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Writing Perceptions: Theirs and Yours

Here’s the thing: if you ever go out in public (live or on the web), people are going to see you, judge you, tell stories about who they think you are (in their heads and out loud), like you or not like you.

There’s literally nothing you can do about it.

I recently read an interview with actress Kristen Stewart where she compared the attention, privacy invasion and paparazzi that surround her as rape. She’s been taken to task for that understandably and she’s apologized, but she does make a point. It is unwanted and it is abuse. Anyway, it was a simile, she did not mean to be literal. She says:

What you don’t see are the cameras shoved in my face and the bizarre intrusive questions being asked, or the people falling over themselves, screaming and taunting to get a reaction. All you see is an actor or a celebrity lit up by a flash. Your little persona is made up of all the places that people have seen you and what has been said about you.

The celebrity example is extreme, but with social media—and massive, sudden access to people’s information. It’s not that far off from our realities. Just the other day, someone I follow on Twitter said they decide whether to follow someone based on their last tweet. Ouch. Sometimes my last tweet isn’t brilliant, you know? Sometimes it’s a reaction to someone else or part of a longer conversation I’ve been having.

Because these interwebs move so fast, we are often quick to see, interpret, judge and decide.

And it’s not all negative, mind you. Just like some of those celeb photos are gorgeous, the snapshot glimpses the public gets of you on the web are often stunning.

But, if you’re a celebrity and you know the cameras are going to be there, either take massive steps to avoid them (some do this very well) and garner yourself some privacy or get your hair ‘did’ before you go outside. Your only other option is to not care.

It’s the same with us normal people, you know.

We do have a wee, little, tiny, microscopic bit of control. We can be careful what we post, tweet, update, etc. We can be careful in our interactions with others. We can always be our truest, bestest selves.

But, most importantly, our control lies in our understanding that it’s going to happen. It is! We will be perceived by others—however they want to perceive us.

Think about it. And think about it as you, inevitably, write your perceptions of those around you.

The images in this post were created by my favorite artist, Traeger di Pietro. His perception of my logo was done with paint, his perception of the Geek Girl logo with mixed media—I wish you could see it in person, the layers and bits are so inspired. If you want him to judge you in this beautiful way, visit his site, email him or just let me know (I’ve got his numbah).

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Van says:

    My artist brain loves the inclusion of two gorgeous paintings with this blog post. I’ve been pretty careful with social media and blogging, remembering to be myself but also to try to provide the best quality content that will inspire or educate. Easier to inspire…
    .-= Van´s last blog ..Merry Mushrooms and Other Thrift Fun =-.

  • Dave Doolin says:

    Timely article for me right now.

    It’s always amazed and confused me that people demand “be yourself” then tool the ever-living-shit out of you when you do, when are just “being yourself.”

    This has enormous ramifications for the workplace. Who could possibly “be” that person corporate culture demands? Better to put on the mask, just like everyone else. Then the person “just being themself” can bear the brunt of being “not like the others.”

    In my experience (extensive), this observation applies equally well to subcultures. “Be yourself” really means “be more like us.”

    Fortunately, I have so much cool stuff going on that it’s difficult to pay attention to all of this. I just do my thing.

  • Joyce Mason says:

    Kelly, fabulous post and a synchronicity for me! I’ve been wanting to blog on this topic from an astrological perspective on The Radical Virgo. I’d like to link to this post when I do. Neptune rules film and stars, even the smaller stars we become in the galaxy of the Internet. Issues of boundary and foggy perceptions run rampant, and I want to add to the dialogue about how we deal with the cloudy atmosphere while staying true to who we are. Thank you!

    • Julie Roads says:

      It’s Julie, but I do have a few wonderful ‘Kelly’ friends! Thanks for stopping by…I’m a Cancer…and love writing about it. Definitely link back so I can read your post!

    • Dave Doolin says:

      Joyce, you cannot *imagine* how much glee you’ve given me. Especially since you comment (which is very good, btw), references issues of boundary.

  • Lindsey says:

    I love Dave’s comment about the persistent demand to ‘be yourself’ and then the tooling-the-ever-loving-shit-out-of-you that often follows.
    I also think that controlling what we put out there is a slippery slope – some things need to be thought through carefully. But in other cases I can get myself into a maelstrom of self-doubt and a spiral where I question every single thing I say and worry about how every single person will take it. I don’t think that’s good either.
    No easy answers here. Sigh.
    .-= Lindsey´s last blog ..Unsure footing =-.

    • Dave Doolin says:

      Then there is this whole notion of “speaking freely.”

      I was raised differently, raised by a man who supported his mother during the Great Depression: “Think, son, think before you speak!”

      So yeah, this whole glib, snappy repartee, snarky hero thing, it doesn’t come naturally.

      Then again, when and where he was raised, giving someone a lot of lip was a great way to get a punch in the mouth.

      Funny how times change.
      .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Quest for the perfect post: Empathize, Entertain, Educate! =-.

  • Siddhartha says:

    I like the celebrity angle because we can all visualize what that’s like. And then when you bring it down to a personal level for each of us we can say, yeah, it’s the same thing just on a small scale.

    I think you are exactly right. People are judging us all the time it’s just not as public and recognizable as it is with celebrities. So we have to come to a decision about how we’re going to deal with that fact even if we’re never famous.

    Your approach, to just ignore it, is one way to go. I’m going to have my bodyguards punch them in the face.
    .-= Siddhartha´s last blog ..Five Steps to Evaluate a Good Idea =-.

  • traeger says:

    i thank you julie roads for being such a true friend and i admire how u affect so many souls, hearts and lives as much as you do mine.
    thank you for being you and feeling with your heart.

    you are the bestest writer in the world.


  • Andrea says:

    Great topic. By putting ourselves out there, we have to acknowledge that judgement can happen, and it may not always be pleasant. We don’t always know what is going to become viral and taken out of context.

    I think the best we can do is be good citizens of the interweb communities ourselves. That means being able to disagree with someone without attacking them personally, without pointing our bony fingers and shouting YOUR DOING IT WRONG. It means cutting people some slack sometimes because we all have bad days, we all have moments where we express something we instantly wish we could roll up and put back into our heads. It means not being a troll, not antagonizing people for the pure heck of it. I try to approach it this way, and it is sometimes hard to do. But I would want someone to treat me and my work the same.
    .-= Andrea´s last blog ..Well-Fed Friday (Kicking #FF up a notch) =-.

  • nandoism says:

    Woah! Awesome post. I also get chased by the paparazzi, in my head, but that’s NO EXCUSE!! Even though I only have 5,000 twitter followers–I kind of get it at times–meaning that people THINK they know who I am–and since I am Gay, Mexican and Adopted–child, they get the wrong impression. What’s a Gay to do?

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