Hey folks. This isn’t an angry post or a funny post. It’s actually a bit sobering. So…sorry about that. It’s just that, as I’ve browsed my various social networks over the last day or two, I’ve come to a conclusion, one suspected and maybe even previously hinted at but never really directly addressed: despite the profusion of “connections,” in my life, I hardly feel connected to anyone or anything at all; like a plant with a vast root network with tremendous breadth and negligible depth.
Sometimes I’ll visit my blog and, because it has randomly signed me out, I will see it as a stranger would (instead of from my typical administrative perspective). One thing I’ve noticed is that, by merit of my having linked to social networks for publication purposes, the subscribe section hilariously misinforms visitors that over 500 people “follow” my blog. It counts my Facebook “friends,” Twitter followers (bots and all), and even my few “faithful” Tumblr adherents. All are counted as “following” me.
But are they? Not a chance.
I see a lot of surveys go by on my dashboard designed for coping with boredom. They come in a variety of forms but the common denominator is that you provide a list of potential questions, and your followers are supposed to pick a few for you to answer. Alternatively, you provide a list of ways people might feel about you (impressed, annoyed, aroused, etc.) and wait to see what the random people who like and reblog your stuff think about the purveyor of that stuff.
My reaction to seeing those surveys is always the same: I marvel at the notion that there are people, even people with whom I interact, who might actually post those and have someone bother to answer them. Who might actually have a follower in their network who finds them attractive or engaging, who would genuinely be upset if, say, they announced they were deleting all their profiles and going off to live an unplugged life. It’s so foreign to me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I’m leaving no such impact. I continue writing and posting and tweeting and sharing because I’m getting something from it, not because I’m delusional enough to believe that there are people who read those things and care about them and yet never post, never like, never comment on, and never share them. Those people don’t exist.
My blog, my Tumblr, my Facebook, and to a lesser but still relevant extent my Twitter, are echo chambers. I write under the illusion of impact, but when I drop the fancy machinations long enough to peek out from behind the curtain, I know there’s no real audience to speak of out there. Simply the occasional passerby who may, on rare occasion, toss a handful of change into the guitar case out of pity, maybe even out of the minor sort of pleasure which will be forgotten two blocks and a conversation down the road.
Of course, this isn’t a rant, just a (sad) observation. Aware that most of the people who at one time claimed interest in my life are currently showing nothing of the sort, I can’t help but shudder at the thought of how many of the people I follow have been similarly ignored by me. If I were to count on my hands the people whose lives I’m actually, really, still a part of in a meaningful way, would I even lift every finger? And as for those I’ve ceased to have a real connection with? It’s not so matter a question of if but of who, how many? And are any of them upset by it, the way I know I am about some of the relationships I’ve lost?
I don’t know.
I guess the point is I never will.
I do really appreciate those of you who are there, who do read, who do share, who do answer. For the last couple weeks I sought in vain to get email feedback on something I’d written, and despite hundreds of “followers” in my own networks and the hundreds or thousands more reached by the few who graciously shared my request with their “followers,” I received exactly no emails. And I fixated a bit on that zero, when I think I ought to have fixated on the names of the few who actually cared enough to attempt to promote me. Even those who by their own admission weren’t personally affected by or interested in the topic, but knew I cared and figured someone they knew might care too.
I don’t really know how to end this post since it was more a stream of thought than anything with a clear point. I suppose all that remains is to say if you read this and felt like I’m taking you for granted, and wish I weren’t, please say something. Seriously. No shame. I’m already saying mea culpa. Give those words direction ^_^
And everyone else: sometimes it’s not the roots that matter, but the flower; maybe rather than focusing on the water I’m drawing in, I should focus on the sunlight I reflect. Not maybe. Definitely.
I saw a group of girl scouts outside our local grocery store the other day, and it reminded me of a lighthearted piece I did long ago on “The Forge,” the name I gave to my writings when I was a teenager, the banner beneath which I actually wrote things which brightened people’s days. I guess there’s a time at which people wanted me in their life because talking with me didn’t feel like a game of Russian Roulette. And I think it’s safe to say I’ve lost that. I’m not blind or deaf. I know my name has become synonymous with a certain degree of belligerence. I know when someone wants a sentence they get a paragraph, and some refrain from starting conversations with me the way one refrains from beginning “the song that never ends;” because they know exactly what it is they’re getting into.
And I’ve just surpassed the 1000 word count. So, point made, point taken. If you need me, I’ll be off talking to myself.