Does it matter what I look like?

My first instinct is to say “no.” After all, the words are what really matter, right? So when I set up my Twitter account, this was the image I decided to go with.

Face005

For all you know, I really look like this.

Profile picture solved. And this simple image represents a part of myself that I identify pretty strongly with; in my doodle-comics, the Face is my more creative, unfiltered side. It’s the side that says, “Twitter would be fun! And Tumblr! I have ideas for posts!” and then gets bored or scared five minutes into the project, leaving a handful of half-started ramblings for my more practical side to edit. In a sense, this is me–the writing/reading me, as I appear in the pages of my journals.

Then I found myself noticing other people’s Twitter profile pictures. A good profile picture won’t make me follow someone, and I don’t necessarily care if they have a head shot as their profile pic. But if they do have a picture of themselves, it feeds into my assessment of them. Do they look like nice people? People I would hang out with?

That made me think about profile pictures from the other side of the fence. Maybe what we look like shouldn’t matter, but we often have precious little to go by in this online world. And there’s something reassuring about a smiling face.

That wasn’t enough to make me post a photo of myself on Twitter, though, because frankly, I don’t want to see a photo of myself every time I log onto Twitter. But the challenge of drawing a new version of myself for my doodle-comics? That got my attention.

My first effort wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

Sketch Me is evidently annoyed with Real Me.

Sketch Me is evidently annoyed with Real Me.

Aside from how displeased Sketch Me looks, I realized I was dealing with an outdated, inaccurate image of myself, somewhere between high school and never. I looked up different drawing styles, tried out some anime-type eyes, and then finally turned to a photo of myself. It was at this point that I realized that I didn’t even have my hair curving (curling is too generous a word) in the right direction.

Not even the most "realistic" one.

Not even the most “realistic” one.

I did some more sketching, trying to work with basic shapes–things I could draw relatively quickly, for doodling purposes. I continued to be dissatisfied with the eyes.

As Sketch Me gets increasingly tired.

As Sketch Me gets increasingly tired.

And then, finally, I caved and decided to try to draw my glasses. I wear glasses most of the time, but I never draw them on myself because I always figured they would be a pain. Now I looked at where my glasses sat on my face, and gave it a shot.

Table

That’s right. I use a Mac. But almost never a table.

And suddenly I had something I liked.

Suddenly the image on the paper matched my internal image of myself pretty well.

I copied it onto another page and added some color. Nothing too fancy; it will probably only be profile-picture sized, after all.

Finished

Since this post is sort of about what I look like: the part in my hair is actually on the other side, so this is more like Mirror Me than Real Me. The part’s also probably not that off-center. But I’m not changing it now.

Back to my original question: does what I look like matter? Maybe it shouldn’t, especially in a realm where the primary form of interaction is through words. But it obviously matters more to me than I thought, as evidenced by how finicky I got about my doodle self.

If anyone wants to weigh in: is this profile picture better than the one I started with? Do people’s profile pictures (or author photos) matter to you? And if so, why?

Bonus points if you can tell me what this picture reminds you of. The style makes me think of something, but I can’t figure out what. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Not quite… argh, I don’t know. (ETA: Anime/manga style seems to be part of it, but I’m not sure it’s the only influence, since the eyes are simpler than most of the anime-style eyes I’ve seen.)

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I’m afraid of social media. (Or: My Tips for Killing Spiders)

I’m afraid of a lot of things. For instance, spiders. My health. And publishing. Yes, even publishing blog posts.

“And yet you want to be a professional writer?”

Yes. Because I love stories. Most of the time (sigh), I love writing. I’m petrified of the public aspects of the job. Including social media.

Social media has definite benefits; Sarah Dessen’s tweets and retweets, and this article, were no doubt part of getting me thinking about fear this week. And I’m sort of ok with Twitter and Tumblr as I use them now, but then again, I’m not really doing “social” media. I know the only people tuned in are the few people I know in real life who also have social accounts, and while that’s comparatively safe, it’s not really the point of social media as I understand it. One is supposed to participate in the community. And that–whether the community is on YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, or anywhere else–is pretty frightening.

My typical strategy for handling fear is to avoid its source until it becomes so catastrophically large that it blocks out the sun. But there’s one fear that didn’t work for–all right, it probably doesn’t work for any of my fears. But it really doesn’t work for spiders. A hidden spider that I know is out there will keep me up forever. So I had to come up with something else.

I developed a Spider Attack Mode.

My preference is still to get away from the spider without confrontation. Spiders serve a valuable function, so forth and so on, when they’re outside. Supposing escape is not possible, however, here is my approach to killing a spider:

  1. Identification. If you think something might be a spider, check. Or rampage against that piece of lint. You have to clean house sometime. But before you take a deep breath and edge closer to the potential spider, make sure you have a spider-killing object in hand, just in case. And put on your shoes so you’re ready for spider-stomping, even if the spider is on the ceiling. Not to alarm you, but sometimes they drop. (Spiders. Not ceilings. Usually.)
  2. Weapon. These days, I tend to rely on classics like flattened cereal boxes, rolled up magazines or newspapers if they’re around,  dictionaries, shoes, or Kleenex boxes. But I wasn’t like that at the start of my Spider Attack Mode development. If you really, really can’t get close to a spider, there’s always bug spray. If you’re firmly anti-pesticides, I found in college that taping sturdy cardboard to the end of a Swiffer results in an adequate spider-killing device.*
  3. Rapid response. If it is a spider, kill it quickly. Your sole mission now is killing that spider. Don’t let yourself think too much about it. Don’t look at it too closely. If possible, do not let it escape. All fear can be turned into adrenaline.
  4. I don’t have any adrenaline. I’m just scared. I can’t remember if I tried this at the start, but it sounds like something I might have done: you can imagine yourself as an action hero. You’re Legolas! Nothing gets by you.
  5. I’m so not Legolas. That’s ok. Try telling yourself what you’re going to do, step by step. “I’m going to get the bug spray. I’m going to take one step toward the spider…” It may sound silly, but it works for a surprising number of things. There’s a time and place for big picture thinking. That time is not when the big picture has eight legs.
  6. I know what I need to do. I just can’t work up the courage to do it. Talk tough. Threaten that spider. Unless you’re in a public setting. You probably shouldn’t talk to yourself in that case, either (at least not out loud). Just vibe on the Legolas-ness. Or count to three, and smash that spider like you’re ripping off a Band-Aid.
  7. Disposal. Anyone else still afraid of spiders after they’re dead? (Anyone else now thinking about zombie spiders? You’re welcome.) One reason why glasses are awesome: at this point I sometimes take off my glasses. Depending on the size of the spider, I can see well enough to locate the blob on the floor, just not well enough to make out the legs. Not seeing the legs makes things so much easier.** If taking off your glasses isn’t possible, speed is still the ticket. Work fast. Don’t give yourself time to think.
  8. Fallout. After disposing of a spider, you will not sleep for a long time. You will be high on adrenaline, and you may or may not be convinced that there are spiders everywhere. Don’t try to fight it. Write a blog post or something. Don’t post it until the morning, though, after you’ve had a chance to reread. Spider-adrenaline-high posts are not always coherent.
  9. If it escapes… if it helps your peace of mind, bug spray the escape route. The spider could return other ways, though, so keep a spider-squisher close, just in case.
  10. Leave no spider alive. Merciless as it sounds, kill small spiders too. The small spiders grow up to be big spiders, and we all know how that ends.

I’m not sure how this applies to social media or publishing.

  1. Weapon. If you can’t get close to Social Media… tough. It’s everywhere. You probably eat 8 a year while you’re sleeping. (Side note: if swallowing spiders scares you, you may find this reassuring. Hopefully this makes up for the zombie spider comment.)
  2. Rapid response. If you get Activity on your Social Media, kill it respond within 24 hours? (Though not if the sheer volume prevents response–and oh my gosh, I don’t even want to think about that with spiders.)
  3. No adrenaline. Just scared. Hyperventilate. Stare at screen. Go away and do nothing. I need a Twitter Swiffer.
  4. Disposal. If someone is a terrible, stubbornly toxic presence, ban them (if possible), and/or just stop reading what they write. Their name is the blob of a spider (or–ugh–cockroach) body, and their words are the legs. Get rid of their comments as soon as you see the blob. Give yourself no opportunity to fixate on the legs. They are and will always be nasty. (ETA: Well, maybe not always. Hopefully not always. But I’m not sure I’d want to take the chance. Toxicity, and all.)
  5. Fallout. Don’t do Social Media at night. You will not sleep.
  6. If it escapes… we’re all doomed. It will lead the Cylons to us. I think the cat may be out of the bag there.

The other thing I know about fear is a rule I made for myself in my freshman year of college. More or less: “Fear is not a good enough reason to opt out. If you want to do something (not illegal or immoral), and your only reason for not doing it is I’m afraid, do it anyway.”

I had a very interesting freshman year, by High School Me’s standards. I learned a lot about myself. Enough that my motto for sophomore year ended up more along the lines of “don’t do things just because you feel like you have to.” (There’s a difference between “feel like you have to” and “really have to.”)

So how can I apply this to social media and publishing?

I don’t know. But I think writing a little bit here may be helping to scare off the bigger Thing that I’ve felt lurking in the back of my mind lately–a Thing that I strongly suspect is the result of a very tough year, but which is still persistently there, strangling whatever it can get its hands on: an apathy that’s so massive and cold-blooded that I don’t even know if I can call it a fear.

The Thing isn’t completely gone. But I had fun writing this post, and I think that drove it back a little. (Fun beats fear?) So that’s not bad for a night’s work.

Except, you know. I won’t be sleeping any time soon.

(Written at night, posted not at night.)

First Panel

Second Panel

Fifth Panel

Seventh Panel

Notes

  • *I remember having some trouble with the swivelly aspects of Swiffers, so I recommend striking hard, with good aim. Maybe practice a little first. I also make good use of insect spray, especially when attacking spiders on a rough-textured ceiling. (This should go without saying, but never stand directly below a spider you are trying to kill. There is a non-zero chance that you’ll miss, and the spider will fall on you.) When using insect spray, keep in mind the direction of any draft blowing through the house. Position yourself so that the spray won’t blow back into your face. Also, try not to fumigate your whole room right before you go to sleep, especially if you can’t open a window.
  • **I actually learned this from a cockroach. But it’s applicable to spiders, too.