Writing is about having a unique voice—one that cannot be cultivated by following everyone else’s writing routine.
All rise for the Honorable Maryann Aita! I received an Honorable Mention, and publication, in The Exposition Review's Flash 405 April 2018 Contest judged by poet Edwin Bodney.
Although I didn't win, I have to say an Honorable Mention feels like it carries more gravitas. It didn't win, but was still worth mentioning--honorably, no less. I am also undisputedly not a loser. More importantly, you can now read my hybrid work, "Lunar Bodies." And it's only 405 words so you can read it between subway stops.
My much less honorable piece, "Rainbow Cookie Down," will be available online later this month in Defenestration, a journal dedicated to humorous writing. It's also under 500 words, so you can read it in the elevator on your way to work.
I make a point maintain just enough childish wonder in my everyday life to shut people out emotionally while retaining my cuteness. I'm a fan of children's games (except Chutes and Ladders because that game is impossible) and I thought what better way to make myself more mysterious than extreme Hide and Seek?
I've deleted all of my social media accounts--except LinkedIn, which I want to get rid of, but for the sake of my main income stream, my friends have convinced me to keep.
Admittedly, the internet is probably sprinkled with vestiges of my days making fake OKCupid accounts and the Tumblr I made when I was 19 because I didn't realize what it was. I deleted the SnapChat app, but I’m not sure I understand what happens to iPhone apps when they die. And who knows what happened to my MySpace...
Pieces of my stupider selves undoubtedly litter the internet, and I'll probably never find them, never remember what password I used seven years ago, and never figure out how to delete them.
My Twitter was the last to go--I pulled its life support on Sunday, having waited this long only because I used it so infrequently I forgot I had one. I didn’t have an Instagram because I’ve never had food placed in front of me and thought “I’d like to wait to eat this so I can take a picture.”
But none of my accounts were more difficult to kill than Facebook. When I deactivated it as a trial run, it posted three pictures—seemingly chosen at random—and told me these friends would miss me. It neglected to consider how I felt about them. The process was more intimidating than quitting that sorority in college. It demanded to know why I was leaving, to which I responded:
Most of what I see on Facebook is either stupid videos friends of friends from high school share, terrible news about the world, news about people's accomplishments that I'm jealous of, news about people's accomplishments I don't care about, or pictures of children that aren't mine. It just seems like it's more stress than the occasional ego boost from a clever status is worth. The people I actually care about communicating with have my phone number and email.
After two weeks without it, I realized I:
So I made the ultimate commitment: to delete my Facebook account. Permanently. Forever.
I followed some top secret instructions, downloaded my entire archive (just in case, but I’m never going in there), and waited 24 hours to get an email from Facebook confirming the obliteration of my account.
One friend pointed out that a number of her photos were full of strange, unattached comments. I’d left a gap in her life, breaking her Facebook façade.
But you know what? I didn’t feel bad about it—because I couldn’t see it.
In the last few months, when Facebook comes up in conversation, I (definitely feel superior to everyone at the table and) realize that I’ve slayed a monster. It took time to craft my witty statuses and it took a little bit of masochism to count my likes. I wondered what I’d do with all my hilarious and brilliant thoughts if I couldn’t share them. But now, they merely disappear into the ether, like a deleted iPhone app.
I’ve never been as into my phone as most of my friends and colleagues. I get excited when I get an email, only to be disappointed when it is, inevitably, from Domino’s Pizza. That’s not to say I don’t pull my phone out the second someone uses the bathroom while I’m waiting at a bar, but I remember being absolutely befuddled whenever I goto a concert and see every hand reach into the air to take pictures that will come out as mushy flashes of light radiating from some scaffolding.
We need to prove we were there, to curate ourselves for the world around us. But authenticity comes from living in that world, not from dangling on it like an ornament. So deleting my social media wasn’t really about hiding—I have a website and a mailing list after all—but about separating myself, following my desires rather than catering my activities to the most photogenic experiences.
I don’t miss it, even a little bit. But I also have no opinion as to what you do with your life. The point of getting rid of it all, in my view, was to stop caring about what you do. I’m me, always.
I realize that I’m posting this on my personal website, and sharing it through an email list—one with “campaigns” I’ve stylized. When I lost a pet earlier this year, a friend—connected only through Facebook—created an IndieGoGo campaign for me that raised half of what I needed to pay off the vet bills.
It seems impossible to live without social media, especially as a writer trying to promote her work, but I think in today’s context—in a world in which we are known as what we project—I’ve chosen the most dangerous hiding spot. I’ve laid myself out on the rug, hoping I can be flat enough for you not to see me, but you’ll find me first, and laugh.
I’ll have lost, but who cares?
*In the spirit of authenticity, this post is largely unedited. It certainly hasn’t been copyedited. There was minimal copy and pasting and even the sentences I changed were altered as I wrote them, in the same way you might backtrack while speaking. I typically write like consciously, like this, but with a few more passes and polish.
Maryann read an excerpt of her essay, "Artifacts," along with 12 other contributors to the Exposition Review's "Surface" issue launch at Chevalier's Books in Los Angeles. Contributors signed a printed issue of the journal and the bookstore was packed with listeners. It was an enriching night of literary work.
Maryann's original TV pilot, The Matchbreaker, was selected as a finalist for the 11th Annual Broad Humor Film Festival. The festival, which exclusively honors women in comedy, will take place from September 1 to 4 in Venice, California. It is a unique opportunity to recognize female writers and filmmakers in an industry where they are often marginalized. The Matchbreaker is nominated for Best Short Screenplay/Pilot along with six other screenplays, all written by women.