Not Waving, But Drowning

I’ve debated long and hard about posting this and have slept on it more than once. I’m anxious that comes across as whingy and whiny and could so easily be misconstrued. I’m in no way trying to criticise anyone else, I’m just trying to be honest about interaction online makes me feel. I’ve finally decided to post it, despite what people may think – if they read it at all!

I don’t know how to start this post. And it’s fairly obvious that the same thing has been true for the last six weeks or more. I could say it was writer’s block, but that wouldn’t be strictly honest. It’s not that I’ve a lack of things I could say. It’s more a lack of inspiration, when confronted with a blank screen, for how to say them. It’s less a lack of ideas and more of an inability to translate the confused storm of thoughts and emotions in my head in to comprehensible words and ideas on the page. And a lack of desire to do it because… well, what’s the point?

I thought for a while that I was turning a corner. We’ve got exciting plans coming up in the next twelve months and finally, for a short time at least, I felt as though our failure to have more children didn’t matter so much any more. Not that I was over it, but that I finally felt that I  could get over it. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was switched on by finding things that excited me almost as much as the idea of growing our family.

But then, almost abruptly, someone switched the light out again. And I retreated back around the corner. I suppose it was a combination of things. Many of them small and seemingly insignificant. Not least of all, though, were the births of so many babies around me. And online over and over again I came up against announcements of pregnancies. Invariably second, or more usually third, pregnancies. At least half of them seeming to have happened within mere weeks of the decision to try, or even without any planning at all.

If screaming that it’s not bloody fair makes me both pathetic and a bitch, then I’m guilty as charged.

I wanted to write about these feelings. I wanted to offload. To look for more support. To turn my silent scream to a shout for more help.

But it became stuck in my throat, unable to find its way from inside my head and my heart, out to the world at large. Or, at least, the online world. Because… well, what’s the point?

Here is the honest truth about why I stumbled: It’s because hardly anyone is listening. It’s because I don’t think that anyone wants to listen to my self pitying prose, over and over again like a stuck record – and I guess I don’t really blame them. But I also think people don’t want to listen because they simply don’t care. It’s not relevant to them, they don’t actually know me and have no desire to get to know me. And that is fine. Everyone is free to read and interact and do exactly as they choose. But it does mean, if I’m to be as honest as I’m promising, that the internet is not the shiny, happy land of help, and love and connections and support that so many people make it out to be.

The truth is, it’s exactly that for a tiny minority of people. Five percent of the people who get, probably, ninety five percent of the support. It’s a tiny minority of people who turn to online communities and are made to feel less alone as a result. And they go on to make up the vast majority of the people talking about just how great online communities are, and how much they’ve gained from them.

For the rest of us, the internet can often be just as much of a lonely place as the real world so frequently is. It can often feel like an exclusive party, to which we cannot get an invite, but it’s all there to be seen behind a glass screen.

I’m not saying that it’s the fault of the people for whom the internet provides so much and facilitates so many positive relationships. But I do need to say that it isn’t as easy as writing a few blog posts, commenting on others, joining up to forums or email lists and sending a few tweets. It’s really, really hard for some of us to get engaged, despite trying over and over again. It’s often said that you get out what you put in, but that isn’t always the whole truth. And of course, for those of struggling the most “putting in” can often be very hard to do, at least at the level that seems necessary in order for just a single tweet to get read these days. But by it’s very nature, the internet is a bit voyeristic, and it’s so easy to see all these people having a great time and forming so many positive interactions and wondering just why the hell you can’t get a piece of that.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some great support from a few people, and if you’re one of them, I want you to know how much it is appreciated. I have a few singular readers here, a few correspondents on Twitter. But I don’t have community.

It shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve always been one of those people that doesn’t really “fit in”. Friendships don’t come naturally or easily to me. The only part of my life where I have absolutely no trouble getting people to trust and like me is in my professional sphere. I don’t understand why I find it so easy to be popular in that arena, but cannot transfer it to my personal life or online, where it’s all supposed to be so much easier.

I know that I find it hard online partly because of my career, and the fact that I don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to online interactions, and the caution I apply for privacy reasons. However, I also find it difficult because often I’m not even sure where I am trying to fit in. I can’t fit in to the infertility community, given that we can’t pursue any more treatment and, worse, I actually have a child, so I’m concerned that I’m seen as some kind of imposter. I don’t fit in with those who write parenting focused blogs because… well, because I’m concerned I’m seen as “not a proper parent” I guess. Because I write more about infertility and my sadness than I ever do about parenting. And perhaps most of all because my blog is “just for fun”. Because I have a successful professional career and have no desire for my blog to be another.

Yeah, if I’m honest it seems these days that if you don’t treat your social media connections and online writing like a job, you simply get trampled underfoot. Or perhaps swept aside and left behind may be more apt. The internet is such a crowded place, perhaps it’s just simply that you have to be able to shout loudly and inevitably, therefore, everyone has to be a bit self centred.

But the world where I want to fit is the world where people care more about people than page views, reviews or sponsorships. I first discovered blogs more than a decade ago when I went online looking for personal stories. For people living lives like mine. I cared (and in many cases still care) about the stories of the people I discovered, finding resonance in their voices. I started my first blog nine and a half years ago because I wanted to contribute, and to get back. But gradually that aspect of blogging has been eroded. Everyone is a “professional” now, telling stories that sell a product as often as they write about what really makes them tick. And if you’re working to deadlines to briefs you don’t often have the time or the scope to share the purely personal and what really makes you tick. I know that. There have been plenty of posts from blogs I read recently describing the “pressure” they feel under. And besides, I’ve done my own fair share of freelance writing (but always – always – separate from my blogging).

Now blogs are the platform for writing anything and everything. And it’s not that I think that is wrong. I’m in no way criticising any one or what they choose to do with their online lives. It’s just all so different from where I started. And I think that where I started no longer exists. I feel like a foreigner in a strange land.

I wonder if what I think of as a “blog” needs a new name. Or if the sites that share three reviews a day under the banner of a blog need to be renamed simply “personal review sites”. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter. I believe what I desire no longer exists under any name. I don’t feel that I have a voice, or a community, or the support network that I’m so desperately seeking and no way at all to find it.

When I write I’m not waving. I’m slowly drowning.