Impossible standards have, I’m sure, plagued every generation. Women have always had Hollywood and the Virgin Mary to make them feel inadequate, and men have always had an increasingly complex “man-up” culture compelling them to hide their emotions and die in wars – bravely, no less. Don’t get me started on what a minefield it must be working out when it’s ok to cry (when your mum dies – yes; when Bambi’s mum dies – no. That’s as far as I understand so far).
But this generation, especially in light of the job crisis which plods on and on through waves of samey op-eds and falsified statistics, has a whole new crust of impossible standards to live up to, namely: the perfect online presence.
I’m going to preface this by saying: I love online. The global webs of friendship I’ve maintained over Facebook, the playground of people and topics on Twitter, that I was able to build a community of people who needed to laugh at their joblessness, and I didn’t even have to give my name or show my face to do it. Living online is brilliant, and not just because you can do it in your pants.
But it’s tiring.
The “in my day” generation often operate under the misconception that online pursuits are nought but playtime, that tweeting is about as useful as naming your nipples, that there’s no difference between sharing an article and watching the one pound fish man for the seventeenth time. It’s hard to explain this is partially where we exist now, especially if you’re a journalist, and we have to look good because anyone – anyone – could be looking.
Guys, if there’s anyone I should admit this to, it’s you.
Is anyone else tired?
Because I’m flagging. I feel like I’ve been at a networking event for four years straight. This generation will be plagued intermittently throughout their lives by Online Fatigue.
I’m tired of image-crafting. I’m tired of keeping up my online profile. I’m exhausted by being watched by prospective employers, these anonymous people I have to live in my head with because I know in six months there’s every chance I’ll be jobless again. I have to update my blogs in a timely fashion so no one thinks it’s dead, and reply with respect and wit to commenters, and share good content, and tweet regularly while maintaining a balance between professionalism and personality, between funny and serious, between being knowledgeable yet with a desire to learn, between wanting to eat a grenade and not actually eating a grenade.
These are the impossible standards we have to maintain: it’s all the fascism of a pageant contestant’s beauty regime without the need to moisturise. Because a side effect of the broken system our governments have created is a lack of jobs and an absolute dearth of job security – and that comes with a constant, underlying shadow that whispers, “Scrub up, kid. People might be looking at you.”
Nothing gives me a heftier sigh of relief than the fact that there was no Twitter when I was a teenager. Because I, like most teenagers, was an absurd and utterly self-absorbed douchecanoe. If I were being unkind I would now link to a twant from a tween who thinks contemplating suicide is a rational response to Dean ignoring her in the canteen (because it really is the worst thing that’s happened to her so far), but it’s going to follow her around for the rest of her life anyway and I don’t want to add to it. Her humiliation is in the post.
I’ve decided that, for one week only, I’m going to let the cracks show. Because we all occasionally start to crack up from the pressure of the pageant.
So here are some honest statements that I would NEVER normally make online:
1) At least three times a week, I wake up and think “Will today be the day I’m exposed as a fraud, the day everyone will realise I’m not that good?”
2) Whenever I apply for a job, my application is genuinely terrible. This isn’t false modesty – a wave of “what’s the point? Nothing will come of it anyway” washes over me and I produce a waste of perfectly good paper. It’s badly written, with huge chunks of relevant experience left out because I “don’t want to ramble”. Invariably I never hear back, or in some cases my boyfriend wrestles it off me, puts in notes to remind me of things I should mention, and makes me rewrite sentences that read the way a nervous teenager talks. My Guardian application was so bad he threatened to dangle me upside-down in a bathtub of bees if I sent it as it was. Without him I wouldn’t have a job. I’m quite serious about that.
3) When I started How to Be Jobless, my main message was “find a way to laugh”. I would tweet jokes about my unemployment, like “A jobless lunch – leave a selection of sandwiches in your fridge and pretend you’re choosing at Pret a Manger” and “Turn an internship into a job. Put crack in the boss’s coffee. All they’ll know is things are just better when you’re around.” Sometimes I typed those tweets while lying on my face, on the floor, blubbering like a kid who’d lost her balloon.
4) If I lost a balloon right now, or dropped an ice cream on the floor, I would ABSOLUTELY cry. That shit is fresh in my memory.
5) I miss being anonymous. I miss the respect that comes with people assuming you’re a man.
6) When I got trolled a few weeks ago, I didn’t sleep for three nights. I was quiet and jumpy and felt an odd sense of utter hopelessness. I also looked for jobs, just in case my editor agreed with them and fired me. And I should have admitted that. Instead I put on a tough and unmoving online face, replied to commenters, told concerned colleagues that it was just part of the job, and even wrote a post telling you all how to deal with being trolled – when really that was my way of dealing with it.
7) The worst moment of being trolled was when someone I followed tweeted the article, saying how bad it was – wait, no, that they agreed with someone else who had said how bad it was. They had no idea the writer followed them. They just hated it, fair and square, no psychological disorders or creepy, troll-like behaviour I could point out to make them seem unbalanced, cruel, lonely, stupid or some species of prick. There was nothing to make me feel better. I just sucked.
Later on, I saw the stats on the article. That tweet got more clicks than the Guardian’s.
8) I don’t fancy Ryan Gosling. I just don’t. I know it makes me a freak, but I seriously wouldn’t even look twice if he passed me in the street. Throw Russell Crowe in with him too. And George Clooney. Throw them in a pit of oil and let them wrestle. I’m going to go and tweet a witty quip about how little I care.