Friday, June 24, 2011

Look, Ma, I'm naked! And on Twitter!

You walk in clouds of glitter and the sun reflects your eyes.  And every time the wind blows I can smell you in the sky.
--Supernova, Liz Phair
I have friends who are exhibitionists.  They think nothing of wearing a barely sub-muff miniskirt and midriff top to the local Piggly Wiggly to pick up Twin Bings and tampons.  They’ll shoot the elderly cashier a wink as the mother in the lane behind them covers her children’s eyes in disgust.
I admire their confidence; I envy that ability to be comfortable in your own skin.  To expose yourself without guilt.  Even if it pushes the boundaries of tacky.
Not everyone is so willing to expose themselves.  A good chunk of the success of the internet is that it offers a way for the painfully shy and socially awkward to become outrageous with just a few keystrokes.  To create a persona that can be subdued and introspective on some days, the life of the party on others.  We feel safe hidden behind an avatar or a clever screen name--just another fish in the deep sea of HTML.
Therefore, I was horrifyingly intrigued when I read about the latest scandal involving social media and the--ahem--overexposure of a certain representative with a strangely accurate name.  I wanted to understand the motivation to risk destroying your life (and the lives of your family) in the name of trivial exhibitionism. 
What makes someone want to be public with their privates?  And can anything be extrapolated from Mr. Weiner’s predicament?
First lesson is that flirtation apparently has changed in the 21st century, and not necessarily for the better.  Call me old fashioned, but when I played the wooing game it involved a lot more creative banter, as well as flowers and chocolates.  Occasionally a nice haiku.
Lest I sound prudish, I don’t have anything against purely lustful connection.  Years of working in health care have made me unshockable when it comes to what people do behind closed doors.  Whatever floats your boat is what I say--just be responsible and don’t hurt anyone.  Oh, and please don’t put my name on a kink website as a physician who’s understanding about the lifestyle, even if you do mean it as a compliment.  Very awkward to explain to mom why when she Googles you, there’s a link to a BDSM forum.  She hasn’t looked at me the same since.   
Sorry, went tangential there.  Back to Weinergate.
Although previous gentleman callers have given me a variety of things in the name of love, including a vegetable steamer and an Oak Ridge Boys tshirt, I can’t say I ever received a penis pic.  In fact, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?  At least the steamer was functional.  Other than creating erotic origami or curiously aerodynamic paper airplanes, it’s a gift pretty much guaranteed to end up in the trash.  I think in every circumstance, if you want to open a dialog with someone, try talking with your other head first.  Don’t just be a dick--and that applies to both sexes.
Second lesson is that nudity isn't the issue, how it's presented is.  Nudity can be artistic and emotionally provoking.  When shared between consenting adults, it can be incredibly erotic.  But when it’s uninvited--and potentially malicious?  That’s called porn spam and it’s disrespectful.  If you think you may need to apologize about it later, maybe think twice before hitting send.

Then again, perhaps if said pic was photoshopped into a background of daisies or shot through a sepia filter, I would have had a different reaction.  But at the end of the day, I’ve seen it before and once the shock is over, it’s just a body part and the whole sentiment is sort of crude.  I miss the creativity of being Rickrolled.  
If John Hughes had made a movie about this, he would have explored the deeper meaning behind the phenomenon.  A cast of saucy young actors would bond by discovering the inner piece of personality revealed by exposing yourself to strangers. 
And that’s when the third lesson dawned on me.  Am I any different from the person who actually exposes themselves in social media, other than in potential for litigation?  

Is exposing yourself the same, whether it’s literally or figuratively? 
Basically, writing may be my version of the penis twitpic.  A “here it is, please admire, and hopefully this won’t bite me in the ass although it very well may” shout out to the world.  
It’s all about the exposure--the willing vulnerability of putting your naked work out there and waiting for the reaction.  There’s parts of me in everything I write; at times it feels as if my creations are appendages.  Writing is my catharsis, the way I work through life.  And sometimes the thought of putting a part of you out there to face the world is an exciting, yet scary, proposition.  Because people can be outrageously supportive . . . or they can tell you that you need a boob job and a trip to the gym.
Exposing yourself takes guts.  It takes the willingness to show your vulnerabilities and work to improve them.  It ultimately makes you stronger, teaches you to stand up for what you believe in, but hopefully you won’t end up on CNBC in the process. 
I’m not condoning using social media to harass people with your junk, so to speak.  There's really no defense or deeper meaning to be found in hurting another human by your actions.  My lengthy point is to take the chance to put yourself out there, but do it in a way that isn’t unkind or malicious.  And to remember that sometimes those who expose the most are the ones who are the least sure of themselves.
What have you learned about yourself through exposure?


  1. Exposure, in and of itself, is neither evil nor good. It is a vehicle of expression. What we choose to expose, or maybe we don't choose-- maybe we just are at the mercy of the clothes we wear-- is simply a reflection of the inner, more relevant life.

    'Call me old fashioned, but when I played the wooing game it involved a lot more creative banter, as well as flowers and chocolates. Occasionally a nice haiku.'

    Just because we now have the tools at our disposal to flaunt our tools, doesn't mean that people don't still do as you describe above. In fact, I believe it remains prevalent-- despite what the media circus flocks to, mindless, in a rage to trammel underfoot any last bastion of decency. But decency persists. It is up to us, as writers, to expose that this is so.

    Two cents. Well. Four, really. I feel rather strongly about what I have just expressed.

  2. Suze--love the four cents! Although I try to present it lightheartedly, it does upset me that the media firestorm always runs to the shocking, using it as the yardstick to measure society. I'm a huge fan of social media-- it offers so much for us to connect to others. You are never alone and having support, even virtual support can mean so much to someone in need. If someone ever stopped reaching out because of fear or others's misuse of the web, makes my heart hurt. Exposure to me is a good thing when done with good intentions. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Right there with ya, girl. Looking forward to reading more of what you have to say.

  4. Am I the only person who giggles every time I see his name in a headline? I spend time dreaming up different headlines that would be hilarious but not too risque. Tee hee.

    Unfortunately, the media throws gasoline on a fire already burning just fine on its own, thank you very much. SOCIAL media can sometimes do worse things. Hope we all learn temperance when we share our thoughts with others because sometimes they can be misconstrued as fact. Never a good thing.

    Weinergate...tee hee!

  5. True writers ignore
    the ones who would argue his
    right to bare his soul.

    "Good prose is like a window pane." Orwell

    I'll stick to baring my soul and leave the body parts to the elected officials.

  6. Alleged Author--his name makes me want to run around the house saying it over and over, like my 4 and 5 year old do whenever they discover a new "naughty" word like doody or butt. That probably says a lot about me.

    Bryce--That was awesomely hilarious. My soul's a heck of a lot better looking in a photo, too.

  7. Great question, Julie. Weinergate, no thanks! What is he, nuts? (sorry, couldn't resist) But, having social media available to make connections with people who have similar interests and test ideas is wonderful.

  8. Love your take on this. What I don't understand is how people don't realize once you put something out's OUT THERE! How could Weiner not think he could possibly be caught at some point? He was thinking with his pixels obviously instead of his brain.

  9. Hey, Doc! Just wanted to wish you a good week and inform you that you have, uh, ummmm....been tagged. Welcome to the wonderful world of Blogger! My site for details.....

  10. Uh, yeah, there's definitely very descreet times when one should expose themselves. It should not involve any type of social media whatsoever, LOL!


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