Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"You will damage your credibility and reduce your chances of getting to where you want to go (and should go) based on your great talents." - My Father

I got an interesting e-mail from my father this morning. It was peppered with many “I love you’s” and “You are so talented,” but its main message was a warning: I’m not going to get a job if I continue to blog about vibrators, sex, etc.

My automatic knee-jerk reaction was to scream at him (via CAPS!) for reading my blog when he is (as per our agreement) not supposed to, then claim that I do not want to work for any company that finds discussing something as natural as sex disturbing. But I guess the truth is that the world is more prudish than those I’m surrounded by in this liberal little Manhattan enclave lead me to believe, and there is some legitimacy to his concerns.

Self-censoring has always been one of those things I’ve grappled with. People who interview Josh and I frequently ask, “How do you know where the line is between sharing and TMI?” We never have a good answer to that question, and in fact generally mumble something about just “intrinsically” knowing. The truth is that we’re still learning. Most of us are. This is the first time anyone has ever had to deal with a situation like this. In 20 years I’m sure it’ll be nearly impossible to refuse to hire someone who has disclosed personal details about their lives online, as by 2030 I’m assuming everyone will just post naked pictures of themselves with captions like “What I’m wearing today!—Nothing ;)” and then link to them on TwitterSpaceBook.

I believe my Dad has always entertained fantasies of me parlaying my writing into some sort of political journalism career that will allow him to attend the White House press banquet or get him his much-wanted in with pundits like Chris Matthews. But the truth is, I’d rather talk about things like sex, things that are very relatable on a human level—but also hilarious, because I mean, Walgreens selling vibrators is pretty hilarious, right?—than I would talking about say, public policy. Part of me doesn't understand what's so wrong with writing about sex, but the other part knows that the "wrongness" of it simply originates from the way our society works. I can rage and rage and say women should be as sexually free as men, but it doesn't mean anything in the context of societal norms except that I am probably setting myself up to be screwed come hiring time. (What a sad, unfortunate fact)

I guess I’m trying to navigate what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Before, at 19, I would have claimed that nothing is inappropriate and I am only being honest. But I guess my parents are trying to teach me that there is a limit to the amount of honesty you should put out there. I’m conflicted over this. My desire to write has always stemmed from a place of wanting to communicate the ways in which the world impacts me from an incredibly forthright and honest standpoint. I don’t want to self-censor myself, but I don’t want to fuck up opportunities that could arise. It’s a slippery slope.

I also received another interesting e-mail from a friend asking if he could give certain details of my personal life to some of his editors. My answer was, verbatim:“If you do this, I will destroy you.”

It’s a control thing. I can write about vibrators, and I feel comfortable doing so because I’m not actually talking about my sex life; I’m talking about sex in general. I have never mentioned the names of people I’ve been with, or specific things I’ve done, because those, I know, are private. There is a definitive line there, and I want to be able to monitor the kind of information concerning my personal life that gets disseminated. As the internet continues to become a veritable wild west free for all, that monitoring becomes more difficult. I guess I just don’t want to contribute to the potential pot of slanderous material that could be published about me. I don’t want people to be able to Google me and find out who I was dating. God, why would people even care about something like that? I am fucking boring. But unfortunately (and here comes the feminism), there is a tendency in the media to focus primarily on a woman's sexuality than there is on her actual talent. Yeah yeah, no blowjobs for bylines: I want to be judged by whatever talent I have and not for who I’ve slept with. Unfortunately I think that’s kind of a difficult thing to escape in some ways when looking to work in the media world. Somehow (a.k.a. via the internet) everything has become everyone’s business. Culture blogs with writer personality like J&J contribute to this bevy of personal factoids that stir the pot. But at least within the confines of these pages we have the ability to control what you know and what you don’t know about us.

These are the kinds of issues millennials will have to grapple with and navigate as we graduate and look for serious careers. My father was right in many regards, and frankly I’m proud of myself for not just ignoring his advice and shooting back a “Screw you for reading my blog when you’re not supposed to!” e-mail. God, I am growing up. I mean, isn’t that what this is all about? I don’t have the same license to casually fuck up anymore. If I want to be taken seriously as a writer, I have to market my brand in the way I want it to be consumed. It’s a terrifying thought, and one that I’m sure many young bloggers are struggling with. Will our oversharing bite us in the ass, or will it serve to showcase our writing in an honest and relatable way? Only time will tell, I guess. But a little self-censoring might not be such a bad thing from now on.



Emma said...

This is a really fascinating post. In this age of constant TMI, it's hard to tell what will actually shock people and what is simply expected to be known. It seems that every day there is some new way to let the whole world know about one's once-private life. I haven't really thought a whole lot about these issues, but there are important and deserve a lot of consideration. As much as I enjoy your seemingly unedited thoughts, I completely understand a need to self-censor a bit [more]. Thanks for this post.

Jess and Josh said...

Thank you, Emma. I'm glad you liked the post. You make a good point about not knowing what's general knowledge and what's shocking anymore. I feel like younger people have a higher tolerance for "shocking" material, but those looking to hire us probably don't. It's unfortunate but we should keep that in mind as we start thinking about graduation.

Comfortably Smug said...

Too long, didn't read.

sarah_rsl said...

I think the anonymity of the internet encourages honesty.The idea that someone I know might tie me to the stuff I post on the net makes me feel ill.

For me I like to keep my sex life in the bedroom, I'm always been up for most stuff as long as I have the reassurance that it stays between four wall.

Likewise with the internet I'll talk about personal stuff just so long as I've got this anonymous shield, that I know will stop it affecting my real life.

You seem to have merged the two, and it seems to be working so congrats.