Are You More Than Just A Number?

For a while I've been on the peripheral of social media, just observing and taking it all in. Social media is a HUGE part of being a blogger. You know you can share a link across various media outlets to your latest musings and any number of people will come and read it; they may even share their own thoughts about what you wrote and then tell their own online network too. These ripples are different sizes for different people and for different reasons.

I've blogged here in this little corner of the internet since 2002. Blog posts from 2002-2009 were deleted (it's a long story, much regretted and I've written about it before) but if you go back through the existing archives, I like to think that I'm still blogging about the same things and in the same way: my thoughts, my words, my ideas. Moving some ramblings over to other blogs has worked however they are not updated as regularly or as competently as they should be or could be. 

The whole blogging (and now I include vlogging in this too) scene has changed. There has always been people telling you how to do it better and how to get your message to more readers or viewers. One single thought process can now be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, Tumblr... the list goes on. And then there is the expectancy to continue sharing over each platform just in case one of your readers wasn't online at the same time as you. How many times have you read an article online or watched a video on YouTube only to be reminded at the end to like/subscribe/follow for more thoughts in the future? A plea for acceptance and, to balance that out, a way to be disappointed if the numbers don't rise. 

As human beings we are driven by the need to be accepted and liked. Compliments create high self-esteem and confidence. All we have done is replace human interaction with a button on a screen. Hitting 'like' or 'heart' or 'favourite' takes one second of our time and whilst it validates the other person in their own mind, it also brings ourselves to the attention of that person. Look... I hit the attention-seeking button... I care about you.

I want you to watch this video. It's all over the interwebs at the moment so you've probably seen it but have you really listened to it? 

The announcement has been structured in a very clever way that makes you believe that this person is all about giving up social media and she encourages people not use social media for a week as an experiment in their own lives.  But wait... she has used social media to make this announcement and she requests that her followers contact her after their experiment to let her know how it went (and in subsequent videos she requests money from her followers because she now apparently can't afford to pay her rent now that she's stopped agreeing to take on sponsored content).  She also introduces a new website and vlogging series where she will be talking to the people who already connect with her. If she really was giving up social media, why not just close the accounts down and walk away quietly? I am convinced she knew that this would create waves across her community and create more attention and 'social approval' for her.  

If you have read anything I've written in the past, you will know that I totally champion the online world when it is used appropriately.  The modern way of living means that sometimes we are far away from our friends and loved ones and digital media provides us with a way to retain contact. Similarly, for those that are isolated for whatever reason, the digital world gives them a window to the world to connect with people. Regardless of whether we are a blogger or just someone who uses Facebook to keep in touch with their real-life friends in the comfort of our own homes, should we be reliant on social media networks to validate what we are doing?

What I do worry about is where it is all heading. I feel as though blogging and vlogging are on the brink of a massive bubble burst. There's not a lot of originality out there any more and the content ideas feel very saturated.  And whilst there is money to be made, the money is only available to a select few. Just as anyone can be a singer or an actor, there are only a small amount of people who make the big time because of the talent that they have and the steps in which they have taken to achieve it. The real stars are the ones who have longevity - not the 'famous for fifteen minute' people. However many thousands (or millions in some cases) of subscribers you have now, do you think they will be there to help you out of the shit if you need them? 

Over the past year, and without realising it until very recently, I have decided that the numbers are not important any more. I no longer have enough hours in the day to ensure that this content gets shared to all of the people all of the time. I cannot find space in my life to generate a Pinterest-worthy image so that this blog post can be shared on that platform. I do not have the camera/phone and light source to generate a picture for Instagram that presents a false image of me and my surroundings. I haven't actually been writing as much as I used to and I couldn't tell you how many subscribers I have on this blog because I haven't checked for about six months. I'm consciously not counting any more because I know that if someone enjoys reading my words, they will find a way to stay connected to me that fits in with their own life.  I can make it easy for them by providing them with ways in which to do that (hence the subscription options available) but I don't actively check the main statistics any more. This is not, and never was, and never will be, a main source of income for me, It was always about getting my point of view across and hoping some people would agree with me, some people would disagree with me and, somewhere in the middle, I might learn something new too. 

You (hopefully) connect with these words and the photos that I share because they feel real and they don't take up too much of your day.  I hope I make you think a little bit differently and spread a little enthusiasm

And before anyone mentions it... if you landed here via a social media share from me or anyone else, yes, I totally see the irony of it all. I gotcha in the end...