LTMG stands for “Letters to My Gayby”. It’s the advice I would give to my future child. The series starts here.
Oh, my gayby. How I worry for you. You see, I was brought up in a world sans texting, sexting, blogging, tweeting, facebooking, grindring, match.com-ing, trolling, flame-warring, etc. But, you – you, my poor, sweet thing – are going to have to deal with all that.
So, I think we should go over a few things. First, lets talk friends vs. followers.
A follower used to mean a person in a cult. As in, oh, Bobby? No, he’s not around much anymore and when he is around he’s usually wearing a sari and a flower petal, halter-top because he’s in this group, you see. He’s a follower of Uncle Babaganoush of the Freedom Light. What? No, he doesn’t play softball anymore or come by the bar for wing night on Wednesdays. He lives on a commune and follows Uncle Babaganoush of the Freedom Light and I think he has 4 wives.
That’s what a follower used to be. Mainly, a wack-o.
Now, it’s more like an internet entity. Behind the entity could be a) a mass marketer, b) an evil troll who lives in his mom’s basement, never leaves, and stalks the internet, c) an automated computer avatar made to look like it’s a real person, or d) a real person. If you’re going to strike up a connection with a “follower” – be it on twitter, or a “friend” – be it on facebook, or an avatar – who follows your blog, try and make sure it’s a (d) meaning a real person. Try and suss this out. It’s not always easy to do. I find real conversation works best.
Now, if you strike up a true conversation with said entity and it grows and eventually it even feels like a real, live, friendship, even if this happens – DO NOT MEET THIS SAID ENTITY IN A PARK.
Meetings in parks are for hookers, drug dealers, and dog walkers! Okay, maybe I’m overstepping on that one. What I’m trying to say is be careful. Do not meet anyone off the internet unless it’s in a public place and you are old. Very old. Hopefully, you are old enough to research owning a gun permit or you’re smart enough to bring gun show pamphlets with you. Display the gun pamphlets on the table in front of you as you wait for your date. This should serve as a warning to any would be predators. Okay, don’t really do that. What I’m saying is – bring a friend. Preferably a shit-bag crazy friend who would take a bullet for you.
Perfect time for a transition.
Let’s discuss who a friend really is. A friend is a person who you strike up a conversation with in a checkout line. The line is moving as slow as molasses and the cashier has the personality of sand paper. This gives you and your new friend plenty of time to talk. From that chance meeting, you start carpooling to your Mugs N‘ Macrame class together because you just realized that you’re both signed up for the Wednesday slot. You enjoy each other’s company so much that you barely make a mug and you barely macramé a thing, but by week two you know absolutely everything about each other. When winter comes around and your husband cheats on you with the lady who sells those wood burning stoves out the back of her van, you call up your friend. She rushes over with a bottle of pinot noir and a U-haul to help you move your stuff out. This is a valuable relationship – one to be nurtured and treasured. End of story.
Note for gayby – if you are a straight male, friendships are slightly different. The above works for gay men and women. I will explain.
If you are a straight male, your friendships go something like this – you meet your friend at an Applebottom’s every weeknight where you discuss your horrible, brainless, job and the fact that your girlfriend of ten years just left you. Every night your friend Bill commiserates with you, tells you that you’re better than that shithole job, that you should write like you’ve always wanted to, and that you deserve better than your lame ex. You lament some more, which Bill listens to willingly. At just the right time, Bill distracts you from your pain by pointing out the tits on the waitress in the cafe section. They are perfect. You can’t take your eyes off them. You are convinced, since you’ve had a bucket of 7 and 7’s, that you must have them. You are staring. The manager of Applebottom’s walks over and says, “Excuse me, sir, but you are staring at my wife in the cafe section and it’s making her uncomfortable.” You emphatically deny ever doing so, but the manager is getting mad. He’s getting so mad that his name tag seems to be twisting even further into his pectoral muscle. Pretty soon it may pierce a vital organ. He starts to raise his voice. He says that he’s going to throw you out. At this point, without saying a word, Bill gets up and socks him one. Right in the kisser. You both get up and walk out. Once outside, you and Bill stumble home while engaging in small talk. You’re both a bit drunk, so Bill thinks it’s okay to mention the one time he made out with your ex at a poker party. You turn and your fist meets Bill’s eye socket. He goes down. You leave him there. The next day Bill shows up at your house with a black eye to help you set up your computer. That’s a good friend.
Are you starting to see the difference?
Basically, what I’m saying to you is try and make real connections. Whether it’s in cyberspace or in the real world, you want deep and layered relationships even if it’s just with a handful of people.
There are people who will tell you that collecting a vast amount of followers on the internet is a good thing. There are people who will tell you that you need to be this way and that way to grow your “audience”. I say forget all that. Just do good work. Do good work that you’re proud of. The right people will find you. You don’t want just a huge collection of internet avatars and faceless accounts. A massive audience does NOT always mean your message is right or even good. After all, Hitler had a massive amount of followers, as did Manson.
Cultivate your deep relationships. Start new ones, sure. But, most importantly, try to do good work. Work you believe in that makes you happy. You can’t go wrong there and you can’t go wrong with a few good friends. It’s the recipe for a delicious life.