September 19, 2018

The Bittersweet-ness of the Internet

My relationship with social media is bittersweet. Whether Twitter or Facebook, the beauty of these platforms is that they provide immediate connection to each other in ways previously unattainable. My bitterness is rooted in the same principle: the spontaneity of it all.

I don't consider myself a good debater or witty. I like to reflect and consider things before I engage. Yet, social media impresses upon us this idea of immediate response to each other, to news, to moments of import in culture.

I know I'm not alone in this. I've spoken to a number of people who reflect on the same thing. "I'm not quick enough for Twitter." "I don't want to argue with people on Facebook." This is why so many of us love Instagram. It's just images! Maybe our brains process appreciation of images faster than ideas. And after all, as the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Images are subjective.

Ideas were central when the Internet was young (here comes the old man rant). I have a tattoo on my right arm that represents a set of relationships formed only through the exchange of ideas on blogs in the early 00's. Through those blogs we met, shared stories of the burgeoning faith communities we were making in our neighborhoods and cities. Through this thing called the Internet, lifelong bonds were formed.

That kind of exchange and connection seems less frequent now. Something shifted with the creation of little buttons in the shape of hands and hearts we've grown accustom to clicking away our affirmation rather than typing out an exchange. (I wonder if the onset of "likes" has diluted our digital capacity for thoughtful engagement.)

But what would happen if you and I stopped worrying about being the first or the smartest ... or whatever it is that we become self-conscious about regarding social media? What if instead we viewed this digital landscape as nothing more than a tool for communication?

Who would you communicate with?

When I decided to create my own podcast, I decided I was going to create something that I imagined maybe 20 people would like. I knew all of them by name. I made it for them, anticipating that possibly 5 of them would really love it. I wasn't concerned with anyone else but them. It didn't have to be perfect. It just had to be something that those few people–whom I knew–would enjoy. I don't go out of my way to look at stats. I'm happy when I hear affirmation from those few people. That's the statistic that matters to me. If you don't like my podcast or the stuff I write on my blog, I want you to know something: I love you but I don't care. This is what I choose to make and I'm happy to sit at my little corner of the Internet until someone that digs this comes along. Until then, I'm good! I have chosen not to worry about what anyone else thinks about what I create.

To this day, that is how kids in the punk rock scenes across the world make music. It's far from flawless but it's made with love for people they love. I think this is what Seth Godin calls a "minimum viable audience." Paul Jarvis, a writer, designer and software creator, recently shared about this concept in his newsletter. Whatever it is–whatever you really want to make or say or offer the world, start by making it for you and your friends. You don't have to be witty or a great debater. Social media does not have to be about the approval of strangers. Rather, it can simply be a tool used to give away something you made with love. You just have to be you. That's all we want! You and whatever you make with and for your friends with love.

Other posts on the subject:

Photo by Robin Worrall on Unsplash

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