I always die a little bit inside when people can’t be honest with themselves and you about why they do things.
What inevitably makes this worse is that, in the world of instant communication where nothing is lost and 78% of all messages have an inbuilt subtext, you can normally work out what happened before you’re told you screwed up. That makes many actions all the more ridiculous, and I realise I probably need a Social Networking Primer for how I do stuff, because I’m getting mightily fed up as being painted as the Bad Guy in situations where actually, there is no villain. I deliberately use the male pronoun too, because there’s also been a lot of stupid this weekend about people taking offence at things that actually aren’t offensive at all. This isn’t about conceding rights to keep people happy, there are some fairly serious issues at play out in the World right now and people really do need to work out which bit you sit on and which bit gets dug into the ribs of the person who should have stopped talking three Tweets ago.
This means, Point One of my Primer is simple.
1. If you’re going to write stuff, stand by it.
I get the people who use Twitter as a coffee table. I understand the conversational back-roads and the delicate strands that pull everyone into everyone else’s sphere. The fact remains that the half a dozen people with the chairs they have their names on will rule that roost, often with a rod of iron. This is how life works: ringleaders, head honchos, mother hens. Don’t mess with the chair placement and make sure you don’t speak unless asked and woe betide you try and suggest they put half fat milk in that Pumpkin Spiced Latte for variety. [*]
Ultimately, many people aren’t writing for the same reasons you are. Mostly it is about their lives with an occasional does of drama and intrigue. When you’re strung together with a Game as a common theme, that can be a problem, especially if the Cool Kids decide that the people making that game aren’t nearly as worthy as they should be in the current climate. Be ready to be made to feel like a pariah because you’re clinging onto the rungs of an apparently sinking ship, but don’t let the fact everyone else thinks you’re too old for this shit stop you from saying what you want, when you want it. Just remember not to intentionally offend anyone, be polite, use decent grammar and most importantly be ready to defend every punctuation mark you place.
If you screw up, apologise and move on, because nobody likes a whiner.
2. Be prepared for inevitable disappointment.
If you throw yourself 110% into everything you do, you will get laughed at, and ridiculed (with most points inbetween) all the way to receiving levels of worship that may well border on psychotic. Most people however will stick around until you’re either noise or annoying and then wander off to do something else. This is what limited attention spans does for the Human Race. There are those out to get something from you, or use you as a stepping stone, or simply throw rocks at you until you fall over. That’s about 1% of your total audience: the rest are decent, hardworking and rarely get the chance to interact with you because they have a life away from the Internet. When they do therefore, treat those comments like the 24 carat solid gold that they are.
If you’re lucky, you might make two or three REALLY good friends via Social Networking. I’d not push your luck on that point either, if you manage any more you are clearly some kind of Wizard and should be revered as the trailblazer that you are. The point here is simple: the people who you’d like to be friends with rarely end up being so. Inevitably you discover that the likes you share are superficial, normally when it becomes apparent that priorities don’t extend to writing daily blog posts or getting excited about the latest online developments. It’s not you, it’s them, and it is for the best, because in the end you’re not what they wanted to begin with. You make too much noise. Shush now.
3. If it stops being fun, WALK AWAY.
Don’t hang around because of a misguided sense of responsibility to friends. Don’t justify your existence via an increasingly untenable list of half-assed excuses. Seriously, if this crap hacks you off that much WHY THE HELL ARE YOU STILL HERE? Go find your own personal Nerdvana, because no-one else is going to do that for you, trust me. What many people who follow me clearly fail to grasp is that that’s exactly what this is for me. I’m a pig in shit, rolling around having the time of my bloody life. I can talk to people across the World in a heartbeat, I have discussions with people on numerous continents. I don’t care what you do, or what you look like, or what you do when you’re not at your Computer.
Treat me with respect and consider me as valid, and that’s really all you ever need to do, because people get out what they put into life, and never was this more accurately demonstrated than on the Internets.
I’ve upset a bunch of people in the past by not realising an item was named after a friend of theirs in-game and subsequently ridiculing said item in genuine ignorance. Then there’s that guy who spends his life waiting for people like me to slip up, and when I did one night he spread me all over the walls. I can pretty much recall every flashpoint in my life since I started doing this, and the people behind it, because I’ve taken every single instance of failure and used it in an attempt to get better at doing the job of learning to exist in a Digital World. I’m passably average at this, no expert by any means, and every day really is a School Day. The trick, I find, is to try and get the truth as a starting point and except nothing less as an explanation when things go wrong.
Most of the time however, I’m pretty much fumbling in the dark.
[*] I love them, and they are also a wonderful metaphor to boot.