When I first started doing this whole Social Media thang, as it were, I had a lot of ideas in my head. I wouldn’t say that was particularly my fault. My brain was, well, I don’t want to say it was manure mixed with soil, but the grounds were very fertile for seeds of ideas and concepts. There were many many farmers who came up to me and said, “Hey, look, it is a new person, and her brain is ready to be planted with rows and rows of my ideas! I meant, best practices! Yes!” And so, ideas were planted in my head, and they started to bloom and grow. In a twist that only the makers of Inception could have conceptualized and made into a B-grade movie, these ideas became so engrained in how I did things that I thought they were MY ideas. I’m waiting for you still, Leo DiCaprio.
Now, I speak as if I am a grizzled veteran, but in fact I have only been at this game for about a year.5. Yes, in baby years I’m 18 months old, just teething and learning that I can stuff either my entire foot or my entire fist into my mouth. These are very exciting times.
Much like an infant at 18 months, I am also learning to sort of explore the world a bit on my own. I’m starting to look at the ideas that were planted in my head and I’m sort of starting to think, “Eh…but, that’s not really how it is, is it?” No, I answer to myself. And the idea of “give to get” is the first planted idea that I am “outting” as a false idea. It’s a myth, a legend, like the unicorn or…well, other myths. Here, let me show you what I mean.
The Myth of Givus Togetus
Once upon a time, there was a poor soul who started tweeting and facebooking and blogging and doing other things with “ing” at the end. The name of this non-gender-specific personage was Givus Togetus. It was Givus’ belief that the more that was done for others, the more would be received. In the online world in which Givus lived, this meant that if you did a favor for someone, when you needed something they would be there to have your back. If you stood up for someone in a tight spot, why, that person would be on the look-out for ways to help you. Givus noted that similar ideas lay at the foundation of most major religions. But that’s for another time. The End.
“But in the real world, there are things that we can’t change…”
So sang my man Roy Orbison, and boy was he right on that one. He probably was not singing about social media or the give to get myth, but the concept is basically the same. To wit, most people give so that they can get, and the getting far outweighs the giving in most scales of measurement.
For example, this pattern of behavior really cracks me up. Tell me if you’ve seen it before. So, you do this nice thing for a person. Yay, how nice of you, long live Givus Togetus. In return, the person writes a post on his or her own blog site and mentions you. Nice, right? Except that best practice indicates that once you’re mentioned in a post, it’s good to promote said post as a thank you, or at the very least comment on it. Logic also indicates that if you drive traffic to a post, that is beneficial to the site owner. So, while you did get a mention in the post, you are actually giving once again to that same person. Kind of sneaky, right?
As they say in one of my all time favorite movies, Chicken Run, “Let’s face the facts, ducks.” People aren’t inherently evil, for the most part, whether online or offline. But boy are people self-centered. The concept of give to get sounds really good, and you can do a lot of giving and say that you are walking that walk. But if you are giving in ways that are actually getting, or if you are getting a lot more than you give, you are sort of missing the mark. Most importantly, if you are giving, literally, just to get, you are also missing the point. It’s all about Karma and what you send out and getting in the end the love that you make and other fluffy things. It’s nuanced, baby.
And most people just aren’t living in a nuanced world. At least from what I’ve seen.
Myths are nice because they show us how the world could be, or maybe how the world allegedly was at one time. But many myths prove only to be things that Joseph Campbell tells us about, and nothing more. In my experience, it seems that the concept of giving to get in the online world is a mythical creature named Givus Togetus, who is buried with King Arthur and Sir Lancelot somewhere in the hills of the UK. Probably near Abbey Road.
What do you think?
Image by Anu-Liisa Varis. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/busangane