Last week I posed a question on Twitter. I asked, Women Writers of Twitter who put “mom” or “wife” in your profile, why do you do that? Besides “it’s part of who I am.” I want to understand. As you might expect, I was being judge-y about it. My best friend and I had been talking the other day, and she said in her masters degree program in public health that the male professors introduce themselves as Dr. So-and-so, or Professor So-and-so, but the professors who are women, including the department chair, introduce themselves by their first names. This irked both of us. I believe professional women need to take themselves seriously if they want others to do the same. I wanted to understand why women writers on Twitter would make the choice to include their marital or parental status. I know some male authors might include that information, but the majority don’t. Was there something going on here?
Mostly the responses to my question were variations of “it’s part of who I am.” Which didn’t really help me understand, but I get it. People wanted to engage with my question and that was what is there for them.
And I also heard, “I wrote my profile as if it were similar to a party when someone says ‘tell me about yourself.'” I can get that.
I heard, “I’m so proud of the fam. I came from a broken home, never thought I’d have a successful marriage or happy family.” Oh. Hmm.
I heard, “When I am in public w/my fiancé, other men give me more space than when I sit alone. Wife in profile = protection?” Wow.
I also heard from a number of women who are married to people in the military. One woman said, “I can only speak for myself, but I put army wife in my bio because there’s a sort of community for military spouses, since dealing with deployment is devastating. Helps to have people who know your pain, so the bio helps us to find each other.” I’d never, ever thought about that.
Ok, so judge-y me was clearly schooled. There are so many reasons we each identify ourselves in the ways that we do, choosing the words that we choose. For example, I have consistently called myself a writer since I was a teenager, even though I have sometimes spent years not writing. My Twitter bio reads: I’m a literary agent. I’m usually reading. Or drinking coffee. Or reading while drinking coffee. So basically, I’m letting you know that I’m an over caffeinated Lit Agent. And who really cares that I drink coffee anyway? My bio is flip and quippy. Yet I just (very proudly) celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary and I stayed home raising my children for (what felt like) a gajillion years. Why didn’t I, too, identify myself on Twitter, and hence in my social media presence, as a wife and mom?
Something was bothering me about all of this. So I put up a poll and I really learned something.
It turns out, people are using social media to be social! Holy crap.
In my myopic brain, I’d assumed that unpublished writers on Twitter could only be there for one reason: to find an agent or editor. Sometimes I’m a narcissistic fool. Sometimes (sometimes!) it’s not all about me. (Every time I re-read the previous sentence I laugh out loud at myself again.)
I love that we writers have social media with which to connect to other people. Writing can be a lonely and isolating endeavor. I also love that we literary agents, over caffeinated or not, have the opportunity to connect with writers online, to get to know what is important to them, to hear their voices, share in a little of their lives, and perhaps even find a client or two. And I love that we humans can always learn new things about others, that we have the opportunity to shift our perceptions, if we just listen to other people’s stories.
Writers: How do you identify yourself? Tell me in 15 words or less.