Every once in a while I realise that I have been rejected for something I didn’t even apply for.
A couple of jobs ago, I was in the common area having lunch when a work colleague asked me if I had a Twitter account. “Yes”, I replied and told him my Twitter handle. I saw him scrolling on his phone and, after a minute, he looked at me and said: “wow, you don’t post anything about tech” whilst frowning. I don’t remember if I replied but I do remember, a few minutes later, checking my phone and noticing he didn’t follow me. It wasn’t that this person didn’t follow me, it was that this person actively looked up my profile, scrolled through, then voiced their disappointment in me out loud and “rejected” me.
I felt embarrassed and judged and it was an interaction that I never forgot. I internalised that interaction so hard that, six years after, it still bothers me and makes me judge my own social media activity from the “tech gaze” point of view.
Realistically, I understand that my feed (and me as a person) will not please everybody but this wasn’t really a stranger. This was someone who worked closely with me and, unsolicitedly, judged me and rejected me.
The unsolicited rejection was a frequent thing growing up as a woman but lately, it has taken a new form as I became a bit more active in the tech community.
Recently, I received a Twitter notification saying that I was tagged in a tweet. A wonderful friend of mine replied to someone who was asking recommendations for blog articles and the person asking was someone with quite a big following and, I suppose, popularity.
I was truly flattered that my friend thought of me, of all people, and I got a little bit excited at the idea that someone who is respected in the community could read what I wrote and appreciate it.
But nothing happened. Not even a “like” from the original poster. I felt embarrassed. Heck, I felt embarrassed that I noticed that it didn’t even get a “like”. I thought I was cooler than that. I wondered what happened. Did they click my blog post and thought “what a load of crap”? I felt a new flavour of shame that I wasn’t unfamiliar with but until that point, I couldn’t really explain it.
This had happened before when I am tagged in tweets that ask people to suggest “women in tech” to follow. Not that I am tagged frequently (at all), but the few times that I am, that has never resulted in a new follower. Did the original poster see my profile and thought “wow she sucks”? In the back of my mind, I’m always reminded of that interaction I had six years ago. I imagine someone perusing through my profile and thinking that I am not qualified.
When these types of tweets came out, I was flattered that someone thought of me. But the mental note still existed: someone rejected me when I didn’t even ask for it.
On the other hand, I understand now that many of these tweets are clout chasers. They are written by, usually, men, who want to do some performative work to pretend they care about diversifying their timeline. By having a popular tweet, and because a lot of people interacted with it in good faith, the social media algorithm works in their favour to promote their own account while also getting “ally” points. I’m sure they mute their own tweet immediately after posting it. This might explain it, but the rejection is still there.
When my inner critic is on and ready to hurt me, I imagine that other people scroll through those tweets and make a deliberate decision that I am not worthy. Almost like we would be in a group and somebody introduces me and nobody acknowledges what just happened.
There’s no resentment or bitterness here. Just the acknowledgement that it is an unpleasant feeling to sit with. Especially when you didn’t invite these situations.
Updated: 9th February 2021 - Added clarification to the introduction.