I don’t know that I should be writing this here, but it’s like I was telling the Elizabeth the other day: I want so badly for the ace community to be in a state worth returning to.
Bear in mind, I don’t want to sound overly nostalgic here. There’s a lot of things about prior years that I don’t miss. There’s also a lot of good things about the present moment that we didn’t have ten or even five years ago, and I appreciate the value in new developments like that. Looking back over my shoulder with nostalgia goggles on would be a mistake.
So that’s not what this post is about.
The lament of this post is more specifically about what happens post-burnout, post-trauma, to stem the rate of turnover and open up the way back for those who’ve dropped out of contact for their own well-being. That is to say: What happens to people who were driven away by early squabbles that have only gotten worse? What happens after a community fails so badly to take care of its own? For those who’ve taken an extended leave of absence, what would it take to repair a welcome mat after it’s already been beaten to shreds?
I don’t know the answer to questions like these, but I ask them here because for much of the ace blogosphere, I’m not sure they’ve been on the radar. There’s general acknowledgement that people get burnt out, yes, but not as much discussion on what happens next. Issues steeped in cruelty get discussed more in terms of arguments for/against or in terms of the general contours of that cruelty, without regard for how to make space for those driven off by exactly that. Or rather, if you’re looking to engage with ace blogging outside of recurring pain points that invite incapacitating anxiety, the most you’re afforded is shallow “positivity” blogging (which itself could be the subject of a whole other post).
So I worry — I worry that without developing any kinds of strategies for return and recuperation, we risk making the online ace community permanently useless, if not permanently hostile to our own people.
Around 2012-2015, when I first got into ace blogging, things weren’t uniformly good, but they were… different, in some ways, and one of the things that most shapes my impression of how things have changed is how many people are just… gone. Backed out of involvement in one way or another. Stopped blogging about ace things, or stopped blogging at all. This isn’t to say I expect people to blog about ace things indefinitely, mind you. The point is just that I notice, and I think about it.
More specifically, I think about what it would be like to come back under present conditions. I imagine it would be like that scene from Community where a guy steps out to go grab pizza and comes back to everything on fire and in chaos. Maybe that’s too dramatic a comparison, I don’t know. What I do know is that there are people who’ve left because of things that have only gotten more unavoidable since then. It seems like a self-perpetuating problem, in a way, because if the ubiquity of a trigger is keeping people from coming back… well. It’s hard to hear about that from people who aren’t posting in the first place. It’s hard to listen to the voices that aren’t there.
I don’t even know that anyone would come back, even if we patched up the welcome mat. I’m just saying that it seems like we should try.
In writing this, I’m not sure how many people will see it the same way. For one thing, like I said, it’s difficult to attend to silence, especially if you never knew anyone who’s since gone quiet. It’s not like there’s only One Reason people step back, either. But there’s also this issue, too: I’m not even sure what to do or how to do it. From where I’m standing, it’s looking like a steep uphill climb. I’m just wondering about where to even start. How can we make space to welcome people back while also letting them sidestep the sore spots?
Consider this post a submission to the Carnival of Aces, or inspired by the call, anyway. I’m not sure how well it really fits the theme. When I first read through the list of prompts, I considered writing something more straightforward, like comparing Ace Tumblr with Ace Pillowfort, for instance, but I don’t really lurk enough ace tumblr blogs anymore to do justice to that. And y’all already know what I think about Tumblr anyway. I went with this other, more tangential collection of thoughts instead because it feels like an important topic to broach, and this prompt gave me a good enough reason as any to broach it.