I don’t know if you know this about me, but I used to be a big deal on the Internet.
Well, sort of a big deal.
I used to have lots of fans and followers and freebie offers. I used to spend a good chunk of my day dreaming up blog posts and figuring out how I would entertain my audience. The Internet loved me, and I loved it.
And in the end it made me very, very unhappy.
I never saw it coming.
In the beginning, it was like any love affair: heady and magical. For the first time in my life I was pretty and popular. People wanted to know me. I felt important, special, and validated – three things I’d never really experienced on a consistent basis.
The Internet was the adoring boyfriend I’d seen on movies but never had in real life.
I was the geeky girl who got a makeover and was suddenly appreciated.
And then I was the desperate girl who had to work really hard to maintain her new image, because the idea of fading back into oblivion was terrifying.
I had to keep entertaining. I had to always be funny or provocative. I had to be on stage constantly, because the minute I stepped down I’d be forgotten. And I couldn’t be forgotten. I didn’t exist until the Internet discovered me, and I’d cease to be if they stopped looking at me.
I was who the Internet said I was.
But the Internet doesn’t always agree.
So, sometimes I was funny and brave and beautiful. Sometimes I was a horrible wife and selfish mother. Sometimes I was pathetic and lame. Sometimes I was so smart, and sometimes I was so childish.
I was whatever the Internet said I was.
Being kind of a big deal on the Internet was like being the girl in an after-school special about abusive boyfriends. I wanted to please, but I was careful. I didn’t know what would trigger an attack or warrant roses. I was watchful of myself and of my beloved’s response.
My self esteem was strapped onto a roller coaster, enjoying the view from the thrilling peaks one moment and throwing up cotton candy the next.
In the summer of 2009, I crashed and burned in front of the Internet. My marriage exploded and the Internet responded with a mixture of support and glee. People were just as thrilled to see me fall as they had been to see me dance.
The Internet didn’t know who the hell I was anymore.
I had to start looking somewhere else for answers.
I went to therapy. I rebuilt my marriage. I turned in my tap shoes and started all over on the Internet, this time with a determination to share who I was becoming on my own terms.
Sometimes I miss the outside validation. Sometimes I resent the hard work involved with building myself up and holding myself accountable to me. Sometimes I really want someone else to tell me who I am.
But the Internet can’t be trusted to do that, because the Internet is changing even faster than I am.
Only I can be counted on to say who I am and who I will be. Only I can decide if I’m good enough, if I’m funny or smart or beautiful. Only my judgments have staying power and can be used to build a life upon.
I used to be a big deal on the Internet.
Now I’m important to me.
I am who I say I am.