Four score and seven versions of Windows ago, just about everyone I knew was starting a blog and I was the guy on the sidelines, not taking them very seriously, choosing instead to focus on rageful anonymous Amazon reviews of my first few novels because I was in a period of my life when bathing myself in criticism from people I hadn’t met – people who, in their anonymity, could be transmogrified into every bully or ex-boyfriend who haunted my obsessive late night thoughts – made me feel like a real artist. One guy in particular, a friend and colleague, for whom I’d worked briefly at a now defunct gay men’s lifestyle magazine, kept going on and on about this strange Internet project that managed to combine photographs with his thoughts on the latest headlines and at the time it all seemed very niche and weird and like a giant distraction from the noble goal of writing books in which you turn the hot bartender you’re crushing on into a highly trained assassin. Well, now my friend’s weird Internet thing is this and he’s this. (And if it seems like I’m going crazy with the hyperlinks in this entry, you are right because, as this post will hopefully make clear, I am enjoying writing my first blog entry even though I’m about eleven years behind the curve.)
But despite my seemingly literate objections to the whole blogging thing – I had books to write, godammit, and I was also a heavy smoker and now that I’ve quit I can see in retrospect how much time it truly took to be a heavy smoker – there was actually a very simple and unflattering reason I didn’t want to join in. I simply couldn’t stand it when people disagreed with me. Really. I couldn’t. I outline (i.e. inadvertently reveal) these feelings in more detail in this recent piece, which I now realize was a blog entry, albeit on a blog owned by Arianna Huffington. Here’s a clip:
I wrote a regular column for The Advocate for several years, doing my best to express contrarian and well-reasoned arguments about disturbing trends inside the community. Instead of a comments section, we had letters to the editor, where I was met toe-to-toe by such impassioned arguments as, “That column was crap!” from Luther S. in Sioux City, or, “Christopher Rice is a narcissist. Why is he still talking?” from Betty M. in Seattle. They weren’t technically anonymous like the Internet commenters of today, but it wasn’t like you could just walk into your editor’s office and say, “Could you give me the contact information for Betty M. from Seattle so I can throw a cup of my own urine at her?” The upside to the anonymity thing, though, is that writers can delude themselves into believing a jealous bitter ex wrote every negative word posted about them online.
Then social media happened. And unlike the blogging craze of the early 00’s, nothing about the social media craze felt optional for writers. So it was a good thing that, after avoiding Friendster, and for the most part, My Space (which, if you don’t remember, was in it’s final days little more than a maddening loop of blaring pop songs that would start roaring out of your computer’s speakers whenever you opened someone’s profile, causing you to grope for your computer’s volume control like Sigourney Weaver opening the airlock at the end of ALIENS), I had accidentally wandered onto Facebook when the site was in its infancy and become hopelessly ensnared. You see, the story goes something like this. For about two months, I had been dating a guy who basically looked like this…
As the picture suggests, he was too young for me. (No, this is not actually a picture of the guy I was dating. This is Andy Taylor, the porn star who should play the guy in question if anyone ever makes a porn film about the story I’m about to tell, which they won’t because the story only involves sex in the past tense and it’s boring.) Anyway, the guy was technically too young for me, but because I’ve always had what people call an “old soul” (which means I am a neurotic hypochondriac who’d rather sit on the phone all night with my best friend Eric Shaw Quinn than visit what the other kids call a “club”) I usually ignored this whole “too young for you” business. From the age of seven on everyone felt too young for me. (Now I pay attention because I’m 36, which in the eyes of most West Hollywood residents, means I’m this.) Anyway, the guy dumped me. Hard. But a few days before, when it had seemed like everything was going great, he’d cheerfully informed me that he’d just opened a Facebook account and listed me as his favorite writer. So naturally, in my post-break up miasma of feelings (translation: unrequited horniness) I decided the best course of action was to go explore this Facebook business and see if the little heartbreaker had deleted me from his “favorite writers” section. Because if he hadn’t, clearly we we’re going to get back together/ have sex again.
Big mistake. For one, he had deleted me. (Small consolation. No one replaced me in his ‘favorite writer’ category. He was the kind of guy who no longer felt compelled to pretend he enjoyed writers after he stopped dating one. Welcome to L.A., kids) And two, Facebook somehow accessed my address book and alerted everyone I’d ever met or shaken hands with or crossed the street to avoid talking to that I had launched a Facebook profile. It was an experience similar to peering through your ex’s bedroom window only to have someone tap you on the shoulder and tell you there’s a production of Shakespeare in the park happening right behind you and everyone you know is in the audience.
So I was caught, is what I’m trying to say. Trapped, if you will. And ever since that moment, there’s been no looking back, and Facebook, and my interaction with my – ahem – rather large following there has become an entirely public experience. My posts are visible to anyone who accesses my page and everyone is allowed to comment. Except for the people I block and delete for acting like enormous, gaping assholes. My criteria for this is if I read your comment and it makes me think you’re an enormous, gaping asshole.
I could write a really long, meandering blog post about all the lessons I’ve learned on social media. Correction: I could write another really long meandering blog post about all the lessons I’ve learned on social media. But the most important one is this – important in that it freed me up to finally start a blog, 11 years late – I don’t take myself so seriously anymore. Social media has exposed me to such a perpetual grinding wheel of hollow, manufactured outrage over mostly imagined slights in which the outraged have, in the absence of any meaningful understanding of context, endowed the outragee with a preposterous storyline based in their own deep insecurities (to say nothing of social media’s vast soup of baseless, boiling hatred from people who consider themselves revolutionaries while hiding behind indecipherable cartoon profile pics) I stopped being the person who feels personally done in by every cruel or insulting word written about them on-line. (Read that last line closely. I stopped being done in by every cruel or insulting word written about me on-line. Every other cruel and insulting word is still fair game for a total, irrational meltdown.) That said, I still have an inclination to write sketches for my Internet radio show that play like this:
But little by little, with each post, with each cavalcade of attacks from self-deluded bigots who have gone from saying homosexuality is sinful and depraved to declaring it “no big deal” and “not worth talking about”, I stopped being quite so caught up in what other people thought of me that I couldn’t allow for moderated comments on my blog.
Epic personal growth, if I do say so myself.
So all this is to say, with a stiff(er) upper lip and a thicker skin, I give to you, The Christopher Rice Blog. This will be a special place for me to put stuff that’s way too long for Facebook and twist insignificant episodes from my life into an excuse to post pictures of my favorite porn stars. I am a real artist, after all. What else could all those one-star reviews from “a customer” mean?
Social media has also taught me that sarcasm is an effective tool for a. battling sanctimony in others and b. battling sanctimony in myself. And it’s great for responding to bullshit. I know, I know. People dismiss sarcasm as just another form of hostility. That’s true. But I find hostility to be an effective tool for fighting hypocrisy, lies and manipulative sanctimony designed to silence people who disagree with you. Simply put, there are situations in which good manners are not called for and when plaintive calls to “rise above” are really just the pleas of those too frightened or lazy to stick up for themselves or their friends.
That said, I also still write books and I’ll be talking about them here, along with The Dinner Party Show. This is also where I’ll make clear which jokes and snappy one-liners I’ve stolen from this guy, and which enormous leaps forward in my career were largely the result of this lady. ‘Till then.