Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Instant Gratification

We all want it. We know we do.

Everyone involved in any form of social media, from Facebook to lesser known sites, seeks some form of validation.

For some (reportedly. I don't personally know any of these phantoms) it's enough to put their thoughts or experiences out there. I've heard some even use entirely private spots on the Web, visible only to themselves. Again, that's based on anecdotal evidence and not personal experience but I digress...

Most of us with a presence online enjoy a sense of being seen or heard. Receiving feedback in the form of comments, stars, likes, +1s, re-blogs, shares, etc... are part of the online experience.

For some, that feedback is the primary goal. For others, it's nice to know their personal weirdness doesn't isolate them from all of humanity.

Most of us fit somewhere in the middle. I say "us" in the hope what I'm about to admit doesn't isolate me from all of humanity...

*listens for crickets*

*clears throat*

Is this thing on?


Okay. Here goes...


There. Said it.

I didn't always hate it. There was a time it was a huge focus of my life. I belonged to a small community of about 3000 with an unspoken etiquette that included usually taking the time to let someone know you'd stopped by their blog. At that time they were still called diaries as, for many of us, that's exactly what they were. They were places where we shared with a group of people, which sometimes included family and offline friends, the kinds of things once shared over the phone or to a priest. We shared these things knowing those who read would at least say "First!" as a way of validating our effort to share.

Incidentally, the term blog, a portmanteau for "web log", came later and with it the understanding that the platform was for more than just recording your thoughts and experiences. It could be used for story-telling, journalism, virtual shouting on street corners and most importantly, captioning pictures of cats.

Then came Facebook and the like button. The ultimate in "I have no idea what the hell to say here but I want you to know I care enough to stop by and read". Easier than an emoticon... Sorry, showing my age here... emoji and only slightly less annoying in its repetitive use.

Nowadays (yes, age again. Shut up) you can choose to share another person's posted thoughts or creations with just a click or two of an onscreen button.

Even the way in which we create these posts has changed. In my day you had to scratch out your thoughts onto a clay tablet and have a slave travel on foot over rough terrain, barefoot, in the snow, uphill... both ways just to get your message to one person or household.

Okay, a bit of an exaggeration.

When I started, everyone was still using computers with separate monitors that weighed upwards of 75lbs. (Not an exaggeration. I had to carry our old one to the garage when it died) Some had towers. Some had cubes. Some still had the monitor sitting on top of the CPU. (You totally missed the stuttering, partially mimed conversation with Charlie and the boys in which I tried to get them to remember the acronym for thing that sat under the monitor on an old IBM PC. Koko the gorilla ain't got nothing on me) Today you can do this from a laptop, tablet, smartphone or even a Blackberry.

I can remember, a little over 3 years ago, reading about Twitter and thinking "Micro-blogging? WHY? Nobody can express themselves with any intelligence in 140 characters or less."

Go ahead. Here's where you're supposed to laugh. No. Seriously. Please laugh. I need the time to remember where the hell I was going with this...

If you aren't laughing yet, consider this; I spend an average of 3 full hours on Twitter each day. Often just refreshing my notifications waiting for validation of my existence.

Which is more or less where I was going with this.

In this day and age of instant communication and all the various ways people can instantly respond, I find traditional blogging to be a little... anti-climactic. (Here is where the average Twitter user will stop to giggle like a 12 year old) I mean, I could post a fart joke on Twitter and get more stars than I do readers to my blogs. I could possibly do that on Facebook without offending too many people but I've begun keeping those two worlds kinda separate with the blogs as the only connection between the two.

The point being, I feel terribly UNvalidated here, where I'm determined to share more of me than I do anywhere else. And it's scaring me.

I mean, if I try really, really hard, I can remember all the way back to 2000 when there were groups all over Yahoo where like-minded people could share with each other. I remember Juno email groups and IRC chat rooms. I can even remember when such groups were still called  BBS's. From the first bulletin boards full circle to Pinterest, I've been sharing online... mostly in my personal quest for support in recovery.

In all that time, I've never experienced quite the...

If you look away, you'll forget.

The Silence that I've experienced since dusting off this page and writing again.

I keep telling myself I need patience. If you write it, they will come and all that.

But I'm spoiled, I think, by the instant gratification world I've grown accustomed to. I have no problem with planting a seed knowing it could take as much as a month to germinate and possibly years to produce its flowers or fruits. I have no problem starting an intricate knitting or crochet pattern knowing it could take weeks or months to finish. Okay, I prefer quick, easy to finish knitting projects but that's beside the point.

With the point being... again... YOU AREN'T PAYING ATTENTION TO ME! Ahem... I mean, I'm starting to feel like this whole waiting and earning readers again and building a community within this particular space is taking more than my personal sense of worth can wait. It gets worse each time I read popular blogs that went from obscurity to viral sensation over night... because truth is, I do hope that happens.

Which probably means I need to work on my personal sense of self-worth. It probably also means I need to be sure my ability to handle something like that is reasonably formed.

But I wouldn't mind if you took the time to say "Hi." or "I read this." or "Shut up now." either.

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