vagueposting: (noun) making posts on social media that either
- Give off a vague feeling of sadness or other emotional issues to prompt others into asking what’s wrong and generally shower said poster with attention
- Talk smack about someone without mentioning them.
I Work On a Time Delay
A long while back, I absolutely fell head over heels for a woman. The only trouble was that she consistently read way too far into everything I wrote online.
This probably wouldn’t have been as much of a big deal if I hadn’t been writing daily articles for a popular blog.
But I was. And so it was a big deal.
It seemed like every time I turned around, she was texting me in response to passages I’d written that weren’t about her. In essays that were bits of memoir from my distant past that I had outlined and mostly written months before we had even met.
I had explained to her when we first started dating that I don’t expect anyone who knows me to actually read my blog. And this includes anyone I’m dating. My blog is not intended as a news source to the people in my life. If I want someone I know personally to know something that matters to me and that they should respond to, I seek them out and talk to them.
And I also explained to her that my blog isn’t the best place to get information about how my day-to-day life is going RIGHT NOW. It’s actually rather unusual for me to write something in the heat of the moment. I’m generally not the kind of writer who is seized by an emotion because of something that’s happening right now and sits down and types up a little rant and pushes “Publish” right then and there.
If I do write a piece about something while I’m seized by an emotion, I save it in a drafts folder and set it aside. I typically will wait a little while and then look over it again, making edits, deletions and additions, before I go on to schedule it.
And a lot of times, I’m scheduling posts days, if not weeks, out.
So by the time it comes out in public, I’ve long processed my feelings in private. Either on my own. Or with any relevant parties, if something’s kicked up by a friend or partner.
I write authentically but on a significant time delay. It’s part of how I maintain some semblance of emotional privacy and work-life balance.
It’s genuine — but it’s basically a time capsule.
I Try to Learn Whatever I Can, and I Like to Share What I Learn
My friends all know this is how I work. And everyone else who dated me during the time that I launched and wrote for Poly Land knows this is how I work.
They also know that there are essays that I wrote while I was feeling nothing whatsoever. Which makes sense if you consider that writing is my job. There are essays I published online that I wrote while just going through the motions. Articles that weren’t caused by a strong emotional reaction but instead were inspired by a good conversation I had with someone else. Or something interesting I saw on TV. Or something novel I read.
I write quite a few articles that are basically “hey, I just heard about this new idea/term/belief, what do you think?”
And it’s not actually some kind of weird trap when I post a neutral conversational piece. I don’t publish them with an expectation of a particular response from the readership. Not as a honeypot or as validation seeking. I’ll just figure that if I hadn’t heard of it, maybe some of my readers haven’t as well. And maybe they’d like to. Regardless of whether it’s something they’ll feel positive, negative, or neutral towards (and regardless of my own feeling on it).
I’m always a proponent of learning more whenever I can. And I like to share what I learn.
I Don’t Like to Vaguepost Because It’s Confusing and Exhausting
Anyway, I really don’t like to vaguepost. It’s not just on my blog, mind you.
In general, I try very hard not to vaguepost on social media. The reason for this is simple: It’s an exhausting unnecessary game to play with the people in my life — whether they’re in my inner circle, outer circle, or somewhere in between.
I’m perfectly capable of reaching out and talking to people if I have an issue with them that I want to address. Or to simply just ignore something if I don’t think it’s worth bringing up. There’s no need to post an ambiguous ink blot and have everyone guess who I’m talking about.
If I need attention or am feeling lonely, I have some folks I can reach out to. And I’ve maintained the kind of friendships where I can lead off with, “You know, I’m sad.” Or, in certain instances, I’ve literally sidled up to my partner and said, “I want attention.”
I’ve been told this can be a little disarming when you’re first getting to know me. But it’s how I am. It’s part of how the people I get close to learn to trust me so much. They know I’m never going to punish them for not being able to guess the meaning behind my words.
(I grew up in a house with a caregiver who did that, who peppered communication with tricks and traps, and because of how difficult it was for me to live that way, I’ve made a vow to not do that to anyone else I care about.)
If anything, I’m prone to over-explaining if something is really important to me.
Anyway, if I began to vaguepost, I feel like this behavior would erode the ability of the people in my life to take me at my (sometimes very direct) word. And it’s frankly not worth it to me.
Especially since a lot of the people I’ve become closest to have some pretty big trust issues. And I’ve managed to break through their barriers by being consistent, reliable, and straightforward. Not risking that.
I Get Frustrated When People Assume I’m Vagueposting When I’m Not
But you know, I recognize that everyone gets to pick what works for them. And that a lot of people find vagueposting to be a good strategy for them.
And it’s not up to me to tell them how to run their online lives. (I’m not the boss of you; you do you.)
I think where I get frustrated is that vagueposting has become so pervasive that it’s easy for people to start assuming that everyone they meet will vaguepost.
Case in point: You might be very well sitting there wondering what happened in my personal life to prompt today’s essay. Who am I vagueposting about in today’s essay? you might ask yourself.
And given the online culture and climate, this is a predictable question.
In the Interest of Not Vagueposting, Here’s the Inspiration for Today’s Article
I will answer it for you. Here’s the inspiration for this essay: I’ve had a draft sitting in my folder for about a year with the title and a few notes about the ex-girlfriend who saw vagueposts everywhere. It’s a draft I started a few years after that relationship ended and had some distance and perspective on it.
Why did I think of this draft again? Well, I was browsing through old pieces that were half-done, looking for one I could finish. And I did think about vagueposting in another context lately, so this draft caught my eye.
As I mentioned in a recent article, after relocating cross-country last summer and spending a number of month recovering from the stress of the move, I have finally started trying to find a new community.
As a consummate lurker, a lot of my process has been observing people both in person and also online, figuring out who the major personalities are, who tends to get along and who doesn’t, why bad blood seems to exist between folks, etc. And as I pore over all of the available reading material, it becomes clear that some folks in this new community vaguepost all the damn time. And others? Well, they really don’t seem to.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m noticing that the ones most prone to vagueposting also are the ones who assume that others are vagueposting.
Here’s the thing: I was prompted to write this essay by what I read in these online exchanges. Not because I was impressed by the size of any given dumpster fire. And not because I’m emotionally invested or personally affected by them (because I’m a total newcomer to the org in question, and I’m not).
And I’m certainly not expecting anybody involved to read this and respond to my essay. (The community isn’t a polyamory or kink group; I just moved to a new area, and I’m specifically reaching out to try to make local friends with people in places that would make it more likely that they aren’t familiar with me or my work because I like people to get to know me before they realize that I have a following.)
But I’m writing because it’s part of a general pattern I’ve seen over and over again. In every kind of community you can imagine. In every friends group. Practically everywhere I look. In every demographic. Teenage girls and middle aged men are equally as likely to perform these kinds of behaviors.
Vagueposting Has Really Become an Inescapable Cultural Expectation
Anyway, I don’t know if there’s any way of getting around it. It’s particularly frustrating for me as a person who tends to see connections between disparate events and often wants to write about what I’ve observed, wondered about, and learned in terms of patterns.
If you write something about general patterns rather than talking about a specific event, many folks will assume you’re vagueposting.
I noticed this a lot when my friends were first getting to know me. They’d message me going “oooooh, what’s up? what’s going on? tell me tell me,” and I’d say something like, “what?”
“Your status!” they’d say. “What is your status about?”
And even though I’d written at the end of my status something to indicate that this was philosophical or a general observation, “Nothing specific, just something I’ve noticed,” I did have to basically explain myself to new folks. That I really wasn’t big on vagueposting. Just obsessed with patterns, big themes, recurring ideas.
Thankfully, it usually only took a conversation or two for people to get the hang of it.
Really, I can only think of that one person I dated who just never got to the point where she believed it.
(I have only written about her a few times, and each time I do actually write about her it’s very clear that I’m talking about her. No names of course. But also no vagueposting, very direct posting with enough anonymity that unless you know me well you have no idea who I’m talking about. It’s incidentally the way that other writers with large followings have written about me. So I do know what it feels like to be on the other side, to be the subject of positive, neutral, and negative online writing. I’ve experienced all three.)
It makes me wonder if I were to go back and read things that she’d written at the time that perhaps I could find little vagueposts within them, hidden messages waiting for me… ones that I never read that way, oblivious to the idea that this was the way she wanted to communicate with me.
Who knows. I don’t think it ultimately matters. What does matter is that vagueposting has really become an inescapable cultural expectation, regardless of how I feel about it.
The question remains: Exactly what does someone do with that? How do you navigate a culture of vagueposting when you’d rather not participate in it?