The Importance of the Important in Social Media

In the Twitterverse and in the Blogosphere, if my readers will forgive my using these rather clunky, made-up terms, there is an occurrence which one can liken to the “You’re a nice guy, but…” speech at the end of a first and last date.  This is the dreaded – again, my apologies –  “unfollow”, when someone stops following your Twitter account or your blog.  Distinctions must be made, however, between unfollows and unfollows, which may not be apparent to those who do not blog or tweet.

If you are following someone who never follows you back, perhaps because they are very prominent, chances are you will not be offended if the prominent individual never interacts with you.  For example, I follow the National Gallery of Art’s Twitter feed, even though I have no expectation that they will ever interact with me on Twitter or read my blogs.  Though truthfully, I would not mind working in their executive level someday, but that is as may be.

If someone prominent follows you first, however, then this is a different matter altogether.  Whether it is a well-known journalist or magazine who likes your blogging/tweeting, or a celebrity who finds you amusing, having that kind of feedback can be wonderfully encouraging for a writer or for a user of social media to meet and connect with people.  It is like an endorsement that maybe you are a decent writer, or an interesting  raconteur, after all.

So when that well-known person or publication stops following your blog or your social media account, it can inevitably feel like a rejection. “What did I do wrong?” is the inevitable question you ask yourself.  And even if there is a legitimate, non-personal reason as to why the other has moved elsewhere, it still feels like a punch in the gut – or indeed, being told that you are not suitable dating material.

It is interesting to note that because of contemporary social media, we can actually experience these sorts of feelings, which used to be limited to those of our immediate acquaintance.  Our grandparents might have written a letter to a prominent person, institution, or publication and never had a reasonable expectation of receiving a reply.  Nor would that recipient necessarily have even been aware of our grandparents’ existence, unless of course they were prominent people in some way, themselves. Yet today, in part because of our celebrity-obsessed culture, if we interact with someone of prominence, we can feel as though we have a connection which we do not, in fact, have.

Last evening for example, I was watching a documentary about Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and various events she had to attend, including her annual garden party at Buckingham Palace. Although around 2,500 ordinary people were invited to the event, only about 100 would have the opportunity to be presented to the Queen herself.  The rest would have to make do with watching her do a walk-about in her back yard, before retreating to the royal tent to meet with fellow aristocrats, diplomats, and politicians, with whom presumably she would be more familiar on a personal level.  One of those in attendance who did manage to be presented to the Queen was surprisingly effusive about it, and how gracious and beautiful the Queen was in their few minutes together; the rest were disappointed to some degree, but got over it.

Another event was a visit to a county seat, where the Queen stopped in to a daycare center to meet with the staff and some of the mothers.  This was far more informal, as the children continued to play around the monarch, kicking balls and making noise as toddlers tend to do.  Most of the women shown were informally – that is, sloppily – dressed, and did not seem to care much that the Queen was there.  Indeed, some of them even said so after she had left, meaning the opportunity was wasted on them.

Most of those reading this pages, I would hazard a wager, are not celebrities or particularly prominent people.  Like me you are ordinary people who try to do the best you can each day with the talents and abilities you have been given, but still like to make time to read and to reflect on things for at least a few minutes each day – given the general length of the blog posts I write, you could hardly be otherwise.  I do not make a living from my writing, nor do I have any reasonable expectation of doing so: for me, it is something I feel called to do, but not something meant to be a full-time venture.

Perhaps for those of us who do write and try to actively engage with others on social media, and hope to be read more widely as I mentioned yesterday, when a prominent person takes an interest we are a little more aware of something beyond the “coolness” factor of it.  A connection like that could lead to positive and helpful feedback to improve our writing, and maybe even the chance to do a bit more writing for a wider audience.  When that connection is lost, an avenue for reaching a potential growth feels lost as well.  Those who do not write at length or often may not understand this, but if you have ever tried out for a sports team or competed for a role in a theatrical or musical performance and been cut after having made it to at least some higher level of selectivity, that is perhaps the closest analogy I can provide.

In the end, however, no prominent group or person owes us anything, if they voluntarily choose to interact with us via social media, and then for whatever reason choose no longer to do so.  One of the dangers of social media is a sense of over-familiarity which we would (hopefully) never attempt in real life, but which the relative safety of social media allows us to engage in.  One does not embrace or touch The Queen upon meeting her, unless one wants to be considered a bounder.

And who knows? Perhaps at some point a change of heart will occur, or another possibility may open up.  That would be the better way to deal with the realization that you are not, in fact, as important as perhaps you thought yourself to be – what a good lesson that is for all of us to learn.

The Queen takes a stroll in the back yard

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