A high follower count. Engagement. More RTs than that frenemy of yours. Enough likes to fill your heart, or so you’d think.
That’s the goal, right? I mean, what we’re all really going for?
Although I’m not sure how exactly I came across it yesterday, I ended up reading Anil Dash’s article on having 550K followers on Twitter, but not actually being, well… famous. And how it works and how it also doesn’t. One of the best things about the piece is that it literally shows you how having that many followers does not actually mean much, as you don’t get that many RTs (all things considered) or any real cool perks. Instead you get assholes spamming you to share their product, people that don’t actually care about you, they only care that you might be somebody.
The piece also shows us that we want to know that someone sees us, listens to us, validates our existence by reflecting part of themselves back on us, in the form of a comment or like.
From the article, “What becomes clear after a few years of having a large social network is that people are desperate to be heard… much of it ties back to people feeling powerless, of flailing toward any person who seems like they could provide opportunity or a way forward… But the truth is, our technological leaders have built these tools in a way that explicitly promotes the idea that one’s follower count is the score we keep, the metric that matters.”
Did you get that? Things were built so we can judge ourselves on our follower count. Things someone else built. Things that aren’t even very important in the grand scheme of life. (If you’re really wondering about this, go ask your grandmother about Twitter’s legacy.)
We use social media to be heard and either distill our true selves into a feed that’s a perfect amalgam of who we are or concoct a feed that shows who we want to be. And I think that it’s this distillation that we seek, this crystalization of who we are at our truest essence, whether we’re showing the world the true us or a false sense of self. We use these systems and platforms to show ourselves to the world, but if we’re not careful, we can forget who we are in the process.
Our follower counts make us feel like we are missing out on the party if we don’t follow someone with lots of followers and like there’s nothing to miss if the counts are too low. We feel embarrassed when we post something that gets very few likes, especially if we were truly enamored with the photo or thought. We mistake the silence, which doesn’t mean you’re a failure, but that perhaps your friends are busy cooking a delicious meal, your cousins are at a movie, and your Mom is taking a nap. And in letting this affect us, we’re changing who we are to become people sharing for validation, not because we want to connect.
So what if we reframed the silence? And didn’t think any less of ourselves because of it?
The great thing about the internet is that we don’t always know who’s looking at our posts, especially if we’re using social media, as we don’t own the stats. If we post what makes our hearts sing, a lonely teenager in Greenland may find it and find solace and someone else may beam at a memory that your photograph evokes. If they don’t comment or like, that doesn’t mean they didn’t like it or didn’t see it… but we discount all those non-commenters by only caring about the ones who did comment. We discount their very experience with our content.
Think about it, how many times do you read something online and agree with it and don’t comment because it’s too much of a pain to deal with CAPTCHA or you’re in a hurry or your bus just went into an area with no spotty wireless? And how many times do you read something that really resonates, but don’t comment because you feel like you’ll sound stupid or won’t add anything new or it hits a really vulnerable (and good) place and you can’t possibly choose the right words?
The internet needs good content amidst the fluff. We need you for who you are, not on a projection of you solely based on likes. We need you to be a beacon someone can cling to when they feel all alone or the answer to someone’s problem or the reason someone smiles. We need you to show up despite the possible silence. We need you to strive to put out content that makes people think, without caring about the response. We need you to make good content, tag it well, and fall in love with it because it’s good. And because you never know who it will find or help.
The internet needs you. Not another asshole who posts a bad joke because he knows someone from 3rd grade will RT it. We need good content to be your Holy Grail, not high engagement. We need you to show up. Because your people will find you when you are really you. You will build your own community based on people that like this real you. And yes, you will be heard. But first, first you, the youest you, need to dare to show up.
ETA: So OMG, the cool widgetized links aren’t being found when you click on the pics at the bottom here. I changed the link for my blog, not realizing I also needed to go back and change things in the 600-old posts, too. Holy crap. I’m working on it, please bear with me. Should anyone have a magical fix, please let me know!