Category Archives: Communication

Having a Blog vs. Using It: Some Thoughts

I don’t follow analytics much with my blog. You’re reading it. That’s all I give a shit about. Following the traffic, I don’t do much of that.

I’ll check once or twice a month, see if my daily visits are holding up, and if there are massive spikes, I see what posts were near that day. Pretty chill, but I’ve done this for enough years to actually have a grasp on who you, my reader, often is. Or the readers I care about, anyhow.

And while my old sex posts drive my traffic the most, it was actually politics and current events that became my stratospheric posts over the years. When I get pissed, it seems to resonate. Apparently my anger reflects the frustration we feel both in Canada and the USA, and even England, because most of us are living in a classist divide that’s becoming increasingly religious.

So, over the weekend at the Pride events here in town, I chatted with friends about social media conferences, and how, for me, it seems more about selling tools than encouraging propagation of debate and discussion.

When it comes to blogging, I feel it can, and does, change the world. I don’t wanna talk about WordPress, metrics, and all that shit. The message is the message, for me, not the medium.

I feel an obligation to put ideas and content first, design and discussion-tracking last. I believe my voice matters. (And so does yours; whether you choose to use it is your drama.) I don’t really need to host the discussion here, I just need you to leave this page with a few thoughts percolating in your brain, and then I’ve done my job — that’s always been my take on things.

Sunday’s conversation kind of ended with my thinking that I’ve betrayed my ability to write, my strong beliefs on where we’re going wrong today, and my desire to see the world live according to my ethos (since I’m super-inclusive and secular), all by failing to continue blogging in a more frequent way.

I give good debate, baby. And I’ve been letting myself and my readers down at a time when I think we need more discussion, because if anyone can be the spark to a good fire, it’s me.

The Past’s Shadow is Long

Part of the reason I don’t watch my traffic today is because I don’t want to feel beholden to numbers. I’m cranking out some 1,500 unique visitors a day, and without doing a lot of work to sustain it. It’s what I call “legacy traffic.” Google had lost me for a long time, but now it points anyone looking for sex tips and smart writing here. Good job, Google!

Still, it bothers me a little, because I haven’t been writing about sex for about 3-4 years.

To have so many of you still turning up, with questions arriving in my inbox (which I’ve been ignoring in my life chaos), it tells me there’s a dearth of great information out there, and that mine’s standing the test of time on the web, a hard thing to do.

These days, I’m a-thinking. I don’t want to be writing about sex and relationships, because I’ve more or less been celibate since all the trouble began with my back, except for, you know, a dalliance or two. My head’s not there right now, and I haven’t wanted it to be, either.

Maybe I underestimated the voice I bring to the sex discussion, and maybe I need to rethink my role and the validity of my place in the fight for a smarter world that’s sex-positive in a way that doesn’t mean we have to jump the “taste” shark. Maybe I also underestimated how much we have devolved into an orthodox society with increasing hangups about sex and sexuality.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

But if the Shoe Fits…

I’ll be doing a lot more thinking about this. I’ve avoided talking about sex or sex news because I was tired of being pigeon-holed as a “sex writer,” since I feel that’s about 8% of what I’m comprised of, but if it’s not getting done properly by others, maybe it’s time I dust that conversation off. Just something I’m considering, and not a promise. Your thoughts are relevant to my thinkin’, so feel free to persuade me on this.

Maybe combining sex and politics in this same post is indicative of who I am/have been as a blogger and a person.

I think sex and love are basic human rights. I believe who we are as a society is something that shifts and changes through the ages, like a river carving a canyon. Change and evolution is constant, but often only visible on a wide, long view, and while I see the massive changes we’ve had for the better, I see how far there is to go.

Born Under A Bad Moon Risin’

I’m of that generation that came of age in the analog times but made the digital world our bitch. I was my college’s last journalism class to lay out a newspaper with glue and paper, and the first to do so on the computer. I was born at a crossroads, with one foot in old-world news, and the other kicking toward the future. My head of journalism was a former editor who ran political campaigns, so I learned about the press from both sides.

I’ve blogged since 2004, about sex since 2005, and I’ve been political since my teens. I live in borderlands and know more about America than most Americans will ever know about Canada, and I bleed maple syrup.

I was raised Catholic, rebelled against it after I learned of molestation scandals and cover-ups in my own Archdiocese and high school. I identify as a feminist but love men and deplore radical thought in any vein, especially if feminist.

The Alchemy of a Writer’s Voice

Somewhere, in the midst of all those qualities and attributes lies the reason why I too have a voice that’s important to the mix of who we are and where we’re going.

We have the ability to stand up and be counted, to leave our prints on the windowpane of the world, thanks to the internet.

For those of us who can do so, yet don’t do so, we’re betraying a gift of being born with talent in this time and space. We’re at a point in evolution where we have the means and the ability to project our lonely voice around the world, free of corporate interference, free of investment, and yet we’re mired in a complacency that sees our society devolving almost daily.

While the 1% keep getting richer, we applaud and watch the Bachelorette while reading TMZ, glorifying the division of our classes, because glamour is somehow more significant to us than protecting our dwindling average-citizen quality of life.

We belittle the intellectuals, want leaders we can have a beer with, and seem to do everything we can to avoid the realities of what’s going on as economies around the world teeter on the brink.

We delude ourselves into thinking change can’t come, that we’re just the little guys. We pretend that if we keep watching TV, shopping for “Made in America” products, and praying to the good God above that we’ll be just fine when that high-water mark of society gets overrun.

I don’t buy any of it.

In a span of three years, with no technology, no automatic weapons, no electricity, nothing, the working class of France brought down the nobility and monarchy, and modern democracy was born. Three years. By people with HOES and SHOVELS, with the occasional dagger for good measure, for crying out loud.

Shit started rolling last year, but I don’t respect the Occupy movement a lot because there are too many dumb-assed anarchist fucks in the mix. But they’re heading in the right direction, as long as they leave anarchy out of the debate.

They’re right, though. Anger, frustration, these aren’t things we should be feeling fleetingly. These should consume us.

There’s a disparity of income distribution that is a mockery of what the USA was founded under, what Canada should exemplify, and it all comes down to legislation by politicians who are bought and sold by the interests of those they mainly seek to protect, the upper-upper-class.

We deserve better.

And the only way we’re gonna get better is if we never, ever let the matter drop.

Me, I’ll never be that guy on the street with a placard, but I have this soapbox.

I think it’s time I start seeing this blog as an obligation, not a hobby, because I loathe the world we’re becoming, and I cannot respect myself if I don’t shout out loud about why I feel it’s all going so horribly awry.

And that’s what blogging can be. That’s what it should be.

If you want the latest scoop on TomKat’s Divorce, maybe it’s time to aim higher, expect more, and become a part of these discussions we really need to stop avoiding.

RANT: Censorship & The Nonsense of a Non-Seuss World

I’m swearing a lot here on purpose. When I talk about censorship, it makes sense to do so. Avert your sensitive eyes if you’re all bent out of shape by cusswords, and all will be fine. Because that’s all you need to do… not fucking ban it.

We’re regressing as a society, and it scares the shit out of me.

Dr. Seuss is being banned. Why, I can’t fucking fathom it, but it is.

Some bureaucratic asses who are terrified of lawsuits have deemed a story about a turtle as political.

Here’s what the Globe and Mail explains in this article about a BC’s schoolboard’s choice to ban this much-loved children’s classic:

The quote in question – “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights” – comes fromYertle the Turtle, the tale of a turtle who climbs on the backs of other turtles to get a better view.

In the midst of a labour dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the province, the quote was deemed unsuitable.

“I responded that in the context, it was borderline,” Mr. Stigant said. “Contextually, it was political – but it was grey and I would prefer it didn’t appear and I believe she agreed.”

Yertle’s quest for a higher vantage point ends when the turtle at the bottom of the stack – who’s pleaded, “I’ve pain in my back, my shoulders and knees – how long must we stand here, your majesty please” – burps, sending Yertle hurtling to the mud.

Yeah. “Political.” Fuck.

Look, people. Banning political messaging from schools is precisely part of why we’re now living in a society where constructive thought seems elusive at best. We’re in the age of Jersey Shore and Real Housewives, when people become famous for partying and being dysfunctional assholes, and the least we could hope for is a return to critical thinking by the children who are our future.

I mean, DUDE: Teach them well and let them lead the way. So sayeth Whitney.

Instead, political hacks who can’t even be trusted to file expense reports have decided the politics of arguably one of the most intriguing children’s authors is too political to be morally tolerable when teaching kids ‘cos — oh, the unthinkable of unthinkables — it might inspire children to think of classism.

Excuse me while I ram my head into my desk for a minute.

Well, that feels better. Okay. Deep breath.

PEOPLE. We’ve dumbed down EVERYTHING in society.

We print legal warnings that coffee cups contain HOT liquid and therefore are DANGEROUS. We rubberize playgrounds because some kids scraped a fucking knee. We pander to the lowest common denominator in everything we do, and North America is suffering an epidemic of stupid. Are you infected?

Instead of offending ANYONE EVER ANYMORE, we live in a completely vanilla society where the mere suggestion of offense means some public relations department comes running with an ass-kissing statement that does nothing but blow bubbles.

Saying “goddamnit” on television would probably explode transistors coast-to-coast in America, for Christ’s sake.

Children today grow up without any threat of getting hurt. God forbid they go ziplining in a public park, go head-first down death-defying slides, or even get a sunburn. Quick, shield little Jonny before he gets a bruise!

Back when I grew up, we actually got grades on report cards, fell down on concrete, jumped off things without safety nets, learned about racism and political parties in school, and look at me — I’m just as fucked up as the next guy, but I get through my days A-okay without needing meds or therapy. I’m normal, Ma! Fucked up in all the best ways.

Not like today. Kids are growing up without critical thinking, scared of getting hurt on adventures, and obsess over looking good instead of being smart, because that’s the pansy-assed culture we’ve given to them.

Stop it!

Allow kids to fall. Encourage them to fail, so long as they’ve tried. Let them learn conflicting ideas and find their own ways. Make them flex brain muscles.

Let’s pray we haven’t undone everything that’s made our culture so awesome for the last century, and let’s get back to embracing free will, allowing competing ideologies, and enjoying everything else that makes life in a free society so goddamned much FUN to endure.

Bureaucrats are making life boring, and it should be a crime. Lock ’em up! Stop saving us from ourselves.

Wake the fuck up and  say no to censorship, people.

And let’s just stop the rubber playgrounds, please. Buy a motherfucking box of Band-aids and live a little, mm-kay? Like they say, life’s tough. Get a helmet.

Ethics of Blogging: Writing, Interpretations, & Responsibilities

So, I cracked the depression nut in a rant on the weekend that had a lot of positive response from people who’ve been there, with more than a few quietly thanking me for saying what needed to be said: People usually don’t choose to be depressed.

Now, apparently my tone was full of “hate,” according to the writer of the post that originally angered me, who commented on on my piece (psst… she sounded angry too).

Come on, I don’t hate anyone. I just get angry. I channel my rage into my writing and other areas in life. It’s a productive fuel. In fact, studies are coming out in which they’re realizing that anger is actually among the best catalysts one can have. Don’t like things in your life? Get angry and change them.

But I don’t wanna go into the philosophy behind Darth Vader’s School of Wellness here or anything. Another day, another soggy blog post, friends.

You know what kills me about posts like the one that irked me on the weekend? The arrogance of bloggers.

Okay. Whoa, Nellie. Wait for it. This is a complicated stance I have, but it also needs to be said, even if a bunch of bloggers might get grumpy at me.

First: If I didn’t think my voice mattered in cosmic mix, I wouldn’t have more than 2,000 posts, 4,000 drafts, and seven years of blogging underneath me. Clearly I think bloggers belong in the cosmic mix.

That said: We’re just bloggers.

We need to write responsibly. We need to use disclaimers that remind people that we’re not certified in all things awesome. We’re a voice with an opinion, and all we’re often bringing to the table is our experience.

As someone to whom edge and attitude come naturally, I understand wanting to turn a cool phrase or have things sound awesome. I know why we get stylistic, chuck some hyperbole in, and embrace flippant whimsy. I get it. I do it. I love it.

But there are times you have to stand back and really see how your words will be taken, and you have to watch it.

This writer accuses me of misconstruing her words, like it’s my fault they mean BOTH things.

I didn’t pull my interpretation out of my ass. It was RIGHT THERE, honey, in the words you wrote. If you’re going to take something huge and life-altering like depression and throw 90 words at it, you can bet your ass you’re leaving a wide door to walk through on the interpretations front. This is why we have DISCLAIMERS, and I’ll get to that after.

As a writer, while I absolutely love pushing buttons, I think you’d be hard pressed to find many examples of when I’ve done so irresponsibly in a way that could hurt people. Depression is one of those topics I wade into very trepidatiously, because I know people are unhinged to begin with, and I know how easily the wrong comment can trigger something in someone.

When I write about depression, I now do so from a largely “PAST” perspective. I’m not “depressed” anymore. I’m normal now. I have ups, I have downs.

Someone out there’s probably going “Oh, see? You’re ashamed. You won’t cop to being depressed.”

No, you know why? Because I’m not depressed! I love the snarky side of me, and that’s staying around. I’m not ashamed of my experiences with depression — but I’m proud I’ve battled out of it for a pretty average, stable existence. It’s proof one can get out of chemical depressions and get away from that horrible crushing place. I pulled a Gloria Gaynor, man. I survived.

It takes a long time, but it can be done, and there’s no one answer, which is why it seems so insurmountable.

And BECAUSE I know there’s no one answer, I know there are people out there who are as smart as me and as big on research as I am, and I know they’re at home late at night Googling for things to read about depression (or insert whatever other hot-button topic people don’t publicly discuss — like domestic abuse, etc) so they can get other perspectives.

And when they DO find something on Google about depression, I hope to fuck they’re reading someone realistic like me, and not someone bubbling on about choosing to be happy and making it sound like it’s some short-term project that’s easily accomplished because that suits the smaller, quicker, more upbeat post they’ve been tasked with writing.

If you’re clinically depressed, it is mental illness. It’s not when you’re thinking clearly, and that’s exactly why I try to be as straight-talking and clear as possible, for that 5-10% of my audience who might currently be experiencing that hell and who need a relatable perspective that might make them feel like someone else has lived in that world too. It’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay to write about that.

You’re goddamned right that it’s arrogant of me to think I might play a role in shaping how they think about X-subject this week or five years from now, and to care about writing in a way that’s relevant on these things, but I’ve been given good reason to feel I’m relevant.

So, yes, many bloggers are arrogant. They’re sometimes more concerned with having a good read or getting their $50 payment from some blog magazine site. There’s this “nutshell” syndrome where everyone thinks just touching on a topic is good enough.

God help you if your post is over 500 words and you actually SAY something, you know.

While the writer of the piece that angered me, she actually had a few really great points on OTHER topics, and if she’d simply put a ONE LINE DISCLAIMER in the paragraph about depression, the whole fucking piece would’ve been FINE with me. All she had to say was, “Depression can be a serious and fatal condition, and while it can be self-treated, one needs to talk to their doctor. Not all depressions can be handled the same.” Then, boom. Perfect. Responsible. Big picture.

That’s it. That’s what that article was missing.

When it comes to blogging, I feel responsible to speak truth, be honest about who I am, get my facts right, and respect that my words might be construed differently by others, and it’s up to me to take a solid look at what I write before I publish it so I know all the ways someone might read into it, and if anything’s going to come back and bite me, I fix it up.

(It’s an old editing trick. Pretend you have no clue what you just wrote, read it “out loud” in your head, and try to understand it for the “first time.” Works.)

And here’s a thing: Most of the time, no matter how someone “interprets” what you’ve written, they’re not wrong. Not really. Words are flexible. They’re like cattle. They’ll pretty much go anywhere they want, and it takes a skilled hand to rein ’em in. But that’s what writers do. Or, it’s what they should do.

Okay, gather ’round kids, and Auntie Steff will tell you a story.

Once upon a time, I took three weeks to write a post about my dead mother. Seven years later, I’m still proud of the writing and I remember how hard it was for me to get it done. I write in minutes and hours, not over the course of weeks. Very nervously, I published it.

Months later, it was Christmas, and I checked my email. There was a $500 “gift” on PayPal from a reader. She said she had never been able to express the world of hurt her mother’s death caused her, and reading this post of mine, she said she sent it to every friend she had and said “When I’m sad about Mom, this is why.”

Oddly, I’ve had very few donations in the years since, and nothing even close to that, but the Christmas Donation taught me something very important about blogging and writing.

In our very anonymous words, sometimes strangers around the world find some meaning, something they can relate to. On a microscopic scale, we can change lives.

I believe in blogging. I consider myself blessed to be alive at a time when I can have a voice in the mix. I’m astounded at readers’ abilities to connect and tell me what resonates.

And, like Uncle Ben told Spidey, with great power comes great responsibility.

So, when blogging about depression and other very serious things people are likely to take to heart in very dark manners, it’s worth a little time to ensure you’re not blowing things off, making light of dangerous conditions, and that your words have been chosen with all the right reasons.

Be careful, Grasshopper, because you know not who you write for.

Why I’ve Drunk the Google+ Kool-aid… And Love It (for Writers)

I’m a writer.

I like an audience.

I also tend to use more than 20 words at a time, like on Twitter, or 75 words on Facebook. While I’ll always love the challenge of having a brilliant and funny 140-character-or-less tweet, the unfiltered-length possibilities on Google+ make it possible for me to write my Unabomber manifesto for the world at the large without burying it on some obscure “notes” page on my Facebook account, while giving me a larger audience than I enjoy on this lowly blog.

So, there’s that.

And I can edit after the fact, which is fantastic for a neurotic type-A personality like me who wants to cry at support groups every time my iPhone leads me to fuck up and upload a typo. And there’s bold AND italics? Oh, editor porn! Editor porn!

It’s a slippery-slope thing, the after-the-fact post-editing, but it’s LONG overdue in social media, where every word we say can cripple us professionally or personally.

If Google’s smart, they’ll have a built-in system that allows for proper tracking of edits once comments have appeared on a posting. I think, in the interest of truth and transparency, a “track-changes” feature might keep people on the ethical straight and narrow with edits. As it stands, it DOES say the post was edited and at what time, but not the extent to which edits have been done.

Google+ Has Borrowed From Those Before Them

Now, this is early in the game. Yet people are commenting, “Oh, I would’ve expected Google to roll out something much more dynamic, given their global reach,” etc, but I question if these folks really realize the scope of what Google has unleashed.

If you think of Google+ as being the framework upon which The Goog is developing a social structure that spreads throughout the whole web, they’ve created a fabulous start. No one has the ability to catch up with Facebook’s infrastructure — but Google can.

Right now, Google+ offers you “hangouts,” which takes the Chatroulette web-cam socializing idea and runs with it. They have “sharing,” and privacy controls that are far simpler to adjust than Facebook (and more transparency about the lack of existing privacy).

The continuous refreshing feed and ease of sharing replicates the Tumblr-reader/blogger experience.

The +1 bookmarking makes for a DIGG or StumbleUpon replacement and there’s a page on your profile where it saves them. It’s called the +1 Page, but it doesn’t save all the things you’ve “liked” in your main in-Google+ feed (where you +1 instead of “liking” as you would on Facebook), it only tracks external webpages that have a +1 button. (You can change a setting in G+ settings so that Google assigns a +1 button on ALL non-Google pages, and that way it can truly be your new bookmarking service. I’ve been hesitant to go there, but I use Google for all my searches anyhow, and resistance seems futile.)

That Google owns Youtube, which is rolling out the COSMIC PANDA experiment as I type (for which you need to use the Google Chrome browser, I understand), makes for better video interfacing in-feed than Facebook offers, plus excessively-fun and easy animated-GIF posting.

The following options on Google+ are like on Twitter — it’s public and anyone’s game for you to follow without approval, unless they block you, but it’s easier to find people, and there’s a built-in, far more interesting and informative profile that makes the follow/unfollow option much more simpler.

They have ingenius “social circles,” and a smart user will create additional streams beyond the few basic ones that come pre-set by G+ — like I’ve added “local connections” who are people I don’t consider acquaintances but know through the local scene, “extended family” is obvious, “soc med influencers” keeps the Chris Brogans at bay, “news and info” will be news organizations or persons affiliated with them, which I hope are allowed onto Google+ sooner than later, because I think it’d be fantastic for that sort of content. I have “people I like” and “Journalists & Writers” and other stuff relevant to my life. People are grouped in multiple circles if they’re more relevant to me.

I foresee Google allowing a more toggle-able feed, where I don’t have to have all or just one, but can default to 2-3-4 preferred feeds that most affect my content-consuming time.

Built for Engaging

G+ will be, for me, a more powerful way of getting my writing out in the world, and a way to have a much better engaging with my audience, because I never really log in here and write comments, but I do love engaging on topics, and I’m more likely to do so on G+, since I’ve found myself having more ideological discussions there in a week than I have on Facebook or Twitter in a month, and at a far greater length and focus.

For now, Google+ is telling marketers to stay away until the end of the year. I think business won’t really get how to use it, and many will be awkward and shitty at content-generation like they are on Twitter, but one can get away with sucking more at Twitter than you could on G+. With more rope to hang themselves, I’m nearly confident most marketers will succeed handily at self-asphyxiation on Google-plus.

So, It’s More Private Than Facebook?

[insert laughter here] Urm, definitely not.

Privacy? Are there better privacy protections? Arguably, no. This, however, is more transparent, and I think we’re all used to Google knowing everything about us anyhow.

If you want privacy, get off the internet. Really. The two do not compute. It’s like putting alfalfa in cheesecake. What the fuck are you thinking?

Are there issues? Yeah. If you don’t want something private inadvertently shared, you can’t just not include X circles of people, you also have to disable sharing on it. But, wait! You can disable sharing! And disable comments! Yay.

The reality is, Google+ just ensures you’ll be a thoroughly data-mined person in the Google universe, but who’s kidding who? You already are. Facebook has ya, your credit card company’s got a real sweet dossier on you. Fuck, every charity in the country knows when you’re a giver. Worrying about your information being out there, that’s just silly. It already IS.

The only privacy you’ve got is to not say anything you don’t want repeated. Shut up or suck it up, basically.

Google Takes Over The World, Story At 11

This feels very much like a social tool that’s truly social. If Google starts expanding it — and, remember, this company owns Blogger and has stopped developing it — the dynamic nature of their “socialness” will be nearly infinite. Google is among the only companies in the world with the wherewithal to beat Facebook, and mark my words — and many others — this might just be the tool that does it.

Yeah, I’m sticking around. Wanna follow me on Google+? Go for it.

In the meantime, it’s not all sunshine and roses. This damning article says the privacy concerns could blow up big. Other sticking points I’ve found are below.

But, hey, I’ve been on the web for years. My privacy got screwed years ago. Welcome to my party, people.

Shit They Gotta Fix

Comments are bothersome: You can’t collapse comments. I’m liable to unfollow all the “popular” people until this is fixed. For the moment, you can read the post and the comments, then click the greyscale “+” top right of any post and “mute” the post. This will not only hide it in your feed, but it’ll end any notifications associated with the post.

Invasive feed-refreshing rate: The continuously auto-refreshing feed does so while one is writing a post or comment, which doesn’t hurt anything, but can be jarring to the thinking process, and it’s clumsy. I’d like it to be possible to pause the feed.

Indiscriminate re-sharing: When one has shared things with a limited audience, it’s possible for their limited audience to then re-share to the general public, and, if so, the original poster’s name is on it. Great to have attribution, but it’s an invasion of privacy. Instead, G+ should build in a restrictor of some kind. In the mean time, you can disable sharing on each post.

Photo-sharing: When uploading photos, it creates a whole album, and one can share someone else’s complete album. If you ever geotag your stuff, whether it’s shot at home or you have kids, it’s unwise to allow these geotagged photos to be reshared, so, I would advise remembering to disable sharing on every posted photo album. UNFORTUNATELY, this cannot yet be done with the mobile app.

Circle-editing: You can’t edit a circle of friends and just move someone to a new circle, so you really have to be on the ball about it. Instead, you have to add them to a new circle before deleting them from the one you’ve decided they don’t fix, otherwise you have to re-ad them to circles in entirety, which is just irritating.

Ego-boosting fail: When I see great content and re-share it, I now get nothing out of the re-share when someone re-shares it off me. Instead, the person who originally posted it gets all the credit. I’d like to see “By way of Steffani Cameron, and Originally Posted by This Genius Guy” or something. Otherwise, you’re encouraging people to find the original source, upload it, and try to steal credit. Everyone wants their name in the game, Google. Savvy up there.

Buggy, bitches: The notifications, adding people, the numbers in circles, none of it is working completely right yet, but that’s to be expected with a new product that is achieving unprecedented influx of new power users in less than a week. This will smooth out, I’m sure.

Plain Stupid Things: That they request you to list “other names” like “maiden names” and stuff is absolutely moronic. Sure, it’s nice as a be-found-by-old-friends feature, but it’s also an identity-thief’s wet dream. Think twice before you’re so needy for antiquated social connections that you give scam-artists an open door to your identity, people.

Winning at AntiSocial Media the Steff Way

There’s a social media camp happening over on Vancouver Island, and someone’s first quote was, “Social media isn’t about you.”

Really? Ahem.

Every person I follow or engage with is because they’re offering something unique to them. If it wasn’t about them, I wouldn’t give a shit. If they’re just spouting links with no personal interjection, I don’t care.

T-Shirt design from Despair.com: http://www.despair.com/somevedi.html

If social media isn’t about YOU, then don’t bother.

I could pretend to care more about the people who followed me. I could engage more without provocation. I could follow more people. I could do the “shout-out-by-name” bullshit I so loathe.

And yet… I don’t.

And YET… I’m followed by people in every sector of the industries I’m interested in — and from lofty, lofty places. Editors, publishers, and media magnates follow me.

Largely, I guess, because I’m just “myself” online.

I don’t kiss ass, engage my powerful followers directly, “use” them as contacts, ask anything of them. I don’t do shout-outs or any of the things people will tell you are “good” Twitter.

And it works for me.

Because it’s all me, all day, all the time. I’m consistent, I’m constant, I’m myself, and I’m interesting. I diversify my stuff, I don’t apologize, and I am what I am. Loudly.

Maybe I could have even MORE followers than I do. But if I have to dumb myself down and be “nice” more, then I don’t wanna!

That’s what social media SHOULD be. It should be people being themselves — for better or worse — and putting it out there without apologies, as long as they’re respecting others and not being dicks.

I disagree with people, often, and disagree loudly. Every now and then my passion gets the better of me and I disagree a bit disrespectfully — and that’s not cool. Generally, though, I manage to toe the line pretty well. I still isolate people, but that’s life when you’re bold.

Anyone who follows me because they like my piss-and-vinegar style of sardonic tweeting, but then unfollows me because we one day disagree on a topic, is clearly the sort of person who probably needs more hand-holding in friendship or debates than I’m given to provide. Or, they just plain don’t like diversity in people.

So, y’know, buh-bye.

Do you seriously WANT everyone to like you?

Have you SEEN what “everyone” entails?

These are the people who keep Jersey Shore on the air, who wear Ed Hardy, who slam Brittney Spears in one breath then buy her music in another… People who don’t know what they like, but change their tune once YOU do. People who kept King of Queens on TV for years, who think Tracey Morgan actually IS funny… People who celebrate mediocrity.

You want THEM to like you? What the fuck FOR?

“Hi! I’m mediocre! I’m not really different. But lotsa people follow me!”

Seriously. Maybe this makes me a bitch. Maybe I’m “classist” for thinking there could be better cultural diversity out there.

Shit, I’ll buy that for a dollar, Pat.

Yes, I think my tastes put me in a select group as far as appeal goes, but that’s what branding of any kind should do. I’ll admit, my online presence is a sort of “branding.”

Isn’t yours? It should be. It ain’t selling out — it’s smarting-up, man.

There are those who suggest every person who follows you rates a follow-back. Why? WHY?

In life, does every person who wants to be your friend get to be your friend? NO.

Why? Because not everyone has something to offer you. Often, what they seek from you is what they can’t provide you.

Just because a guy’s interested in me in the Real World doesn’t mean I return that interest — usually because they don’t have anything to teach me, or don’t inspire me in any way, or just don’t make me think I’ll grow from our relationship.

Why should Twitter or Facebook be any different? Because you fuckin’ smell a dollar at the other end? Get real, you likely won’t make a penny off that extra follower, you’ll spread your focus thin, know less about everyone in general, and that’s that. Way to be “social”.

When we stop worrying about winning EVERYONE over to our side, we’ll start having more honest interactions.

And that brings us to the other topic I disagree with from Victoria’s Social Media Camp. “Social media means being social in real life too.”

Yes, to an extent, sure. But you have much to lose from being too visible. One can greatly control their image online. The more you’re social, the less intrigue you create. The more you’re social, the more you have to try to live up to that highly edited, highly opportunistic way of communicating online — and the more you can put your foot in it, so to speak.

Online, I’m funny and edgy and brash. It plays all right in person, too. But there’s some kind of intrigue I’ve created, accidentally, from not attending events often. As a result, I’m now less likely to attend events because I know there’s more buzz from going to them rarely than there is from being omnipresent, and, also, I know the people I do conspire to meet with feel more “special” because I don’t make myself available to everyone all the time.

Seriously, it’s working for me.

A few of my thoughts?

  • Pick your events wisely.
  • Ensure you have people on your side that’ll be there when you do attend.
  • Always know your “safe port in a storm” — a person you sidle up to when things feel they’re slipping away.
  • Make sure you have connections worth making by attending those events, that it’s not just the usual suspects you’ve befriended time and again — that’s not networking, that’s “hanging out”.
  • Shut your mouth until you’re confident your thoughts are relevant and you know what’s honestly being spoken about and even what the going opinions in the discussion are.
  • Don’t steal thunder from presenters at events by hogging questions or diva-ing it up with your resume before you ask a question, because other attendees will resent you. Resentment breeds distrust; way to shoot yourself in the foot. If your question is awesome, that’s ALL the introduction you need.
  • Know the limits of your appeal. Don’t oversell yourself.
  • Less is more.
  • Be interested in others — you’re not as important as you think you are, and showing that interest can be compelling to them.

You can’t undo bad appearances. You can’t take back a first impression. If you’re not feeling like you’re “on”, then don’t risk the damage that can come from appearing at a non-essential event when you’re not on your game.

Networking takes mojo. Being different takes actually operating differently and even taking risks.

And when you play the game, think about the long-term, not just the one event. Will it really help you obtain new ground? Or is it just another networking event where everyone who’s hungry for clients are all out competing for the same piece of meat — like a pack of hyenas on a single little fox’s corpse?

Because that’s most likely the case.

Networking with other entrepreneurs is useful occasionally, but don’t kid yourself that it’s a surefire way to pay the rent. Pick your battles and pick them strategically. In so doing, be yourself, ‘cos no one else has what makes you “you”.

Question is: Do you know what that “uniquely you” thing is? Time to find out, if you don’t.

You should follow me on Twitter, you know. Click Here.

Closet Skeleton Pioneers

A friend of mine laughed at me the other day when I suggested that I was an “oversharer” on the internet.

“Hah! You? Oversharing?”

Yes, I know. Just a smidge. The thing is, I’m pretty good at toeing a line these days. I don’t tell you what I don’t want you to know. Pretty simple.

Learning how to toe that line, though, WHOO. I done fucked up on more than just a few occasions, s o much so that I jokingly referred to myself and those like me, who’ve been oversharing for years, as “Closet Skeleton Pioneers”.

By that I mean that everyone’s got skeletons in their closets — some lover they treated like shit, a job they stole office supplies from, a friend they betrayed, a speeding ticket, you name it.

EVERYONE has been a dick at one point or another. Dig deep enough and you’ll find dirt. (If not, you’re boring, live a little.)

Luckily for me, I hit the age of 21 before the internet got invented.

And my record’s been expunged. Hardy-har, right.

The point is, despite what you think you know about me, I consider myself a really ethical person and there are things I’ve done and said that I hope never see the light of day because I don’t want them taken out of context, since we all know context is EVERYTHING.

And that’s the problem. When you see a photo on the web or a snippet of a conversational exchange, context gets lost and objectivity goes right out the window with it.

We all know that’s true of many events in our lives.

Don’t we?

So who the fuck is doing all the judging?

Are you? Are employers? Is your lover?

Who’s doing the judging when my friend on Twitter reacted yesterday morning after he received an email after a husband found his wife “Facebook cheating” and sent the entire exchange out to their kids’ school’s parents mailing list? Ain’t just the hubby judging now, is it?

What were employers digging up that led Germany to introduce a new law that will make it illegal for them to do job-applicant background searches on Facebook? Probably they were digging up a lot of skeletons, right?

It goes without question: Things you say or do on Facebook, Twitter, and in other areas of the web can absolutely destroy your life.

But who is doing the judging?

There’s a reason it’s so damn hard to become a Saint in the Catholic Church, you know — perfection’s pretty fucking difficult to come by.

When I was a kid in Bible school, I was told a story about Jesus intervening in a stoning, saying to the angry crowd of sanctimonious rock-chuckers “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone”, or somethin’ thereabouts.

Really: In 2010, who’s without sin?

I mean, the Catholic Church outlawed SPEEDING, for crying out loud. Everything’s a sin. The Pet Shop Boys had it right.

When I look back upon my life
It’s always with a sense of shame
I’ve always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin
It’s a sin
Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin

Was Neil looking back at his life on the web? Woulda if he coulda then, I bet.

So, let’s just accept that everyone’s imperfect, and, instead, (like this guy here and his “degrees of evil” guide to killers), get ourselves a handy cheat-sheet of just what level of assoholic or just plain edgy social behaviour one is guilty of and how it ranks them on the Good Versus Dick scale, okay?

Such as:

  • Never emails or messages you back, but pathologically lurks and knows Everything That Happens every time you talk in person. Creepy but not mean.
  • Likes kinky sex and lets everyone know it.
  • Thinks “cleavage” and “profile pic” are synonymous.
  • Considers social media his personal dick-dipping pool and has more numbers in his contacts than the CIA does.
  • Just LOVES drinking wine and doing so liberally. While telling you all about it. Every single night.
  • Keeps getting caught in masturbatory lies that make them sound great, but you know through the grapevine that they’re barely making rent and are shopping at Thrift Stores, while judging others for doing the same kinda “posing”.
  • Has, like the majority of people over 21, tried marijuana or something else questionable at a party at least once.
  • Speaks frankly about their disgust for political figures or employers.
  • Has a spouse yet endlessly flirts with others, without boundaries, and in public.
  • Has a pulse.

I mean, seriously. Half the things I do on a daily basis would probably get me fired from most jobs, because I’d never keep my mouth shut about what I hate and why. My old employers got a giggle out of it, but I assure you — it’s an acquired taste.

Despite what you may think of my loudmouthed, in-your-face, drinks-too-much, full-of-innuendo online persona (and, yes, it somewhat exists offline, and without a backspace key), I’m a good person.

I’m a really, really good person.

I hold the door open for men and little old ladies. I say “please”, “thank you”, and “sorry.” I look people in the eye. I pay my taxes. I’m honest, I don’t steal. I’m a quiet neighbour, a good daughter, a great friend. I bake muffins for lovers. I pay back my debts.

So, if you want to jump to conclusions about me based on the image I portray on the web — knowing I’m a creative person with a gift for fiction — then you’re entirely entitled to do so, and I’m entirely entitled to think you’re a narrow-minded presumptive dick who’s not worthy of my time.

Or maybe I just see you as someone who needs to think outside the box a little more.

Who I am online might have hurt me in the past but it helps me now. I have something to gain from keeping this persona/point-of-view alive. There’ll always be a price I pay as a result of it, but I’m hoping that’s just the cost of doing business.

I’m not the only web-user with a persona, or with skeletons; I’m just hyper-honest about it.

As time goes on, though, all of us will have our skeletons exposed. Then, with more to compare and contrast, we’ll know who the real assholes are — unless, of course, none of it’s true.

And that’s the problem with reaching any conclusions based on the web.

How do you know it’s true? When everyone can enter information and nothing’s necessarily vetted on the web, how do you know it’s true?

Simple: You don’t.

Here’s how I operate.

I watch for how people actually are with each other, online and otherwise: How they argue, how they’ll never let up, how they want the last word, how they judge others, how they talk about others, how they scheme or gossip. Because it’s in their everyday words and behaviour that we really see who people are — special events, like parties with hijinks, are too out-of-context to really give us an inkling of who someone is.

Me, I’ve written a lot over the years, on topics about everything from drinking and drugs to kinky sex, but you’d be wrong if you thought I was particularly wild or exciting anymore.

I’m being boring nowadays. I just make it sound exciting.

And there you have the web in a nutshell, and why laws like Germany’s are long overdue — when it comes to the internet, you can’t believe everything you read. You certainly can’t dismiss it, either. But there are no litmus tests or polygraphs one can administer to online “personality” accounts to judge the veracity of their content.

It’s time people started realizing you really can’t judge any of us on the little you see of us online, and that the skeletons in our closet aren’t nearly as big or scary as you think they are, especially when brought into the light.

If you want to supplement what you know of someone by how they are online, and you can do so judiciously and with many grains of salt, then knock yourself out.

Just don’t be surprised when that spotlight hits your life, too.

In fact, some of your skeletons probably look awfully similar to ours. After all, dontcha know? It’s quid pro quo season on closet skeletons.