Wine Makes Everything Better (AKA Fighting the Social Media Blues) by Heather Blackmore

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Wine Makes Everything Better (AKA Fighting the Social Media Blues) by Heather Blackmore

There’s a strange but well-documented phenomenon that happens to many artists. It’s the unhelpful artist’s math that says if one gets 99 positive vs. 1 negative review, we know which one will stick, at least for most of us. (Why, oh why, does the math work that way?)

Artists know that not everyone will like our work. It’s a fool’s errand to try to please everyone. This is why some actors and writers don’t read reviews. All we can do is produce our best work and keep moving forward.

Yet despite good advice and our best efforts, negativity can still creep in. It can still hurt. As one writer friend told me, it’s “puzzlingly hard” that we can be discouraged even when we know we shouldn’t be. Do I think about the overwhelmingly positive reviews of my books, or do I torment myself over the one or two that sneaked past my defenses and lodged in me like a kidney stone, to the point where my spouse filters them for me?

And it’s not just artists. Whether we’re chefs, nurses, managers, business owners, teachers—anyone who can be personally reviewed online—we know better than to let the negativity in. My terrific doctor told me about a review that devastated her. She cares deeply for her patients and tries so hard to do right by them, but medicine isn’t going to work in every case. Out of the many reviews she’s gotten—most of which are amazing—guess which one she remembers verbatim?

Yes, we should all follow the great advice about stopping ourselves from giving criticism power it doesn’t deserve. It’s just that sometimes, our best intentions to remain unaffected fail.

But I want to look at this more broadly, because criticism is a drop in the ocean in terms of things that can get to us. We can feel down for numerous reasons, and sometimes for seemingly no reason.

My question: what happens then? Where can we go when we’re feeling down, besides the wine rack?

Let’s face it. On a personal front, we contact friends via text message or online nowadays. We rarely pick up the phone anymore, and we’re certainly not mailing letters. On a professional front, artists are expected to have a social media presence. Thus, collectively, a “natural” outlet for our feeling blue—regardless of cause—is social media.

This means we immediately run up against the unspoken rule in social media that we’re supposed to stay (or pretend we’re) upbeat. For many, that means depicting interesting jobs, charming families, and ideal spouses. For artists, it means this is a business and we should be cultivating a certain image. Even if we’re feeling out of sorts, we’re supposed to post pictures of our pets or something clever.

That feels terribly inauthentic to me. My gosh, if we were all so very happy, would we be spending so much time on Facebook in the first place? Do friends, fans, and readers really require us to be some sunny, always-on, perversely positive caricature of ourselves? At some point, are we crossing a line in our desire to present ourselves in an always-positive light? In our attempts to be forever perky and funny, do we ultimately end up instilling hopelessness in people because they’ll never be the Wonder Women we’re (falsely) presenting to them?

How can we be authentic in a world that’s so often about crafted self-presentation and self-promotion? When we’re always supposed to put on a smiley face? (Yes, this one –> 🙂 )

for-money-or-love-300-dpiJessica Spaulding, the lead character in my latest romance, For Money or Love, is a woman who, for various reasons, presents herself as something she’s not. We come to understand why she’s doing it, but we also see what it’s costing her. Ultimately, when Jess is put to the test, she chooses against a false presentation of herself. She chooses authenticity.

I think it’s okay to admit not everything is perfect 100% of the time. No one likes a constant complainer either, but can’t we give each other license to acknowledge when things aren’t hunky dory? How many articles on functional depression and loneliness do we have to read before we strive for a more balanced approach to self-presentation than the highlight reels of our lives?

Artists push through the difficult times—when their Muses abandon them, when they feel disconnected from their art, when negative comments are the only ones they absorb. They aren’t easy times.

But it’s not just artists. All of us go through ups and downs. We’re human. We get laid off, fired, divorced, evicted, etc. We feel joy and sorrow, happiness and discouragement.

I don’t have all the answers. I can’t promise I won’t post pics of cute animals or wise quotes—hell, sometimes a Corgi or sea otter pup photo will actually lift my spirits in a way that I need just then.

What I can tell you is that when you’re down, you’re not alone.

If you’ve been figuratively knocked down or have fallen recently, please know it’s okay to admit it. And if you need some time before you’re yourself again, take it.

When this happens, how about we give each other a hand instead of a 🙂 ? Pull each other up?

Heather Blackmore’s latest romance, For Money or Love, is available at Bold Strokes Books and Amazon. Comments welcome.


  1. Great blog. I do think that a lot of the time when we don’t post our negatives it’s because we are judging ourselves harshly and assume others will, too. Of course, the minute someone else posts their bad day or writer’s block or other frustration, many of us are right there with genuine sympathy or empathy in a completely non-judgmental frame of mind.

    I also know that my life is equally full of good and bad things. Some of the good things are workarounds for things that didn’t work out exactly as planned, some of the bad things are because I did something dumb. It’s a lot easier to say “look how creative I am”, than to say “I did this stupid thing”, unless the “stupid thing” is something funny, like being so tired you ate your cereal with rotten milk. True story.

    I make it a practice in my life to focus on the good stuff because I need that to counter the things that frustrate me, the pieces that haven’t gone or aren’t going as planned. I’m working on sharing the pieces of my life that I struggle with and for which I judge myself and worry others will, too.


    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ann. I agree we often judge “ourselves harshly and assume others will, too.” I wish it weren’t the case! And I think many of us struggle with the balance question because we’re worried about others’ judgment fueling our melancholic moods. It’s tricky because there *is* such a online culture of dissing one another. (Time magazine discussed it recently in a cover piece called, “Why we’re losing the Internet to the culture of hate.”) And yet, as you say, there’s also “genuine sympathy or empathy” out there. I wish I knew how we could tap into the latter more, but I think it starts with striving for better balance. When I read about study after study of how our online self-presentation is negatively affecting people (especially our youth), I think we need to keep in mind the old saying, “Everything in moderation.” It goes for posting about both ups and downs, and responding compassionately to those who do post about the downs.


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