Have you ever envisioned your life as if you were living a movie or a television show?
OK, now answer that question honestly. You know how it goes. You’re in the car and you’re sure there are credits rolling behind you. You enter a room and you’re positive you hear either grand music or a laugh track. Right?
I don’t know about you, but to me Social Media sometimes seems like a crazy movie that we enact on little boxes of varying sizes. I was thinking about that today as I watched various people “do their things,” as it were, and I realized that amongst the people I see on a fairly regular basis online, there are two movies playing. Those movies are Heathers, that cult classic from 1988 (holy cow I can’t believe it’s that old!) and Whale Rider, from 2002.
The Heathers Crowd
So, I was in grade school when Heathers came out apparently (I thought of myself as much older at the time and yet was sure high school was being depicted accurately), but the movie made quite an impact on my life. In fact, it’s one of those movies that makes more and more sense as you move past high school, unfairly enough. If you’ve never seen it, Heathers, in a nutshell, is about a clique of extremely popular high school girls. Winona Ryder plays a sort of outcast girl who has managed to get into their clique, but to do so, she has had to stop talking to her less cool friends. The plot gets a bit more convoluted beyond that point, and since that’s the theme that’s most relevant here, I’ll leave it at that.
Now, I don’t want to say that there are people online who remind me of the Heathers (dressing alike, talking alike, same objectives, same perspectives). However, I would like to kind of nudge you towards noticing that there are most definitely cliques out there in the virtual world. There are tiny groups of people who only seem to talk to each other on Twitter, who only seem to comment on each others’ posts, and who only seem to reference each other in their own posts. Many of these cliques, like the Heathers, seem glued together by a general sense of superiority over everyone else in the sea of Social Media users.
It would be easy to say that these are communities, not cliques, but if you have ever tried to “break in” to one of these communities, you will find the gate quite securely closed. You might get a kind word here and there, but you’d have to do a lot of legwork to become one of them.
The Whale Rider Crowd
Now, there’s another crowd out there that could be considered close cousins of the Heathers crowd, but I call them the Whale Rider crowd. Now if you haven’t seen Whale Rider, you’re really missing out, and I can’t really do it justice in a sentence or two either. Let me put it this way. Whale Rider is about a little girl who simultaneously learns to preserve and break traditions to help her Maori people. She learns about leadership while also learning that no one person is strong unless the whole people are with him or her.
The Whale Rider type of online person may have a position that looks very much like leadership, and they may have people that they talk to on a regular basis, but you never (or seldom) get the sense that you are intruding on a secret yet 100% public tree house meeting. They draw people into the community rather than intimidate people with warnings of inferiority. They lift others up not because it’s the cool thing to do but because they know they’re only as strong as the weakest link in the chain that is their community.
The Pros and the Cons
There are, of course, great advantages to being a Heather. You know that you will always have people supporting you. If you get in a fight, you know exactly who will step in on your behalf, wherever you are. If you write a blog post, you know who will be commenting and tweeting it out. If you need a favor, you know exactly who you can call on.
The cons of being a Heather? You’re limiting your capacity to meet new people, to engage with new perspectives, to grow your online experience. You will only grow as much as the other Heathers let you. The other problem with being a Heather is that Heathers can get jealous of each other. There may come a time when one of you skyrockets to success, leaving the rest of the crew behind (whether accidentally or maliciously). Without lots of other people in your corner, you could find your supportive crew suddenly thinned to, well, to you.
There are likewise pros and cons to being a Whale Rider sort. Many of the cons mirror what the movie is about. How can you attain leadership when other people think you’re not right for it? How can you preserve a community that is always changing because new people are arriving? How can you maintain older relationships while always building new ones? It’s a tough juggling act. In this scenario, you don’t have a single core group of supporters. The cast changes constantly as people ebb and flow in your portion of the online world.
However, the Whale Rider crowd has a few advantages on their side, just like the Heathers do. Rather than a clique, the Whale Rider people have a community build on a steady and ever open exchange of thoughts and ideas. There is not (normally) a need to deride anyone because anyone is welcome. This can make this crew of people seem less intimidating or snobby or locked off.
What online movie are you starring in?
Which online movie are you starring in? Do you have a preference for one over the other? Is there another online movie crowd that splits the difference?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
This is post #51 in the Engagement Series. If you’re worried about missing a post, please feel free to hit that little subscribe button. I promise, I only stalk you if you want me to!
1st Image by Hilde Vanstraelen. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/biewoef
2nd Image by Paul Le Comte. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/compie