I like to think of myself as a liberal, outgoing extroverted person. And none of those things are false but in other aspects of my life I am a remarkable Southern Belle. I am concerned about my image, my reputation and what people see when they see, well, me. What started this line of inquiry? Actually, a video of Alyssa Edwards: a Southern drag queen after my own heart. She was on a panel with a fellow drag queen, Katya and they were of course having a grand kiki. And all throughout the panel Alyssa would said “Edit that out.” she said that multiple times to her assistant and even in her show Alyssa’s Secret she is constantly asking for unflattering things of her to be edited and removed from the show. Now, I never really cared for Alyssa Edwards and I realize now that maybe it’s because she’s a bit of a kindred spirit. So that being said, let’s discuss self-editing, censorship and what it means to put your best face forward.
For those of you who don’t know, on the weekends I’m a panelist, podcaster and writer. During the week, however, I’m a social media manager and copywriter in a rather sensitive and at times very conservative industry. And while seldom do my two selves meet, there are moments of brief intersection where my personal life and professional life clash. Because I’m a career-woman, of course, I am worried about what my co-workers, clients, potential clients and supervisors think of me. Being Southern means being aware of one’s status and standing and those things can make or break an individual. I’m quick to rather not have something online for fear of my boss or family see a joke and not understand the context. I avoid making grand political statements lest I cause a flame war in the comment section of my Facebook page. Additionally, I tend to avoid serious discussions about my personal life anywhere but, well, inside my personal life.
So while outwardly I appear outgoing and open, I in fact can be rather quiet and shut off. What causes this separation? To me, there’s always been a very fine line between you and what other people see as you. Think of it like the ego and the id. You want to show off the ego and the id remains quietly tucked in the back of your mind until you get home. I’m very calculating with my words, I always seem to know what to say. I’m empathetic and can read situations easily. Because of course, you’d measure your response against what everyone else around you is saying. To me that’s common sense. To others, that’s disingenuous of even phony (yes, those are things I’ve been called).
To the people who have called me phony, they think I should say exactly what comes to mind all the time. I should be honest about how I feel about everything. But why would I? To me, that’s just reckless. If I’m in conversation with someone and I am distracted by their questionable choice to blend a paisley with a plaid I shouldn’t just blurt out “Wow, that outfit looks awful.” that isn’t disingenuous, it’s just polite. What sort of sophomoric id of a creature would I be if I just outwardly said everything that comes to mind. I should measure my responses. I should read a room. I should feel out a speaking partner. Those aren’t things to subjectively decide to do or not: those choices make and break careers, relationships and lives. If holding my tongue or giving a diplomatic answer keeps those around me happy and content then I think that’s a better solution than just blatantly saying every little thing that crosses my at times racing mind.
Let’s take on another example: social media. Now, I’m a social media manager by day and digital native and person with opinions by night. I’ve always proudly said that I don’t post anything on Facebook that I’m not ashamed of my family seeing. And that is for the most part true. I don’t share anything that my family, extended family, coworkers or close friends wouldn’t understand or approve of. And for a while, sure, that did mean a lot of self-editing. I kept away all of my emo song lyrics. Concerns about relationships and friendships were shelved and I kept talk of politics far far away. I hid those feelings on other websites and social networks and mostly kept a neat and clean social front door: I did want a job and to keep my Catholic family happy. To me that was never a negative. My Yankee family didn’t need to know that I was having problems with the 2nd or 3rd mostly nameless boyfriend. My aunts didn’t need to know that I was secretly way too early to class after falling face first in front of the bell tower at school. And as someone who does social media professionally, I am doubly aware of the importance of keeping the social media front door clean, tidy and free of suspicious posts.
Now, I’ve been able to relax a little. I’m lucky that conservative industry aside, I am still an advertising girl; that means I get to have a lot of personality and fun online. My aunts and the rest of my family understand that comic books, cosplay and music from Japan are just parts of my life and they only ask a few questions about why I named my sewing machine. But I still for the most part do my best to edit myself. Why do you guys think I didn’t start putting panel videos up until now? And I’ve left podcasts, quit shows and projects and everything because I am worried about my image. And when my friend whose podcast I left said “You’re too worried about your image!” I immediately responded: “Why aren’t you more worried about your image?” But that also means I’ve tabled projects because of what others have said. I tend to be a pretty good girl online but all it takes is one out of context soundbite from a friend and here I am guilty by association. And I respect my friends and their desire to not be censored. I’ll never hold back a friend from saying something: but that doesn’t mean I have to post it to all my social media channels.
There’s a certain Southern knack for self-editing and I think in moderation, it’s a needed part of social interaction. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t express myself. If any of you know me, I tend to be very candid about how I feel: just in other places or in person. I write as a wish, I blog, I do what I want and in moderation accept the slings and arrows of those who find my views controversial, strange or ridiculous. Let me know in the comments how you all feel about self-censorship and how far that power should extend to others.