…of narcissism and self promotion.

Or: Who reads about who wrote about who Watched the Watchmen?

Self promotion is not a concept I’m entirely comfortable with. Nor is it something I enjoy. While I have never wanted or intended this whole journal thing to propel me to any kind of Internet minor celebrity-dom, I do like the feeling of knowing when something I’ve written is being read, enjoyed, and even better, when it’s making a connection with someone. Trouble is, to stand out amongst a cluttered sea of occasionally high quality writing – and to actually be read – one has to partake in a certain amount of self promotion. Putting the word out on your own behalf to generate interest. To make people click me over someone else, if it’s to be boiled down into it’s crudest explanation.

I guess this goes (somewhat awkwardly) back to my first post. It’s not to say I don’t understand having an online presence, or the idea of social networking, it’s more, I’m just not sure of my place in it. Or more, how I want to fit in it. While window shopping for a new home for my words, I was somewhat attracted to WordPress’ stats feedback. Where I’ve come from, there wasn’t much in the way of viewing statistics (or, anything statistics really), besides whether or not people were actually commenting on your journal. I don’t really consider myself a comment whore [1], and I knew it would take some time before I started generating interest, so I thought it would be nice to get an idea of how many visits I was getting in the meantime.

So, I posted, and I waited – my only real ‘promotion’ being through Twitter, and occasionally Facebook. And it was good, for a while. A new post would generally get me around 5 to 10 views, which, while I realise is but a molecule in a drop in a pretty fucking big ocean, was more than zero, and I was happy. But then, with one word, things changed.

That one word, was Watchmen.

The pointy bit is about Watchmen
The pointy bit is my rambling 'review' of Watchmen

There was one key difference between my Watchmen post and my other updates – the tag, Watchmen.

All of a sudden, my five to ten inital views seemed rather, well, small. And while I had no illusions that even half of these visits would carry over to my next post, to see such a sharp drop-off was – I won’t lie – a little disheartening. Perhaps, this was what Zach Snyder felt after seeing his second weekend box-office takings? [2]

For the record, I was tempted to throw a Watchmen tag on this post, just to see what happened. I decided against it, though I’m still not entirely sure why.

I’ve spent the past few weeks going through almost five years worth of journals from my old online home – the once dark little corner of the net known as SuicideGirls – making sure I have local copies of my words before I take a long-time-coming leave of absence. Anyone who is familiar with the site and its history would’ve probably already heard about the shift in dynamics, and how the introduction of the concept of ‘hopefuls’ has turned a once thriving nation of thinkers and philosophers (who also just so happened to like naked punk and goth ladies), has turned into a battle of attention whoring and drama feeding. The ‘look at my bewbs!!!’ brigade diluting and dumbing down any hope of intelligent discussion.

Which in all honesty, is a far more dramatic and flowery version of the truth, but you get the gist. It’s not what it used to be, and despite having had some good times there, and meeting most of the people that I would call my close friends through the site, I don’t feel like I’ve got anything else to offer the community.

And now that I say it, I think that’s the point I’m trying to get at. While working on this entry, I’ve read two things that have got me thinking in regards to the whole ‘social networking’ beast – I almost wrote ‘machine’, but that somehow suggested we are being controlled, when I don’t think that’s the case – that some of us find ourselves involved in. The second was an article on Wired about how there is still a reluctance from some bands and artists to use devices like Twitter, Facebook and Myspace to communicate directly with their audience, despite the evidence that it is working as a means of self promotion. The short story goes something like – while some bands are happy to Tweet about their every movement, others prefer to keep some sense of a private life, and don’t like that blurry line that falls between the concept of ‘What are you doing?’ (or, ‘What’s on your mind?’ if you prefer the book of faces approach) as a private individual, and what is essentially their job.

I myself know that I have pretty specific uses for each of my ‘social’ internet outlets, and in most cases, twain don’t always go about meeting. Which is not to say there isn’t cross over, but I’m finding more and more that Facebook isn’t really my thing, but the concept of Twitter, is. And then, for me at least, WordPress extends on this concept, offering me a (much) greater-than-140 characters text box for my thoughts, as well as collecting together any contributions I may make to my flickr and last.fm account. And that’s about it. Not much else thought goes into it, to be honest.

The other (first) thing I read, was a comment made on Twitter from my good friend, Mr. Trivia:

“This term ‘attention whore’ is being overused. Applies to some celebs, but the rest of us need actual attention, not money or headlines.”

As Twitter expands and begins to attract more and more media attention, I’ve found myself reading arguments on both sides of the fence, either supporting or opposing its worth as a communication tool [3]. I remember myself being confused by the concept when I first signed up, wondering what the point of limiting my input was supposed to prove. It seemed more an interesting experiment than anything useful. Nowadays, I find myself checking Twitter more than Facebook, or any other site for that matter. Often – and, I will admit sometimes obsessively –  on my iPhone. Its low bandwidth needs working rather well with my low usage (and affordable) data plan. But more than just allowing me to easily stalk some of my favourite bands and celebrities, I’ve found Twitter has encouraged me to say more than I used to, and to try and be a more creative with my thoughts.

While I realise to a lot of people Twitter can appear to be just another outlet for ‘attention whores’ and wanna-be internet celebs, what I do here and on Twitter is not about drawing attention to myself. It’s not about trying to climb to the top of the mountain and scream out “Hey everyone look at me!” in order to get their attention. It’s about trying to be a part of something larger. About throwing my opinion in amongst the thousands of voices, hoping to make a connection with one or two people on the other side. And – at least for now – I find this a far more attractive – and well, easier – option than I do sitting at a table of other like minded individuals, trying to be heard, or waiting for my turn to talk. I am not of quick and lightening wit, and I find more often than not I walk away from a conversation thinking about what I wish I’d said, rather than what actually came out.

Over the past week or so, I’ve been reading – with some envy – about the goings on at SXSW, with what I would call an unusal want for me to be there and get involved. I say unusual, because I’m doing this reading and envying from the comfort of my couch, where I sit, still in my pyjamas on a Sunday afternoon, having spent the previous night wearing the same pyjamas, eating pizza and watching DVDs. Alone. And I say this want is unusal because, while I do all of this nothing, wishing I was somewhere else being involved, there are creative minds meeting, and bands playing, and films screening, all right down the road from me. All but a short bus or taxi ride away. All in my neighbourhood.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve magaged to remove the social from my social network.

Some might say that I’ve missed the point. That if you’re not actually meeting people, then you’re doing it wrong. I know of folk who have quite successfully built their own business and social networks through meeting people on Twitter, which is fantastic, and speaks volumes of its usefulness. This is not for me. For the same reason reason you’ll find me sitting in a corner avoiding large groups of people at parties, I’m not one to partake in schmoozing – electronic or otherwise. But I guess that’s the point, if I must find one in amongst this mess of thoughts. These things are what we make of them. The value of a service like Twitter or WordPress or even Facebook is only as good as the people who are contributing to it. And in that respect, what I have to say doesn’t (nor should) really change, whether I’ve got ten or two-hundred people reading it [4].

Now, if you’ll excuse me, some of my new Twitter followers have links to free MacBook Airs!

——-

[1] This is, of course, a lie. Comments are awesome, and getting them makes my tummy go all funny. What I mean is, comments aren’t the reason I do this, they’re just a nice bonus. Or rather, this is what I need to remind myself of this when I wake up in another “woe-is-me, why aren’t I getting any comments”, mood.

[2] Boom-tish?

[3] Which sounds far too much like something that would go into a Uni essay about social networking. This does not seem to be going well, I’m afraid.

[4] Moralistic and meaningful conclusions make me uncomfortable and frankly, feel forced and unnecessary. This is what happens when I don’t have a clear end goal when I start to write. Sorry…

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Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

2 thoughts on “…of narcissism and self promotion.”

  1. Hey Mark,

    Wow that is SOME spike! Amazing. Our good buddy Mr Trivia was telling me about some of the spikes on his blog and how ridiculous they were. Apparently one comedy bit he did about Will Ferrel and the Chillis’ Chad Smith being the same guy, kept getting unwanted attention from young (very young) Americans wanting to tell him how full of shit he was for mixing up the two.

    I agree with your points about looking to connect with others. Another interesting side to this is all those who over-share on social networking esp. Facebook. Not only are they saying look at me, but also sometimes “see my pain” or perhaps “See my pain and how I’ve survived it.” I think whether in real life or online, it is wise to allow time to earn people’s trust. Seems to be a foreign concept to many.

    I’m still not sure about the social part of social networking – I too can be a bit of a shut-in. Having said that, the conversation we’ve had in various forms (and through various guises 🙂 in the last few weeks would never have occurred in the normal course of events despite living in the same city less than 10 minutes from each other.

    1. Mr. Von Disco!

      Some spike indeed. After a little digging – on accounta I know where to look now – I’ve found the visits weren’t all from my tags, rather alphainventions. Reading up, it seems to be a cool idea, but I’m not sure if it’ll necessarily translate to more reads, or even feedback. Still, perhaps that says more about my content than anything else.

      I remember seeing Mr. Trivia’s Chad Smith/Will Ferrel comparison and laughing heartily to myself. I had no idea that the Chad Smith and/or Will Ferrel fans were so rabid about protecting their idol’s image though. Sounds like trouble. Did it escalate? You gotta watch those youths, they can be trouble.

      So true about the “see my pain” kids too. Tends to be a big reason I don’t visit the Book of Faces as much as I used to. And I realise there’s a way to turn people off, but everytime I think I’ve got it sorted, they go and change things. And that’s not saying I’ve not been guilty of it in the past. I mean, you’ve seen my haircut, right? You hit the nail on the head with the trust thing though. There doesn’t seem to be a line between sharing and oversharing with a lot of people.

      In any case, I’m starting to reconsider the term ‘anti-social’. If anything, outlets such as these have made me want to get out and see – and maybe even meet – people for the first time in a while. Now, it’s really just a case of tearing myself off the couch and doing it. Perhaps. Maybe. Having said that, as you say, there’s a lot to be said for these discussions we find ourselves engaging in here also.

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