One of my favorite Talking Heads songs is Once in a Lifetime. Lately this stanza has been resonating:
You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?
This encapsulates my social media existence in a nutshell.
That beautiful house
Thanks to the online world, I have met some pretty amazing people, and by met I don’t just mean online. I mean I’ve gotten to talk to them face to face. I’ve gotten to talk to Angela Daffron, for example, the woman behind Jodi’s Voice. I’ve gotten to talk to authors of books that I’ve read and I’ve even gotten to hug a few of those authors.
Every day, I’m embarrassed to say, people say the kindest possible things to me. They tell me I make them smile. They thank me for doing things that most people in the “real” world would not have noticed. It is through social media that I was able to co-found Homespun Helpers and then bring it back again this year. Social Media is behind the Blankies for Boston love-miracle that is happening on Facebook right now. I can talk about anything with the people I’m connected with, from television shows to religion to politics, and more. It’s sort of like a Utopia when you think about it that way.
The mysterious highway
The weird thing about my social media journey is that I seem to be on a highway I never wanted to travel. I have felt a palpable pressure to “take it to the next level” for my own self for the last 2 years or so. Other people have certainly done it. People who were new with me, who lamented the granite ceiling that crushed out new voices, have now skyrocketed past me in the game. They’ve written books, spoken at events, and have turned their social media work into jobs. I could have traveled that highway, I suppose. I still could, I guess. But it’s not what I wanted to do online.
I thought maybe if I got a following online I could help make the world better. You didn’t know I was a Pollyanna, did you? But that was my promise to myself from the start. “If I get a following, I’m going to use that power, such as it is, to do good.” It’s a catch-22 though, of course. The more you want to really make an impact, the more you need to build your following. The more you need to play the game. I am perpetually asking myself, “How much of my soul would I sell to be able to reach more people with messages I feel are important?” These messages are important to me, as a person. My online work for my professional career I view as separate. Tied to me as an individual, but separate.
Right or wrong?
I have always been outspoken when I feel things are wrong. I was that way long before social media came into my life. When I was in grade school I saw people bullying a kid, and I told them to stop. When I was in graduate school a professor had us make fun of our friends’ papers. When it came to be my turn I told him I refused. His face turned a very festive cherry red and he stepped out of the room. He took his vengeance on me during my thesis defense a year later. In the online world, I carry this trait with me. I do not like to see people hurt. I do not like to see people misled. But in the online world things seem so much more complicated.
On the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, I admonished people for having their automated tweets continue. I did this with the intention of trying to prevent them from facing more mean criticism from other people. I didn’t want people to look bad just because they didn’t know “the etiquette.” I was corrected though, by my friend Raul Colon. There are always bad things happening in the world. Why should the world stop when something bad happens in the US? Darned tootin. In my effort to be right, I was wrong. I worry I do this a lot. How did I get into a position where I feel responsible for people I talk to? I never wanted that.
My god, what have I done?
When I started blogging, my blog site was ladybugnotes.blogspot.com. I tried to tie a social media persona into my professional work and decided to start tweeting as RealLifeMadMan. Neither of these ideas were good. They seem laughable now. But I shuddered at the idea of having a me.com website. I didn’t want to ever have to say, “I have xyz followers.” How can you say or do either of those things and not feel like a narcissistic d-bag? Yet here I am. I’m writing this post at MargieClayman.com. I’ll post it to Twitter via my handle, which is my name. And I laugh at the surrealism inherent in saying that x many people “follow me.” I will never feel unweird about that.
In making my social media presence about me, I have strayed away from everything I really wanted to do online, and I have wandered into territory that I never wanted to explore. The murky world of people pretending to be things they are not, the unfortunate terror that occurs when the online world impacts someone’s real life, real family, or real job. I never thought I would worry about people I barely know. I never thought I’d be mediating online fights amongst people who are older than me and far more successful, depending on how you use that word. I wanted to be out here as a professional and as a do-gooder. That was it.
I’ve become, I fear, what I shuddered at when I first started.
I am not comfortable in my social media skin. I have not been for about two years now. I long, many times, to just go off the grid and only work as our agency or for our clients. I want to disappear from the online world and remember how I used to spend my time. I have projects I want to work on. And yet, just this week people posted things to Facebook that nobody else was sharing or commenting on. Causes that were near and dear to their hearts. That’s become one of my roles, I guess. Sharing things that are important to individuals but maybe not as important for EdgeRank or Retweets. Letting someone know I see what they’re doing – that’s important to me. How can I abandon stuff like that? Or does it even matter, really? Maybe if I let the posts go without shares other people will just pick them up. Would it really matter in the end? What am I to those people whose information I share?
You tell me what the next stanza of this song is. Are you singing it too?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nonoq8/3632962623 via Creative Commons
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