I’ve been seeing a lot of this lately, especially on Twitter, so I thought I’d throw in my opinion as well.
I think that, to some extent, this is a grey area because what exactly is complaining? You can look up the definition, but it’s still rather broad and there’s so many different ways of doing it, that it’s difficult to really pin point. I still have a problem with the statement though, and here’s why:
I’m going to start with what really bothers me about the statement “Don’t complain on social media!” Let me start by asking this: how many times do you scroll down your Twitter feed and come upon a tweet that talks about something along the lines of physically injuring? “I broke my leg, sprained my ankle, jammed my fingers in the door, burnt my hand, etc.” Well, these are, to some extent, complaints, right? So why is it that it’s not ok to complain about mental or emotional pain? If, for example, someone enters a contest they really, really wanted to get in, and they don’t, isn’t it ok for them to tweet about the emotional pain it caused? No? Why not? I think this is why mental illness still has stigma attached to it – it’s not considered real pain, or not worthy enough to be talked about for everyone to hear. Why shouldn’t someone’s emotional pain of receiving a rejection letter for the manuscript they’ve poured their heart into be any less painful than someone who has, for example, a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome? Well, it’s not, and until society comes to term with that, social media will continue to follow along with it. I think this should be changed. When I read a tweet that has physical or emotional injury, I try responding in an equally empathetic way because both are serious, and if it is posted out there for the world to see, I think that this person needs a hug, or at least needs to know someone cares. I mean, why else would we post it on Twitter? Updates? Yes, but let’s be realistic – we’re also seeking support or a certain understanding when we do tweet any of these kinds of things. So if someone posts that they injured themselves physically, I’ll respond with empathy. If someone posts that they didn’t get into a contest they had worked day and night to get in, but didn’t, I’ll respond as well.
This brings me to my second point. What if, for some reason, we really just weren’t allowed to post anything negative (including physical injuries, bad days, etc.) because of the many reasons people tell us not to complain? What are some of the reasons? If you’re looking for a job, the employer might see it and decide not to hire you! If agents or publishers see that you’re down because you got a rejection letter, they might see you as someone who complains and won’t want to work with you! If you’re self-publishing, you are selling yourself so you want to appear positive! …Because humans do not have any ounce of negativity inside them! …Right. Personally, I’d rather follow a human being who displays both positive and negative emotions. If I want to watch positive emotions only, I’ll go follow the account of a twitterbot. Yes, you are a brand when you are trying to become a published author (traditional or not), or you do artwork commissions and have a freelance on the side, but you’re also human. To post constantly only positive things and hiding all the negative ones, it bottles everything up, and it’ll hurt more. Why is it that we always feel the need to hide our emotional pain? We’re taught from an early age to reply with “I’m fine.” even when you’re not – so that we don’t burden people. Well, I think it’s time to stop being alone. If you want to be negative, I’ll still buy your books, will still love your artworks, and I’ll still follow you on Twitter because I never expect people to be positive all the time.
Now, with all this written and done (you see what I did there? 😉 ), I’d like to address the blurry line of why I agree to some extent with “Don’t complain on social media.” If you get angry, which isn’t a bad thing, let it out and it’ll go away a lot faster than if you bottle it up (I’m not talking about physically hurting something/someone/yourself though!), and you decide to vent on social media, go ahead! BUT, DON’T NAME NAMES! If you receive a rejection letter, and you write something along the lines of “They suck, they can’t see talent, etc.” fine, do it and then move on. But if you put in the publisher or agent names, then that’s a no-no! Because you won’t ever get published and live down the shame? Well, there’s that, but more importantly, you’re hurting someone’s feelings. We all know what it’s like to be hurt like that, so don’t do it to others. Of course you may be angry at them, but after you’ve let yourself feel furious, put yourself in their shoes: could you really take on every single manuscript that would be queried your way? No. So remember that agents/publishers aren’t out to get you, and that they are human. So no name calling.
So, if you need to complain, you need to vent your emotional pain, you need to seek support and understanding, then by all means, tweet away. Though I may not always write the right words, or give anything more than a *hugs*, I won’t shun you for complaining – we’re human beings and we all feel like this sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with it.