I’ve never been completely mystified by celebrity. If I had been, it all would have come crashing down a few years ago. See, there was this local musician whom my family and I had been supporting since he got started. We went to some of his first concerts, which people sadly talked through, causing him to leave early. I found him on MySpace and kind of joined the community of people there. He imported lots of blog posts and I had fun commenting on them. A lot of them were thought provoking. Then, suddenly, he started getting kind of…pissy is the best word…with his fans. So, in response to one of his posts, I made a flippant, joking remark that he was being a jerk. I didn’t think anything of it. I had said it playfully. People, including him, and said things that were a lot worse.
About a month later, I saw a new post from him titled something like, “To the person who called me a jerk.” He wrote that the person (me) should burn in hell, etc etc. Then he posted a 15-minute angry song that he and some other guys wrote in my honor (about how mean I was). The idea of celebrities in a glowing light of out-of-this-worldness was doused forever. (Eventually, his mom figured out who I was, that I had been a long-time loyal fan, and he apologized in his blog). Turns out he was a dude who was going through a hard time. Also, he could sing really well.
People are People
About a month ago, when I was perusing Twitter as I am wont to do with my morning coffee, I saw a tweet from Lisa Barone. Something that someone had tweeted at her right at the crack of dawn on a Monday. I thought that Lisa must have been exaggerating that people talked to her that way just because she didn’t reply to every single mention. Then, Lisa made a post, and the vitriol with which some people responded was hard to fathom. Literally calling her stupid, heartless, etc. I have seen this with other people who have influence in the Social Media world too. It seems like there are people out there who think that once you reach a certain number of followers or a certain point of influence, you stop your life as an actual human being. Well, guess what? Target practice is now closed as far as I’m concerned.
Breaking News: There are some truths you need to swallow
Apparently, we need to break some things down about the upper echelon of the Social Media world. It has always seemed to me like this stuff should be obvious, but maybe it needs to be framed out. Pick your people. Everyone encounters and respects different individuals.
1. These folks are folks. They have families, they have lives and even jobs beyond the realm of your computer screen. They have, many of them, squishy hearts and the capacity to endure an awful lot of poo. Don’t test that endurance by adding to the poo.
2. They may not always respond to you. I am lucky in that I have a great family of followers on Twitter right now, but the volume isn’t such that it’s hard for me to keep up with @ messages. For someone who has been around longer than me, who is more experienced than me, who has more knowledge than me, and who has amassed more followers (exponentially), the volume of mentions, retweets, and direct messages is hard to fathom. As much as it would be awesome to think that world revolves around any one of us, it just ain’t so. Be patient.
3. They are trying to make money. This is the thing that causes me the most confusion. A large majority of the people in Social Media are using the capabilities new technology affords them to make money. There are countless ways this can be done. Some people simply promote their business openly. Others offer information but supplement the free data with opportunities to pay them for their work. I read a really interesting post by Matt Shaw this evening that discusses this issue in detail. He talks about affiliate marketing in particular as it exists on blogs. As I commented over there, the fact is that the information we get from these immensely brilliant and experienced people was not available for free a decade ago. Maybe not even five years ago. If you wanted information from the experts, you had to pay for it. Now, thanks to their genuinely good hearts and improved technology, a lot of these folks are going out and posting info they used to charge for. And yet…it always seems shocking when we are reminded that this is all part of how they make their living. What’s up with that?
4. They were here first. Yes, that matters. These folks will continue to be thought leaders because of their brains, not because of their “influence” on Twitter or because of the money they make or don’t make. Where was I regarding Twitter when Julia Roy was already tweeting her heart out? “Gah, what a dumb website.” Where was I regarding blogging when folks like Jay Baer, Chris Brogan, and Denise Wakeman were mastering the craft? “Hey, this is like mass e-mailing my friends.” When it comes to technology and Social Media stuff, these folks sniffed out gold before I knew we were looking. They probably beat you to the punch too. That’s not a cause to be bitter. That’s a cause for admiration.
5. They don’t really owe YOU anything. Some people think that the egg came before the chicken (or the other way around) and that much like the Beatles, these folks are owned by Social Media users. “My traffic got you that car.” “My link to your book got you that nice rug on your floor.” Well, guess what folks…you’re posting those links and driving traffic to that information because it is strong stuff, helpful, and because it catches fire as soon as it’s posted. That comes from these folks, not from you. Your links & posts are great, but that’s all part of THEIR plan. Not yours.
Do I sound protective?
Darned right. I am biased on this issue. I’ve had the great privilege of getting to know some of these folks, like, you know, as humans. They are great people in my experience. They are brilliant people. Their brains are intimidating, their kindness makes it bearable. It’s a great balance. The more I get involved in Social Media “stuff,” the more time I see ticking away as I blog, post to Facebook or Twitter, or try to keep up with my LinkedIn groups (plus like, that whole regular job thing) the more I respect what these folks do.
There is really no need to shoot anyone down. There’s plenty of room. If you think all of these folks are dumb, prove it using the high road. Anyone can take a swipe. Grab your cajones and do what they do. Walk their walk. Do it better. Then say, gently, I told you so. Till then, I’d ask you kindly, in the immortal words of Chris Crocker, to “Leave the leading minds aloooooone.”
1st Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/barunpatro
2nd Image by Mark Anderson. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/4score