Every day this year I vowed to write – and with this promise, I send a bit of blood, sweat, tears, and cliches out into the Interweb AKA the vast mecca of others just like me. Closely tied to this commitment is my pledge “not to care” if I don’t get favorable (or any) response. It’s been 70 days and I haven’t made a blip of progress on the “do not care” scale.
It’s a popularity contest in this world; it starts in grade school and it continues on to The Internet. Success is measured in followers and bonus if your posse has a name. Along with qualifications such as degrees and experiences, nowadays you need to submit a sample of writing along with your social networking clout to see if you’re worthy or popular enough. It’s Mean Girls times a million.
I was perplexed by this modern day writing marketing mystery. The quality of your writing is judged alongside the quantity of people you bring with it. At least back in the day if you were published in a print publication, they estimated the circulation and used some mathematical formula to calculate how many eyes see your words. In today’s world, you can have perpetual shelf life via bits and bytes.
I click “Publish,” take a deep breath, and wait for the Likes even though I’ve learned a Like is not an indicator for greatness. Does clicking Like actually mean you enjoyed the writing or is it a token of support? One person liked every single piece I wrote and later I learned she hadn’t even read them all yet. Is there an unspoken Like etiquette? Is it tit-for-tat? ❤ for Emoji? Have we evolved into a Like-for-Like world?
After two months a Facebook friend reached out in a heartfelt message to send words of encouragement, but, more importantly, to let me know my words resonated with her. I had no idea. Another day, I ran into an acquaintance who quoted a line to me from one of my essays. “You’ve been reading?” I asked and she told me how she binge-read through breakfast. She had never clicked Like on any of my pieces but her lack of Like turned out not to be silent thumbs down. Instead, the Like she gave me in real life resonated much louder.
If Likes were not tracked, would you be more generous with them? Do you even think about who is seeing what you Like? Most importantly, by not clicking on the magical thumbs-up, are you actually saying, “I don’t like it?”
I reflect on my own liking habits and realize I am a strict, stubborn, stingy Liker. There is a logical explanation for this. I used to be loose with my Likes, back in the 2008-2009 era when I rocked my online presence. But Facebook came up with the crazy Big-Brother tracking which documents everything you ever Liked and displays it for everyone to judge. This immobilized me. I had over Like paralysis. Now I treasured every Like and doled it out Catholic school teacher strict – only if it was worthy of an A. For me to click the little thumbs-up, the photo had to be in focus – minimum requirement. I usually do not Like food photos and also, won’t Like political commentary because I don’t have much expertise in the arena.
As I’ve launched my new project, diving back into the social media black hole, my vulnerability factor is growing more rapidly than my “do not care factor.” As an artist, I am constantly reminding myself this is a solitary process and I shouldn’t judge a project until it’s complete (almost 300 days to go). I’m not sure if more Likes will ultimately translate to virtual applause or validation. In the meantime, I feel like Julia Robert’s character in Notting Hill, when she says, “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”