As the days go by, I find myself having the following conversation with alarming frequency.
Them: So what do you do?
Me: Oh, I’m a writer.
Them: Oh nice. Me too.
Me: Really? Weren’t you into IT (or medicine or finance or… you get the drift)?
Them: Oh I still am. I have a blog that I update frequently. I’ve realised being a writer is great fun!
Ah! You have a blog. That’s why you’re a writer. Tell me more about how you’re a photographer because you have a fancy DSLR? Or because you downloaded Instagram (which, as a photographer friend rightly said, sounds like a grandmother-vending machine)?
Everyone’s a writer. A photographer. A social media expert.
Okay, then. I tinkered with my toaster and my tubelight. Does that give me a double PhD in mechanical engineering?
I remember a dialogue from ‘FRIENDS’, where Rachel tells her sister, “So I went to the zoo, and now I’m a koala bear!”
I laughed then, and I laugh now. Because I don’t get how we are any different.
Social media makes people believe they can don so many hats, and become experts at them in no time. Their ‘loyal followers’ tell them their blog is fantastic. Their Instagrammed photos are ‘ZOMG SO AWESOME’ and voila! expect a bio that goes, “Writer. Photographer. Social media enthusiast. Traveler. Dreamer (What does that even MEAN?).”
Has anyone else noticed how there’s a whole difference in the way we conduct ourselves online? I generalize, but more often than not, our virtual self is very different from how you really are in the offline world.
It’s easy to project yourself as the ‘social media expert’, what with the Twitter followers, the Foursquare checkins to the fancy places, the Instagramming of the expensive food, the Pinteresting of the arty hobbies. We have it all figured out.
In fact, if an average person’s typical virtual activity is to be believed, he just drinks fancy beer and JD (Screw Kingfisher!), eats steak, cupcakes and risotto for lunch AND dinner, attends ‘tweet ups’ and checks into the clubs that take up half your salary as the entry. And don’t even get me started on the ‘drunk tweeting’.
Whatever you do, you’re wondering how your post will seem to the 5000+ followers you have. Is it cool enough? Is it funny enough? How many likes / RTs have you gotten? Where are the ‘cool Twitterati’ hanging this weekend? What places are they recommending? Oh, they’re off to the Metallica concert? Great! I’ll join them too. Even if ‘Nothing Else Matters’.
Then there is that breed who will be at your party, but instead of having a great time, they’ll spend time telling their social networks how much fun they’re having.
You’re networking socially, and you’re social networking offline too.
What is happening to us? Why do we care so much about what a bunch of people, who we know just from the internet, think? Why are we so eager to be in their good books? Why don’t we just eat our food like the good ol’ days, instead of first clicking pictures and posting to our 300 social media accounts?
What is the need to keep posting photos when on a vacation, instead of just being in the moment and taking in the scenery?
I’m not going to be holier than thou, though. I have some 3500+ followers, myself. But trust me, when I’m out partying, that’s all I’m doing. And also because, I don’t think I’m interesting enough for people to follow live tweets of my night outs.
Let’s just drop the pretense and stop keeping up with the Virtual Joneses. That’s a battle you’re mostly going to lose. Because whatever fancy thing you’re doing, someone out there is one-upping you, and better. Save the brand image for the brands, please.
Now excuse me, while I go uninstall Instagram!
Mukta Lad is a Copy Supervisor with Grey Worldwide. Follow her @mooodles, or not.