Why Being a Big Deal on the Internet Made Me Unhappy

big deal on the InternetI 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.

Get More Inspiration & Encouragement

Sign up to get my weekly(ish) email with personal stories, practical tips & links to recent blog posts. You'll also have access to exclusive discounts on products & events and a handful of freebies I've made just for you.

I save my best stuff for subscribers! Join us.

Your email will never be sold or shared, because I aspire to not be a jerk.

  1. Dick Carlson says:

    Yeah, I used to be a big deal in a place that WASN’T the Internet, and had pretty much the same experience. I think any time you get all your validation and support from external sources it’s just a matter of time until you hit the ground.

    Now I’m pretty much just doing what floats MY boat. And it’s a MUCH smaller boat, and very easy to maintain.
    Dick Carlson’s most recent post: Yes, It’s True! Learning Makes Your Brain Hurt

    • Miss Britt says:

      Exactly. The Internet. The soccer team. The big important office. It doesn’t matter the environment, it’s the outside validation that is both fun and dangerous.

  2. daniel says:

    Sometimes I feel like The Internet is like high school. Only uglier. Having outside validation is good. We need it. Be it from our friends, family, whatever. It is becoming dependent on that outside validation, especially those who don’t actually know you, that is where problems arise.

    And I say “you” as a generalization, not “you” as in “you, specifically, Britt”

    Having that internal self-worth and self-validation, that is so much more important of a skill than cultivating it from others.
    daniel’s most recent post: Phamily Foto Phriday 4-26-13

    • Miss Britt says:

      You’re right. I think it’s when you stop considering the source, when you judge the source by their opinion.

  3. Kent says:

    Now you’re a BIG deal to the right people (including us!). :) Powerful stuff.
    Kent’s most recent post: Have Food? We’ll Travel

    • Miss Britt says:

      :-) A lot changed for me when I started to be more discerning about whose opinions mattered. I started to take a closer look at people’s characters and not just what they thought of me.

      Lucky me, you win on both accounts!

  4. jodifur says:

    I’m not sure when I started reading you, I think it was after all that. I’ve never been a “big deal” on the internet, but I know my writing got better once I pulled my eyes and stopped chasing some illusive internet dream.
    jodifur’s most recent post: Fear

    • Miss Britt says:

      I’m sure. You can tell when someone is writing for the audience first. And I don’t blame writers when I see it happen, but I like the stuff that starts from within first.

  5. Sheila says:

    Screw the Internet.

    *I* think you’re amazing.

    I’m pretty sure that’s all of the validation you need, thankyouverymuch.

    All kidding aside, I was never as big of a deal as you are/were (and I never will be) but I totally get what you’re saying. The internet and the friends I made there became my lifeline and, as a result, my “real” life (meaning my marriage and family) was famiy apart. It’s a vicious cycle.

    I’m glad you got off of the hot pink pony of the merry go ’round.
    Sheila’s most recent post: FAIL

    • Miss Britt says:

      Actually, it matters more than you think.

      In fact, when I imagine my “target audience”, I almost ALWAYS think of you. You specifically. For real. xo

  6. These are such powerful cautionary words for writers who are beginning a writing life in blogging. I can see how easy it would be for this to happen, even though I’ve only been blogging a few months. I think it can be so seductive because you feel like you’re being validated and appreciated for something in ordinary life doesn’t generally get acknowledged — your ability to write and connect with others. But, as you make clear, that “connection” is not so simple.
    Jessica Smock’s most recent post: Introducing the HerStories Project! A Website and Survey about New Motherhood

    • Miss Britt says:

      It’s not simple. And I’d be lying if I said that readers don’t matter now. That connection is why writers write and publish! But yes, it’s tricky.

      You know, I guess it’s kind of like friendships. It’s all about the connection, but there’s a fine line when that connection can begin to define us.

  7. isn’t it hard to believe how long you’ve been a deal at all on the internet? i’m glad you’re happy with where you are now.
    Father Muskrat’s most recent post: the capitol muskrat

  8. Melizzard says:

    For the record, I enjoy your writing more now than I did then.
    Melizzard’s most recent post: Melanoma Scar Update

  9. kateanon says:

    When I took my blog and changed it to be anonymous years ago, I felt the pangs of disappointment, because nobody knew who I was. While a lot of the time, that was the point, that anonymity gave me more freedom, I still craved the validation that came from someone recognizing my blog. It’s difficult to make things over, to make them what you want them to be.

    I think many of us will follow you because you’re so dynamic, no matter where you write, but this genuine Britt is much more compelling to me.
    kateanon’s most recent post: what I can’t forget

    • Miss Britt says:

      I started anonymously and that was VERY dangerous for me. I got validated for thoughts and words that should never have seen the light of day. Oy.

  10. Megan says:

    You are a big deal to me – that’s what’s important. ;)
    Megan’s most recent post: Bros

    • Miss Britt says:

      It is, actually. You’re someone I respect so much, so I definitely use you as a barometer from time to time. xo

  11. Melanie says:

    I watched you grow from a girl to a woman on the internet. Now I am waiting for you to gain the confidence to just be that woman.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I think that’s where I’m at now, like just in the last couple months. FINALLY – right? lol

  12. Nancy says:

    (Extends hand for a high five)

    Unfortunately society’s drive for a “good story” pushes people up the scale only to yank the rug out from under them. Bored minds create (and thrive on drama).

    Don’t let others write your story for their entertainment. Keep writing your story with honesty and integrity.

  13. I think that BEing a Big Deal is more a state of chaos than a state of BEing.

    So I am glad for you to have this in your Past.

    It reminded me of all those things I saved BEcause I thought it wouldn’t BE nice to NOT… what really matters is the thought of things that happened in the Past and the smiles the thoughts bring to my heart.

    I recently deleted a ton of saved emails and even more actual printed out paper “stuff” and you know, Now I feel the good of them much more clearly.

    enJOYing YOU very much… just usually quietly, but wanted to say so “out loud” today!!
    Currie Silver’s most recent post: Currie’s Gratitude 1 May 2013

  14. Marta says:

    Huh, you know I feel like I would react the same way. I’ve never been a big deal on the internet, but I crave that validation. That popularity. The feeling that my words matter to someone else other than me. I think if I got it, I would have the same rollercoaster of emotions as I would be so tied to the pubilc’s perception of me. I want to believe I would stay true to who I am, but I don’t know if I would.
    Marta’s most recent post: Sunshine and Happiness.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I don’t think it’s unusual at all. In fact, I think we see it in lots of arenas, not just the Internet. If you don’t already get your validation from yourself, getting a hit of it from the outside world quickly becomes addictive.

  15. Kerry says:

    I never comment here, but:

    I continue to be impressed with how you handled…well, everything. 999 out of 1,000 people would have crumbled. You rebuilt…well, everything. It’s been cool to watch. You are a strong person. It’s kind of awesome.

  16. Hey, I just read your “cater waiter” post but can’t comment there (I’m behind on my google reader). Just wanted to say that I think your doing that is awesome and that I really liked that post.

    I think anyone who wants to write for a living needs to do something — even if it’s just part time — that necessitates being around people, so they can listen to dialects, speech inflections, colloquialisms, etc. How can you invent characters (and their stories) if you’re never around any? You can’t…at least, not believable ones.

    Also, it’s healthier and more fun that sitting at a computer all day.
    Father Muskrat’s most recent post: the capitol muskrat

    • Miss Britt says:

      YES. Oh man, it’s so important to get the hell out of this house and around real people sometimes!

      (Thanks. Sorry you couldn’t comment there. I have it set to close comments automatically after 14 days to cut down on spam.)

  17. I know what you mean.


    The internet is different now, and so is blogging. Happiness is more important, and really, you are still a big deal to the people who really know who you are.
    Goon Squad Sarah’s most recent post: You Heard the Man

    • Miss Britt says:

      You know what, I think you’re right. I think the Internet and blogging have changed a lot. There are less and less blogs that survive just on being a show. Funny how we moved beyond reality blogging before TV did.

      (And thank you. xo)

  18. I want to plaster this post all over the place.

    I remember those days very well. It was all a rat race. Who could be the most popular. Who had the most subscribers. I struggled because I just couldn’t find my place.

    And then personal blogging became the pariah of the internet, and I realized that none of those things mattered. Like you, I had to redefine my outlook and learn how to care less about the validation and more about the quality of my posts.

    I’m still trying to find that middle ground, but it’s been freeing to do my own thing.
    Elizabeth Barone’s most recent post: How to Deal with Discouragement

  19. Kate says:

    I needed this perspective… I’ve been working on my blog a lot lately and I’m starting to realize that there is a very fine line between sharing the message that I am passionate about and letting my enthusiasm consume me!

    Thanks for keeping it real
    Kate’s most recent post: Chick Flicks: Emotional Pornography for the Female Heart

  20. Keiko says:

    Two weeks ago my friend and I launched our blog. We have been preparing for it for five months and now that we are here, I can see how you can get caught up in what the “Internet” thinks. We want to make a difference but be true to what inspired us. Thanks for the perspective. Breath and stay grounded. I’m glad I found you today. I think refining our blog, still listening to our gut and not being swayed by outside judgement may be a challenge. Learning from those who have gone before us will be key.

    If you could give us one piece of advice what would it be?
    Keiko’s most recent post: Special Needs… Teaching What Is Needful

  21. Deb says:

    I used to read and follow you daily. I had time and you always seemed to validate what I was going through or had been through or would go through….Everytime something tough comes along I find myself searching you out and reading 6 months of posts to get caught up and feel as though there is someone else who made it out of the dark side. I have used you and adored you. Thank you for always being so very real.

  22. [...] And then, Muriel doesn’t really change on the inside. She gets a haircut, loses some weight, and moves away from her horribly abusive family. But she is still very broken on the inside and very desperate for validation from the outside world. [...]

  23. I really liked this post. I didn’t know that about you, but it is true. The internet does not define you. The internet will not make you happy. Other people do not define. Only you can define yourself!
    Sebastian Aiden Daniels’s most recent post: Traumatic Childhood! How it affects a person and how to heal from it! Part 2.

« « How to Be Happier by Drinking Bad Wine | The Secret to Keeping Perspective During a Slow News Week » »