Lou Marchetti, The Tentacles, paperback cover. Gouache on board

The following is something I have been thinking about for years and years.

It first started percolating back in the days when blogs were more prevalent, and I’d see lots of bloggers getting burnt out and fretting because they’d niched down to the point where they felt trapped, and they wanted to write about other things–but worried their audience wouldn’t follow. Now that blogs have been replaced by YouTube and TikToks, I see lots of baby creators asking questions like, “I want to start an account, but what if I don’t get lots of followers and no one ever comments?” Or, “I want to be an influencer but don’t know where to start!”

While I can’t speak to the “influencer” phenomenon (and would prefer they all vanish into a dark cave), I have some thoughts on authentic self-expression online.

In the ever-shifting landscape of social media, where trends tend to flicker and fade, and the FOMO is very real, it’s easy to lose sight of one’s own creative north star. Recently, a passage from Courtney Maum’s newsletter caught my eye, resonating with the quiet rebellion I’ve long harbored in my heart:

“…as long as you’re not posting hateful content, you should take the same ‘me first’ attitude to all your social media (‘me first’ as in, this is my life, my pleasure, this pleases me and brings me joy). Trends change so quickly, they’re really not worth following unless you want to be on a hamster wheel next to a dirty bowl of water your entire life.”

This resonates with how I’ve always approached my online presence. Honestly, just about every creative endeavor I embark on is in service of amusing myself. Call it selfish if you will, but when it comes to my own creative endeavors and social media sharing, I tend to put my own interests first. Being selfish with one’s creativity isn’t about ignoring the audience entirely. Rather, it’s about trusting that by being authentically oneself, one will naturally attract kindred spirits. It’s about creating a space where like-minded individuals can gather, drawn by the genuine passion that shines through every word and image.

Lou Marchetti, She Came Back cover art 1966

It’s easy to get caught up in the despair cycle of likes, shares, and the endless pursuit of virality, but instead, I try my dangedest to find joy in curating my online presence as I would a secret garden. Each post, each shared thought or image, is a carefully tended plant, chosen not for its popularity but for how it resonates with my own heart, guts, and soul. It’s like planting a garden of perennials while everyone else is frantically scattering annual seeds. Sure, their blooms might be flashy, but they’re gone in a blink. (Or planting a poison garden in a graveyard while everyone else is growing daisies? This is a choose-your-own analogy adventure.) Meanwhile, your garden grows steadily, attracting those who appreciate its unique charm. And so, some may find beauty in this garden, others may pass it by without a second glance, and that’s perfectly alright. In a world where everyone’s frantically chasing the latest brightly blooming fad, there’s a quiet revolution in tending your own weird, wonderful sanctuary

For writers, creators, and sharers-of-things, this selfishness is not just a luxury – it’s a necessity. It’s the wellspring from which our most vital and engaging work flows. When we create and share from a place of genuine interest and joy, our work remains fresh, our enthusiasm infectious.

So here’s a thought: what if we treated our online spaces like a curated exhibition of our interests? Not in a pretentious way, but as a genuine reflection of what makes us tick. It might not garner millions of likes, but it could lead to more meaningful connections and a body of work that stands the test of time.

This is really just a long-winded answer to someone who asked the question I referenced up further above. The individual asked about likes and follows, as a new creator, on a bookish YouTuber’s page– and by way of response, I shared a very brief version of these thoughts over there. But I’ve been thinking about it ever since and felt compelled to expand on them. They’re never going to read this…but maybe someone will.

And I think that’s the whole point. I am not writing for everyone.  I am not even really writing for someone. I am writing for me. But if you are someone who resonates with these thoughts, who finds joy in cultivating your own unique online garden, or who simply appreciates authentic self-expression – then perhaps this was meant for you, too.

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Jennifer Padilla says

Just here to say that I sincerely appreciate your approach to being authentic. Great read.

S. Elizabeth says

Thank you so much! I appreciate the kind words (and encouragement!)

Melissa Kojima says

Oh my. This is one of the things I've been pondering. I just couldn't keep up with the rat race trends of social media. So I just decided to do things at my own pace and work on my own projects that I've been neglecting. The result has been much less posts on social media, and much more satisfaction in my life offline. I'm creating some amazing, new work that I am glad I made the time to create.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. It means a lot to me.

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