A part of me wants to complain. Something about the land of the social misfits irritates me, but I keep my mouth shut–at times–because I consider it a personal problem, one easily fixed by my removal from the networks. I could call it “downtime” to reenergize and, soon, return to the task of tweeting comedic one-liners and over-sharing my personal life. I could do this without an examination as to why I feel the need to unplug in the first place or, better yet, the reason(s) why I’m irritated, angered, and at a loss. An existential crisis of my online persona is under way, a silly, but–I wonder?–increasingly commonplace problem.
Who I am–and the aspects of my personality which I show online–is a matter of careful curation, sifting through the shards which makesÂ me “me” and display the beautiful pieces, the sexy ones. The goal, of course, is to be seen, to be heard, as oppose to “see” or “hear”–I look for another party to reach out and validate my nonsense with an LOL. Because to say what I really want to say–which is nothing, for I am both shy and introverted IRL–means screaming to myself into the ether(net) and, well, I can simply berate my walls if talking to myself is the end result.
That I’m a writer (self-promotion) and editor-in-chief of a literary magazine (promotion of others) makes my crisis all the more inconvenient. Day by day, the links affixed to short stories and poems and press releases for new or upcoming books whiz by my tiny window, capturing the hearts and minds of the small audience we literary types–we, the online literati–look to endear with our meager offerings, the ever-increasing ephemera we produce. Scraps of sentences and half-baked plots, cooked with the speed and quality of low-grade crack cocaine, doled out in dime-bag-sized blog posts and tweets: forgotten footnotes masquerading as literature, which we claim to create and endorse.
And some of us do, yes, but at the expense of the bright lights beamed from the eyes of “edgy writers.” Writer–by any other name–is a nerd, a social reject, the plaything for high school bullies. A part of me can’t begrudge them–us–for the cronyism, the cliques, as a mere expression of self-preservation (combine and defend!). But in what hopes? What, in fact, is the endgame here in this online literary realm where exclusion is a custom or, perhaps, merely the remainder resulting from long division (popularity over substance)?
And who am I to complain? I am a participant in this entire game. I’ve stacked more wins than losses over the past year; between publications and the launch–and relative success–of my magazine, the aforementioned question is answered: I am no one to complain.
But to be human is to complain–and to be online is to have a public forum to bellow out my grievances–so I must do my duty.
The existential crisis is twofold: I rarely reveal the real “me” while online and the ways in which I do reveal the curated pieces–mensah demary vs. Thomas DeMary–goes against my very nature, though I don’t mean to make it sound so dire. To the latter point, the Internet is the latest space where the paraphrase “no country for introverts” is applied, if easily dismissed, for anyone can say anything to anyone without fear of retribution, the IRL variant (bodily harm). I should know: I spent 2011 harassing @Tyrese.
I’m no fool–my task as curator of my own online life is, to this point, a successful one. But it comes with a price. It comes with the sacrifice of who I am, of what I believe, in order to run with the beautiful ones of online literature, albeit in the back of the pack–which beats being a groupie, a status some of my contemporaries are happy to own, but that’s for another day. My problem is, indeed, a personal one because no one else, to my knowledge, wonders aloud, “WTF are we doing here? What IS this ‘online literature?’ And to participate in it, to actually have my work read–or at least seen–by as many people as possible, what does one have to do?”
Depends. Maybe you have to routinely insult people. Or bare your breasts. Or inflate your importance with Twitter bot accounts featuring wonderful plays on your name. Or receive a facial. Or type in all caps begging, pleading, almost offering fellatio to receive a glorious retweet or re-blog from a beautiful one, a literary titan who lords over the fecal matter we espouse as literature.
It depends. For me, I simply insult people and make a mockery of my own personal life, to treat the pain of divorce with irreverence, the latest in cyberspace fashion. And I do it all in the name of gaining something called “notoriety” because, my fear is, to do it with humility and a dose of reality–to be “real”–is to be ignored. Cast out.
“We want outcasts,” so goes the tagline for my magazine. A message to myself–and I didn’t even know it.
mensah demary, whose prose has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, is co-founder & editor-in-chief of Specter Magazine.
a regular contributor for The Lit Pub, Hippocampus Magazine, ArtFaccia, and Peripheral Surveys,Â mensah currently writes in Camden, New Jersey. For more information, visit www.mensahdemary.com or on Twitter @mensahdemary.Â