It’s no secret that I’m the ‘new kid’ when it comes to the newer and more involved social media tools. Just a month ago I had never heard of Twitter, and my only experience with the blog world (or the “blogosphere,” as my Dad was proud to be able to correct me) has been a puerile LiveJournal from my early college days that shall remain unnamed.
So I’m really diving in head first here, trying to bite off as much as I can feasibly chew and swallow without choking. I’m still learning, and the process definitely has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, I’m seeing more and more that I like about social media.
How ironic, then, that at the same time I was starting my venture into the blogosphere, Emily Gould was reflecting on hers ( “Exposed,” New York Times magazine, 5.25.08). This Sunday’s article is all about her work at Gawker, her (not-so) secret, reveal-all blog, Heartbreak Soup, and basically, how she got burned by burning others.
For a new blogger, the article spoke to some important points, like developing a thick skin ( “in the beginning, I was able to believe the compliments and dismiss the insults”), filtering overly-personal stuff ( “I was compulsively seeking gratification from strangers at the expense of the feelings of someone I actually knew and loved”), and remembering that once it’s out there, it’s out there for good ( “I wanted to take it all back, but in order to do that I’d have to destroy the entire Internet”).
One of the biggest obstacles for me has been bridging the divide between the Internet and “real life.” “The medium made it seem harmless,” Gould writes. “Sure, maybe our I.M. avatars wanted to hook up, but our flesh-and-blood selves would be careful to make sure things stayed professional.” For some reason I’ve never really believed the two were connected. The Internet is a fun and useful tool, but if something’s going on there that you don’t like or that doesn’t like you, it’s okay. It’s not real. You can just shut down your computer, and walk away. Have a milkshake. Ride your bike.
Maybe for a long time that’s the way it really was. I can remember the first time we got a computer and the Internet at home. My Dad and I were tickled that we were actually “chatting” with someone (say, anonymous71) “online,” who was actually hundreds or thousands of miles away.
But now, with all the advanced tracking tools and especially with the advent of social networking, you can’t be anonymous71 anymore. Everything you do online is recorded, and moreover–you’re talking to real people now. They’re not just a screen name; they have Flickr albums filled with baby photos and and Muxtapes packed with their favorite indie tunes. You can find out their favorite foods, where they’ve traveled, who they love.
Instead of shying away from this, I’m learning that I have to embrace it. Indeed, the most meaningful moments I’ve experienced thus far have come when I’ve used social media as a starting point to building real, human relationships. That’s when I’ve sees the real benefits–both personal and professional–of this crazy new world.
The Internet is evolving in to a way of life, and I, for one, feel lucky to be a part of it.