Did you take the Buzzfeed quiz about privilege yet? Has anybody else written a new open letter to or about Miley Cyrus? You’re following @dopefeminism on Twitter, right? Can Jezebel please send me ten thousand dollars if I show them my #selfies without filters on them?
Needless to say, today’s feminist movement is fueled by technology.
Creative nonfiction sites are the new ‘zines. Hashtags are picket signs that can be read all over the world. You couldn’t see Emma Goldman speak in Union Square, but you can totally YouTube the public dialogue between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry.
Some days, you can open up your inbox and find a new reason to keep going. Other days, the text on your computer screen can send you into a disproportionately large hate spiral. Activist blogs in particular have their own special set of commenters, both good and bad.
Activism and creative fields both require you to do a considerable amount of work for no monetary gain. You are literally doing all this hard work for love.
When you don’t feel the love, you will feel burnt out.
“Burnout,” to me, is a way of saying that you feel like your efforts aren’t paying off, but I have to be realistic and check my privilege here.
Especially when talking about burnout as it relates to the blogosphere and activism, it can sound like, “Oh, boo hoo, it sucks to be literate and have a computer! People encourage me to speak up without fear, but I’m not getting enough compliments or compensation for it! The struggle is real! Gonna go chug a twelve-dollar organic green juice and text my therapist about it!”
That being said, burnout can affect your feelings of self-worth as well as the quality of your work. And it’s just a pain in the ass. So, how do you deal?
Sometimes, you need a break.
This goes double if your work happens to be advocating for or taking care of others. You need some energy to care for yourself, too! You do not need to be ashamed of that.
Here are some symptoms of Internet Feminism Burnout that mean you might need to click out of this window and take it easy for a bit. I won’t be offended, I promise.
1. Everything You Do Feels Wrong
When I’m too plugged into activist blogs, feminist sites, and my own social media feeds, I find myself self-editing beyond the realm of normalcy.
Like, should I take down my selfie with my Miley Cyrus t-shirt? Her Bangerz image is a problematic hot mess, but I find a dark humor to it all (maybe it’s just me?). Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that my shower-belting repertoire actually is more Sondheim than “Wrecking Ball” anyway.
Either way, I dread having yet another e-conversation about how culturally appropriative and ableist her performances have been. I know, you know, the Internet knows, and she knows.
Maybe I should give a disclaimer by editing the caption to say: “I know she needs so much twerk on understanding intersectionality and nuances in sex-positivity, but she CAN’T BE TAMED!”
Or maybe, just maybe, I am overthinking things because I am used to anticipating a heated comments section.
Lord knows Miley isn’t having an internal debate about me.
2. Commenters Are Going Below the Belt
Negative, nitpicking, insulting, angry, and/or discriminatory commenters will always find their way to activist websites. It’s an implied part of the gig that nobody asked for.
Don’t get me wrong: Trolls and other e-douchebags are absolutely obnoxious and usually in the wrong.
But I’m not talking about your average tool on the Internet.
I’m talking about the people who have the audacity to target the things most personal to you.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Death threats and rape threats (especially those with access to your location, school, and so on)
- Bringing your sexuality, relationships, or family into conversation inappropriately; this goes tenfold if you have children who are targeted
- Hateful comments about your body, weight, or appearance
- Destructive insults or questioning of your mental health or recovery
- Defaming you personally or professionally
You don’t have to put up with this kind of treatment from anyone, in real life or online.
3. The Internet in General Is Irritating You
I know I’m going to get a lot of flak for this, but there are some days I will see something online and immediately respond, unironically: “Ugh, fucking feminists!” or “Ugh, fucking gay people!”
And, y’all, I’m a feminist. And I’m gay.
Maybe feminists and gay people aren’t really my problem here.
(Note: I only mentioned gay people and feminists, because it ever so happens that I frequent and write for gay and feminist sources; therefore, they are the most likely to piss me off from time to time.)
Before you ask or assume, I don’t struggle with internalized hatred. It just gets to be too much when a large volume of people from any walk of life are arbitrarily negative or willfully stupid.
The Internet is the ultimate megaphone to force opinions onto the world, and it is available to almost everyone.
Freedom of speech is great, but I would love it if some people would just shut up on occasion. (To be fair, I’m sure some of you feel that way about me, but I can see where you’re coming from.)
Either way, there will be days when everything on the Internet makes you angry, with or without reason.
If you find yourself shaking your fist at your computer screen or perpetually rolling your eyes at even your favorite websites, you know what I’m talking about.
Self-care is a term that has been co-opted by the online feminist movement as of late, and I believe the timing is anything but coincidental.
With the influx of new technologies and forms of communication, we now have stressors that never existed before. Your activism can sit in your back pocket, ringing and buzzing with every response you receive, 24/7/365.
To say that is a lot of pressure would be a massive understatement.
We need to nurture ourselves without the fear of seeming selfish, silly, lazy, or weak.
Not to mention, the work culture in the U.S. sets us up for burnout.
Should we manage our (usually broken) work-life balance by “Leaning In” to work even more? What is that actually going to solve?
Our vacations are short if we can even get them. When weekend is over, we dread that first day back to reality. We know it will be a while before the next break comes.
We question whether we should take a sick day, even if we are truly ill. If we take care of our bodies or our loved ones, it comes at a cost financially or in guilt.
Self-care means knowing when to step back from work for the sake of your own well-being.
If you’re a vlogger, an activist, a reader, a commenter, or a writer like me, I encourage you to check yourself for burnout symptoms and allow yourself a guilt-free reprieve from your online presence.
Take as long as you need. The feminist blogosphere will still be here when you come back.
Maddie McClouskey is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a twenty-something lesbian in New York City and currently writes weekly dating advice pieces for the LGBTQ event app and website SheSeekOnline and was a regular contributor to the sexuality and feminism site ToughxCookies. When she’s not writing articles about gayness, she’s performing stand-up comedy, singing show tunes to her girlfriend and dog against their will, or making up jokes for Twitter @SoundofMaddie. Read her articles here.