years ago, I was lucky enough to be with Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers of the Internet”, when he was asked if he thought looking back over the last, at that time 20 years, if he thought the Internet was a good or a bad thing. He replied, “It’s just a thing. If we don’t like what we see it is just a reflection of what we are as an individual, an organisation, or a society. If we don’t like what we see, then it’s up to us to do something about it.”

        I do think, though that the commercialisation of the networks, and the use of algorithms to drive polarisation and dissent, is where it’s all gone horribly wrong.

        Contrary to what most people think, I reckon it is still early days yet, and we’re still working out how to get the best out of this powerful technology.
        And to be honest, it is people who write posts like yours, who have the power to turn it around. Thanks for writing.

  2. Emma says:

    I, too, have been masking my entire life. Now that I know that, and don’t want to wear a mask any more, I find I no longer know how to relate to anyone I know in real life (family, and work colleagues). Fifteen years ago,, it was easy to be yourself online and make new friends that way, but I think that has got harder, too. It’s great that you have found a way to express yourself here!

    1. Winnie says:

      hi there! appreciate you taking the time and effort to leave a comment. everyone uses social media these days and we hardly get actual blog comments anymore. hope we’ll both find new ways of being. 🙂

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