This post explores the impact of current social media issues on me as a creative, and on our community; it's all getting a little Lord of The Flies.
I'm not one to sharing the darker, gloomier, depressing sides of being a Creative on a creative journey, and this declaration to my wonderful, kind group was not just unprecedented, but it was really hard to admit things were not all rainbows and signings and flowing words.
Most of you know by now that I am usually a little ray of sunshine; a busy little bee flitting around book world, always something exciting happening, always new places being travelled to, new experiences grasped. I pride myself on being a force of good in a community that is increasingly tearing itself apart; I believe in positive affirmation, balancing the universe and the manifestation of true desires, even if they come in a different guise to what we initially thought ....
As many of you are all to painfully aware, the social media world and the reality world are often very different. It's not that the social media world is a lie - it isn't, it's a truth, or it certainly is in my instance as I don't like deceit, but it is an alternative truth (My bad for sounding like a speech writer for Trump.)
The social media brand of Katie M. John is honest and a genuine expression of my creativity but it is of course selective; and the things I choose to omit are for a variety of reasons, all of them for reasons other than vanity or delusion or ego.
For example, if you hit my Instagram account, you'd have to be very observant to note I am a mother to two daughters - they feature very rarely (and always in abstract) on Instagram because it is a platform I can't fully control; any old weirdo could be looking at them. But it doesn't mean I am creating a false delusion of my life, it's not that I'm trying to 'pretend I'm foot loose and fancy free' - I'm just choosing to portray a facet of my life rather than revealing all of it in one space - just as when I go out with my clothes on, I am not attempting to hide my body through shame or fear, it's just private, it belongs to me... and the world probably thanks me for that.
It's a bit like that and my mental health. It's taken me many decades to fully accept and openly acknowledge that I have high functioning depressive tendencies; the kind of depression that switches me me onto auto-pilot, where I still go through the motions of and responsibilities of my life, (God forbid I ever let anybody down and cause disappointment) but it is done with a very different energy to the periods I am 'well'. It's not that I stop doing things - I don't, but the growth stops, the risks seem more overwhelming, projects are completed with stomach churning self-doubt and fear. Avoidances creep in, and less savoury tasks are left until they absolutely have to be dealt with - and where social media used to feel like a place of understanding, shared experience and support, it increasingly feels like a gladiatorial ring.
Late last year, for the first time in the decade I have been actively engaged on Social media, I was trolled. Someone ripped my whole creativity and work to pieces; they threw vitriolic, hurtful words into a series of 'reviews' with no care that a human being was involved in the writing process. Don't get me wrong, in the ten years I've been writing and publishing, I have had plenty of 1 star and less than positive reviews - but they've always been respectful, always been polite and a genuine expression of their dislike of the story / book / characters - I have a thick skin, or so I thought, but these particular trolling reviews were just plain nasty about me as an author, as a person. They told me in no uncertain terms that I had no place putting my s*@% out there for poor unsuspecting readers to stumble across and waste their time and pennies on.
These comments shouldn't have got to me in the way they did, but this combined with other world factors and some of the negativity that our own book world has 'embraced' sent me down that familiar old tunnel of high-functioning depression.
Then, just last week, a fellow book worlder who doesn't actually know me, decided to actively and aggressively call me out over something they chose to interpret negatively - no one else did. This second incidence of social media aggression in the space of two months is indicative of a shift in the social-media book-world - and it's a shift I don't much like.
There have been a couple of high profile book dramas this week - but that seems to be the case every week these days. Hurtful, cruel, truly damaging things are being said more and more in our community and it's having a ripple effect - people are adjusting to this increasingly hostile and volatile environment by becoming defensive, protectivist, and creating an almost self-fulfilling culture of conflict - and for people like me, that becomes a serious issue of well-being.
And I understand why it's happening. The book world is over-populated. It's seen an abundant growth of authors and their books, but rather than some people seeing this as a great and exciting thing, rather than celebrating the renaissance of genres, of reading growth, of a sign that the indie and hybrid market is doing things so right that it's flourishing, they have decided to turn it into some Darwinist fight for survival. It is literally turning into Lord of The Flies and I feel like Ralph shouting that we need to build shelters, and nurture community, and care for one another, when there are Jacks popping up everywhere that just want to, 'Kill The Pig! Kill The Pig!"
We all know how that novel ends, in the bloody murder of Simon, in the brutal emotional torture of Piggy, of the physical hunting down of Ralph - any hope for a harmonious, peaceful, productive community burning down around them.
Simon removes himself away from the tribe when the tensions and conflicts become too much, and I am so sad (and increasingly lonely) to discover that more than several of my dear international author friends are doing the same. They are becoming painfully absent; they are retreating and with that, there stories and creativity are retreating, too - because the devil of it is, without social media being a financially secure indie author is neigh on impossible, and some amazingly talented, lovely authors are choosing to sacrifice their authoring in order to protect their wider mental health.
And this has been my desire for the last few months, to run away and hide from the nasty monsters stalking our land, but I know that isn't an option. I love this book world and an army of good needs to fight back. The fires need to be kept lit. The light must continue to shine. I am not willing to surrender my craft, my stories, my authoring because some people want to cannibalise others.
I am looking forward to helping be a part of calling to arms when we meet together at Chapter.Con London 2017, a conference model I have imported from the USA, inspired by my incredible mentor and dear friend, Janet Wallace of UTOPiA.Con and Social Deviants, in which authors gather to share, get to know each other, exchange, support, and create a fiercely positive community that is committed to keeping our book world a safe space - a space where people can grow rather than just survive.