I bet sometimes Clark Kent wants to punch Superman. And I know this because I would happily punch Girl on the Net if she weren’t also basically me. I don’t hate her all the time, or even most of the time. But right now I hate her. And this is not the same thing as self-hate: it is richer and deeper and more intense. A purer kind of hatred, because GOTN isn’t me. She isn’t even real, so I can revel in the delicious satisfaction of hating her in the same way I can hate Voldemort.
The thing about letting a pseudonym become an alter ego is that at some point you start to buy into the lie of it. You start to think ‘this is what GOTN would do’ as opposed to ‘this is what I want to do.’ Girl on the Net is part-fact, part-fiction. A copy of my own self with the shit bits ignored, or played up for laughs, or dissected from an angle that allows for careful contemplation rather than panicky, irrational misery.
And I hate her.
Here are the top things I hate about GOTN:
GOTN is a smug twat
On the internet, you can edit what you say. You can choose your words carefully and precisely. If someone says something to you or about you, you can take a deep breath and step away from your screen, deciding before you reply what your ultimate strategy is. Will I give them some snark that’ll make me feel better? Or do they deserve a more thoughtful response? If it’s the latter I can calm down and take a breather, then return for some articulate debate. GOTN is far more diplomatic than I am. This is probably a good thing, overall, but it doesn’t stop me from hating her.
It means that in real life when I lose my temper or burst into tears or say something crap in the heat of the moment, I hold up my GOTN yardstick and find that I don’t measure up. GOTN wouldn’t have done that terrible thing, now, would she?
GOTN has a better sex life than I do
This one should be obvious, but I’m going to spell it out here again in case anyone missed it before: I am far less exciting in bed than GOTN is even on her off days. When I tell stories about sex I’ve had, I’m usually focused on one thing. I want to tell you about this specific incident or that particular kink. I rarely want to tell you about the time when I piled all the sex toys in the world up on the bed, tried to plan a sexy scene, and ended up crying and having to call the whole thing off.
GOTN exists outside of time, in multiple forms at once
That thing I said in point one about GOTN being diplomatic and kinder than I am? That’s simultaneously true and not-true. The recent blog posts, ones I’m usually more comfortable sharing, contain better-rehearsed arguments and more thoroughly-thought-through critiques. But I also have an archive autotweet running, which kicks out blog posts from as far back as 2011, and the GOTN who existed in 2011 – who STILL exists today via these windows into the past – was often a massive arsehole. Judgmental, dictatorial, absurdly hetero/cisnormative, and not nearly as funny as she thought she was.
I cannot escape GOTN, no matter how much I would like to
It’s alright for you lot – if you get sick of GOTN you can just click away to a different website and go read some other filth. I, on the other hand, have to live with this insufferable shadow-version of myself every fucking day. I have to wake up and check her emails, read her Twitter responses, and come up with new ideas. Sometimes I find myself halfway through writing a blog post and I wonder: is this actually what I think? Or is this just what I think GOTN would think?
There are over 200 drafts in this blog at the moment, many of them abandoned partway through because I got so sick of GOTN while I was writing.
It didn’t used to be like this. When I first started writing, I was GOTN – or as near as dammit. “Girl on the Net” was just a name I used to avoid awkward questions from my employers and accidentally turning up in a Google search when my grandparents wondered what I was up to. Now, though, she’s grown into something different.
It’s not all bad: some of GOTN’s qualities are good qualities. She’s more altruistic than I am, for example. Not for any worthy reasons, I suspect, probably just because more people know her (or know of her) and she, like me, wants desperately to be liked. GOTN is also better at sticking up for herself. As GOTN I can occasionally harness a self-confidence that I’d never display in real life: I may not be able to say ‘no’, but GOTN can because she has that authority. GOTN is also responsible for all of my income now: she scrapes together enough each month to pay the bills, and without her I’d be nothing but a pile of Final Demands and a gaping sense of terror.
So there are some things I like about GOTN. Occasionally having an alter-ego is like being able to put on a protective suit, and let bullets bounce off you: it’s not me this angry commenter hates, it’s GOTN! And GOTN isn’t really real, she’s just a mishmash of my own half-told story and other people’s expectations. But at other times having an alter-ego is like living with an irritating twin. They’re similar enough to show you all the things you hate about yourself, but different enough to allow for envy and competition.
And I can’t be the only one who feels like this. In a world where we’re all curating online lives, I bet there are other people out there who have similar love/hate relationships with their blogging personas, or the person they show the world on Instagram. Kayla Lords wrote recently about the benefits of being a brand, and she’s right that there are lots of positives. But there are weird bits too, like the occasional desire to push your own alter-ego into a river.
I hate GOTN, even though she protects me. And I hate her even though she provides for me. I created her even though she never asked to be born, and now I’m bitching about her even though she’s trying her best. What a horrible, bitchy, tedious prick I am.
But if GOTN were here, she’d be so understanding.
And that makes me hate her even more.