What’s the difference online?
Recently I have been trying to build the public profile of our little blog. One of accepted ways of doing this by visiting similar blogs or websites and adding comments on their articles, while subtly namedropping your own blog. The other thing to do is to follow everyone who follows you (even if this kind of means you are going around in circles).
Simple I thought.
This started out casually. I found a few blogs I liked that were ‘on brand’, read an article, had something to say about it, and popped in a comment. No change in stats.
So I read two or three articles, on even more sites, left a comment on each and hoped for a reply. No reply. No change in stats.
I was feeling a little unloved and rejected, but preserved. Making new friends is a bit like dating, you have to dust yourself off and try again.
And then I noticed that a few of the bloggers I was observing (read: at this stage, targeting) attended a meeting here in my own city. I need to know more. Where had it been? Where would the next one be? How could I organise an invite?
And this is where I felt I crossed the line.
I was no longer a casual follower, content to see where these people were going, I was now a predicator, hunting these people, trying to predict their next move. I had made the metaphysical leap from politely walking up to their front door and introducing myself, to hiding in their bushes and screaming my own name as they walked by.
It was easier to tell where this line was in the old days before internet. Followers were the sort of people who went to regular meetings in the parish hall, listened to the talk while munching on tea-cakes and didn’t think about it until the next meeting. If you had over 400 of them, you set up your own religion, L. Ron Hubbard style. Stalkers were the peeping toms who bought high-powered binoculars and waited outside windows for women to undress.
I don’t want to be a tom. I don’t want to be riffling through the post and discover not only have UPC upped their prices yet again for no reason, but I have been served a restraining order against someone I barely know and was kinda hoping to befriend.
Although trying to join an online community for a purpose is different from establishing friendships. It is really networking corporate style, whether we like to admit it or not. I am hoping that I and these bloggers will establish a mutually advantages following arrangement which brings forward both our endeavours – ‘friends with benefits’ if you will, rather than ‘victim and perpetrator’.
In a modern era, these concepts have taken on a whole new life. There was a day where it took the skills of Paul Daniels to follow more than one person at once, whereas these days it might be considered a little creepy or stalker-ish to be only subscribed to one blog or website, it’s the equivalent of having only one Facebook friend. It’s like fidelity and monogamy have taken on the seedy undertones that used to be associated with polygamy.
Also, it is totally acceptable to constantly and continuously follow someone like Niall Horan through social media; to be updated on his every move, and that of his social circle, and to be checking that information on a PC in your mother’s basement if you so choose. But try to hang out with him in person by showing up a few places unannounced and suddenly you are having a long detailed discussion with security and the police about your inappropriate stalking behaviour.
I feel like technology needs to come up with a solution to this problem, so you can tell when you are going over the mark. There should be some automated communication that says something like;
Dear Social-Media Recipient
Congratulations you are now following thirty blogs.
Unfortunately you are also stalking fifteen, please stop.
The Internet .
Otherwise people, not unlike me, will continue to post comments, follow blogs, and reach out for a little bit of bloggin’ love, without realising that the demarcation of social acceptability is somewhere behind them in the distant horizon.
So how does one do it? Answers on a postcard please – How does one join an online community, become one of the gang, insinuate themselves into their trust so that … no wait I’ve gone over the line again.