I have found myself of late, acutely aware of some of the negatives of social media.
Since the first day I started in the industry, I’ve been aware of and active in the online discussions surrounding my industry. When I was told that day, that men go online and review us, my first instinct was to immediately quit, and the second was to be nosey and find out what they were saying. It seemed so counterintuitive to me, that the industry, shrouded in mystery and talked about in hushed tones, should then review it’s participants in such a public manner. The love of my work prevented me from quitting, but there was no way I wasn’t monitoring what was said about me, and then evolved a passion to discuss and educate about my work in it’s entirety, online. If they wanted to lift the veil on us, I was going to be there to hold up a mirror.
When I left NZ, I left the NZ forums, problematic in their own right - only to discover the Australian version was really not the kind of place I wanted to spend time. Thankfully, I’d discovered Twitter by then, and it’s been a priceless part of my business while I’ve established myself here. I have many twitter clients, and honestly without exception they’ve all been excellent. I think the advantage of social media is definitely how we seem to navigate towards and attract people who we naturally get along with. I am exceptionally grateful to live in the modern age - my newspaper ad days are thankfully well behind me. People are increasingly inclined to book based on personality, as much as basic physical descriptors like the days of old.
I’ve always spoken my mind, not always as eloquently as I’d like, but whether it’s something I like about myself or not - being outspoken is part of my nature. I don’t like to see my peers taking shots or being bullied, nor do I like to let blatant ignorance about our industry slide. I pull back sometimes, other times I dive right in. Social media has never been as much about marketing to me, as it has been about being part of the conversation.
I have collected people who don’t like me, they don’t know me beyond a screen of course, but it’s an inevitable consequence when you debate online, or say controversial things about Feta cheese. I have myself muted people for nothing more than getting on my nerves, or blocked those I found straight up offensive - but with one exception, I’ve never felt hatred in my whole career, towards anyone and I hope those who I debate with, know it’s not personal. Not everyone can separate the two.
But I have collected people who outright hate me. Who wish harm to me. And it isn’t a matter of them blocking me, or unfollowing me. But the concern at the minute is just how closely they are watching me. And as a result I can’t help but feel a need to retreat. It doesn’t feel nice to be hated and under scrutiny by those who do. But I can manage the ways it impacts me in my day to day life, and I can protect myself, and protect healthy feelings of my own about the community and the clients who interact with us online.
With growth comes responsibility, to myself. I am so lucky that my life has flourished into a well balanced, full life, enriched by hobbies, community and relationships. My life more and more draws me away from my phone and my sense of obligation, and I crave days without witnessing my community tear each other apart, and feeling obligated to be around. I really just want to foster the relationships that add value to my life and business.
With being under the watchful eye of negative forces, I am retreating from discussion and focussing more on the positive aspects of social media. I could have done all this without writing an essay, but I worried that would give the impression that I don’t care any more. I’m a professional, I don’t change things about my business without notice and I do feel obligated to keep my clients informed of what’s new. I do care, about my community and the ’issues’ - but my care does not have to be all over Twitter, it is consistent behind the scenes, and importantly, with the people I know personally. There are many demands on my attention in the ‘twitter sphere’, and where once I could cope with the notifications and respond to the comments, slowly it has overwhelmed me.
I cannot foster 15 thousand online relationships, but I can definitely turn that energy towards my clients, and the people who know me best who care for me beyond the umbrella. With time, my passions have also evolved beyond sex work, and into other causes where I can have real impact, beyond the void that is social media. I am lucky I know, to have other areas of my life to turn to, when my community begins to feel less safe. I’m not leaving you Twitter, just the conversation.