The word social is not one I would use to describe myself with. Like, ever. As a writer, I am comfortably cloistered away, far from noise, or distractions, and, most disconcerting to many … people.
Yes, I prefer to be far away from people.
Primarily because people are noisy and distracting. Of course, it’s true, they are many, many other things as well. People are generous, and interesting, helpful and creative, some of them are good at balancing silverware on their faces and can be truly entertaining. And if they could be all those wonderful things without the not so wonderful things, I’d be hooked on people. I really would.
Now the word media is one I rely upon heavily for myriad reasons. My work must be transported through the “agencies of mass communication” in order to be utilized, to provide some worth for others, to be functional and purposeful.
My goal, as a writer, is to find words, string them together into a pattern that either entertains or informs, and move a reader of those words to either act upon or experience something.
It’s pretty simple.
Yet the action of putting the words social and media together, side by side, is anything but simple.
It’s an effortful act of interaction if one wishes to be significant. And that interaction requires the bonding of human beings—to relate, and to be relatable.
Without that engagement, every author’s efforts simply sit on a library shelf, or a bookshop discount table, or in a warehouse somewhere with a bucketful of other unloved, unknown books.
The clincher is, you cannot just shout at people to, “Look over here! Hey! I’m annoyingly loud!” without them giving you an eye roll and going back to grouting their tile with a lot more enthusiasm.
I have worked with people who are slick and savvy at social media. They have studied the art probably with more intense effort than a teenaged boy, who measures and charts the growth of his biceps after each twenty reps of push-ups.
And if you’ve ever been a mother to a teenaged boy, or been a teenaged boy yourself, you may recall that I am not kidding about the “intense effort” applied.
But these clever engineers of awareness campaigns are usually paid professionals. At times, it’s best to employ them. They can be expensive, and regrettably … a little impersonal.
So here is where the paradox lies for many.
One must understand just how important it is to truly connect with someone you’re trying to get the attention of. And oftentimes, anyone marketing a product or idea goes about grasping that attention with the success of a five-year-old relentlessly tugging on the pant leg of their mother while she’s soaking up juicy neighborhood gossip from her best friend down the street.
You will be ignored.
We, as consumers, learn to turn a blind eye against the overwhelming influx of info wash that can at times feel like a fire hose of detritus. We have to. To keep our minds and moods safely intact.
Unless … and this is a big, important word … unless we get a whiff of something that brings value to our lives. Then we pay attention. Then we find some focus. Then we see the worth. Then we spread the word.
Long ago, years ago, when I first started publishing—whether a blog post online, a book in solid form, an essay, a picture, a tweet, a vid—it didn’t matter so much on the format—what I realized quickly was that if I wished to stand out within the noisy, info-saturated platform I worked within, I would have to show up with two things: something fresh, and something urgent.
Fresh, in that you can take old ideas and sharply spank them into something vibrant and sparkly—to appeal to a new set of eyes and ears, and reinvigorate some older ones.
Urgent, in that the content one produces must fill the recipient with a need to share. This is the smartest way to spread one’s work: word of mouth. Same goes for any industry.
If what you offer is something old—something people already possess—they’ll vote you straight off The Gong Show. You’re an amateur with dubious talent.
Connecting to people on both levels—both in content and campaign—requires consistent attention to crafting one’s skill, but also developing sincerity. And you can’t fake that. It’s been tried. It’s transparent. And people feel like taking a hot shower with a bucket of bleach and a wire brush after they’ve been exposed to it.
The timeless and repeated counsel I’ve been given can be summed up thusly: The years, the schooling, and effort you put into your craft should first and foremost be evident. What you write (or make) should resonate. It should amplify the meaningful not the meaningless. If you find it cannot captivate an audience, either go back to the drawing board, or find other employment where you can succeed. Don’t reconcile with offering up poor output. We need noteworthy voices that refuse to settle with generating mind-numbing content.
Then, when that content has been spat upon and polished to an absolute sheen, find one person who believes in it. Then find another. Find two. Be patient. Find ten. Be diligent. Be gracious. Reciprocate. Give back. Be social.
Yes, be social.
Not in the gossipy, drink in hand, playlist in the background kind—the kind I struggle with endlessly. Rather the kind where you contribute to society. To culture. To humanity. To the betterment of someone, somewhere else.
If you’re reading this post, then you’re part of the overwhelming majority of people who are somehow touched and involved in social media. You don’t have to be selling a widget to find this essay applicable—because, widget or not, you are selling something: yourself.
Spread your ideas, pass on your work, share your vision. Just make sure it is worthy and worthwhile to pay attention to.
PS–(In case you missed it!) An important update to all the Robin Gott Doodle Devotees out there! Robin has opened a new site where you can finally and officially purchase some of his finest and funniest work via a website called Society 6. To quote the champ of chuckles, “I know it sounds like some kind of low-budget South African sci-fi film, but it’s actually an online market place for all sorts of design.” Don’t miss out. Check it out here: ROBIN GOTT
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