- Voicenoun1. The sound produced in a person’s larynx and uttered through the mouth, as speech or song.2. A particular opinion or attitude expressed.
The term ‘online voice’ has become a bit of a buzz word recently. As a blogger, I read so many articles about ‘finding our voice’ and ‘using our voice effectively’, but what does that actually mean and should we be using this voice all of the time?
Whatever we write, share or put out into the world reflects who we are as people. You share something because you like it, you write an opinion on something because it has angered you, you lend your support to causes you find worthwhile because they reflect your own values and beliefs. Our online footprints leave trails that indicate who we are as people. Every click, every comment, every like all connects to our beliefs and the version of ourselves we want to present to the world. That is our online voice.
Whilst we might not look too far into our thought process when we absentmindedly like a model’s selfie, every interaction we make online comes with a level of responsibility, no matter how big or small our online audience is. Once you realise that, it changes the way you interact.
I myself am an example of this. When I started this blog a little over two months ago, I was simply happy to feel confident enough to share finally my writing. I didn’t put much thought into what I wrote other than deciding a topic for the day and just going for it. My expression was free and I was finding my feet with what I wanted to put out there. Everything I wrote about mattered to me, I wrote with good intentions and I wrote truthfully, but the idea of putting myself out there in such a vulnerable way was all new to me. To put it simply, I was ‘finding my voice’.
Recently, however, I found out that something I wrote when I first created my blog offended someone I care about a lot. Honestly, it came as a huge shock to me because my intention when I wrote the piece was the exact opposite of this.
Since then, I have really struggled at times with my writing. I have deleted so many posts, feeling like the words I am using aren’t my own. Other times, I have worried that my writing isn’t going to be received how I want it to. I have read over every line, thinking ‘could this offend someone?’ Or ‘could this be taken the wrong way?’ I’ve sat and worried, asking my poor fiancé and friends alike to proof read potential posts and look for words or ideas that might not go down well with other people. It has been exhausting on my creativity and my motivation to post, hence the fact that I recently had a really quiet week and didn’t keep up with my posting schedule.
But during this time of doubting my ability to use my own voice in the way I wanted to, I came to realise a few important things that I’d like to share with anyone out there who is going through a moment of self doubt as well as those who are perhaps unaware of the power and responsibility that we have whenever we share something online.
The truth is, when you write something, you are not in control of how it is received. You might know the tone you intend it to be read in, but to someone else it is black text on a white page that they infill with their own ideologies, opinions and perceptions. You can’t control that. I could write a disclaimer before every piece saying things like ‘this is meant to be inspiring’ but then that takes away from the reader experience. Who am I to tell someone how they should read something I have written? The reality is that whatever you or I write is going to be interpreted and taken in many different ways, all of them out of our control. All that we can do is write pieces that we believe in and am proud of.
None of us have any control over how we are read or perceived online. I can’t control how what I write is read. As hard as it is to accept this, I have had to. My voice is mine but not everyone has to agree with the way that I use it. As a new blogger who wanted everything to go perfectly, this has been a vital lesson to learn. Someone will always have something to say or an opinion that differs to the one you’d like to be told, but as long as you feel you are being authentic then there is nothing more to it. Some people want to disagree with the world, some people don’t see things the same as you do and some people don’t remember things the same as you do purely because of the fact that you have different perspectives and life experiences. Those things are out of your control and it is something that you have to accept.
Then there are times that, even when you have accepted that not everyone will like what you have to say, you should chose to say nothing. Sometimes your opinion isn’t wanted or needed in a situation. That is okay too.
It seems like these days, everyone is offended by something and everyone also thinks that they have a right to try and use their voice to shout louder than and over the top of everyone else. People comment on people’s Instagram posts offended at what they feed their children or comment on articles about The Beckhams offended that they are still famous. I read status’s of people stating how another person’s personal belief is ‘wrong’ without ever stopping and thinking why that person might believe in the things they do or that they aren’t doing in harm to anyone believing something different. The other day I read a post on a travel group where people called a girl’s actions cultural appropriation when the people whose culture she was joining weren’t offended, were happy for the girl to do what she was doing and asked the people to stop acting like ‘white saviours’. I saw the comedian Phil Wang at the Sydney Comedy Festival and he said his friends came to him saying that someone had done an impression of a Chinese accent and they were offended on his behalf, even though he wasn’t offended at all. He even encouraged the accent, and then he asked us to stop being offended for other people.
I’m not asking everybody to start doing Chinese accents because Phil Wang says we can or anything like that, but what I am saying is that when you write something online, think before you do it. Is it necessary for me to comment on this? Do I need to comment? Are my words going to hurt someone? Is this the best use of my online voice?
It is not up to me to forcefully give my voice to other people or to use it to speak about every single issue in the world. I am not educated on every issue and it would be far more ignorant of me to put my spin on a version of events that I do not fully understand than it would be for me to leave it to someone else who does to comment on. That’s not ignorance – in fact, I’d argue that it is the opposite. It is knowing your strengths and your areas, not pretending to know more than you do, not being offended on behalf of others and not being a creator of confusion or more segregation in an already divided world. I’m happy to learn about these things, but from people who know about them, who have lived them, who are better placed to comment than I am.
Take Fat-Phobia, for instance. I am a size 8/10 and I have never experienced this first hand. I don’t know what it’s like to be told every day to be ashamed of how you look because of your weight or to be overlooked for jobs because of it. It is not my place to comment about specific experiences when I haven’t lived them other than to say how wrong I find it and offer any support in changing it that I can. Life with a birthmark and the stigma that’s attached to that, on the other hand, is something I would expect other people to listen to me whilst I spoke about.
If you use your voice to speak for everyone on every subject, in the end you just create white noise. No one listens to what you have to say. Your voice becomes useless. To know what to comment on, when it’s your place to comment and how to comment effectively, that is the true power of ‘finding your voice’
For myself and my blog, I know my intentions and I know my meaning behind things. I hope that they come across as I mean them to and I also hope at the times they might not that people feel that they can come to me to talk about it. I work hard every day on my writing and I want to continue to do this. I am incredibly proud of this blog, of all it has achieved so far and all it will go on to achieve. I will write about the topics I want to write about and in the way I want to write about them with the best of intentions. I will use my voice authentically, to say what I think is true, to help others and to spread happiness. That is all I can do and all I want to do.
How will you use your online voice?