I’ve been thinking I’ve been angry at the Internet a lot in the past few days. I mean, there’s the standard “inadvertently glancing at comments on a mainstream media news post” and “dealing with hateful troll comments” types of angry. On their own, I can brush them off pretty easily, but piled on top of others, they’re still part of the baseline. Then there are the hit-or-miss blogs I read occasionally; in the past few days, they’ve been more miss than hit.
But I’ve been most angered by comments in places I’d previously regarded as safe spaces for particular types of conversations and issues.
As it happens, I am wrong — both about those being safe spaces and about me being angry.
Really, I realized during an hour of stepping the fuck away and reminding myself of what yoga feels like, I am hurt.
Previously, I’d considered these spaces to be ones where I could let my guard down regarding things like fat, disability, and body image. For a considerable length of time, especially in Internet terms, that worked well for me. Now, though, it seems that some of those spaces have become more focused on being more educational, discussion-oriented spaces for a wider variety of readers and commenters.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these are now bad spaces or that we don’t need spaces that focus on 101-type social justice education. However, I think it’s not always possible to be a space that’s both open to folks who’d like that 101-type explanation to their questions or reservations and that’s supportive of folks who are literally frustrated to screams and tears by the repetitive and potentially insensitive nature of those questions. Can’t always have it both ways.
Which is why I can no longer visit those spaces in the same way — because they are no longer safe spaces for me. In short, when people ask clueless questions or make misinformed comments — even when they do so innocently, respectfully — it hurts unless I put up conscious emotional defenses against it (sometimes even then). Those defenses are stressful, anxiety-inducing. I need places to go where I can be without them sometimes.
Maybe sometimes, I will still visit when I have sufficient psychological reserves. But they can’t be the places I go after a long day at work and in the world, where I’ve been busy being strong for everyone else. They can’t be the notifications the pop up in inboxes and dashboards the ones I might open for sake of the title when I’m really not prepared for what’s inside.
They now join the long list of places I can read when I’m ready to give back even more. The list of spaces I can go to find peace and to restore? That one continues to shorten.