It is a hot afternoon in July, and I’ve just come back from a run—in the humid and stagnant heat of summer. It was physically exhausting to be outside, but something was eating away at my heart, and I needed to get the frustration out of my system.
(Image via tumbler)
I am a member of several fandoms. Some I am crazier about than others. But in all cases, I enjoy being part of a collective group of fans, many of whom I have never met, and spazzing out over the newest episode of a television series or such-and-such actor’s next public appearance. Fandoms can be fun. They can bring a smile to our face even when our day jobs have got us down. They appeal to our inherent desire to connect with others and build relationships. Today was one such day.
I am a fan of Top Gear and as it happened, one of my favorite actors was scheduled to appear as the ‘star in a reasonably priced car.’ (If you haven’t seen Sherlock or the newest Star Trek installment, you should really check them out). Yes, as Benedict Cumberbatch stepped out onto the set and entered the homes of millions of viewers around the world, the twitersphere exploded. Several fans lamented at how much original footage was edited out of the episode. Others who were lucky enough to attend the actual taping came to the rescue promising detailed reports of the witty banter once the episode had aired. In all the excitement, I too hoped to join the conversation. After wrestling with what I thought to be a witty reply, I clicked ‘tweet’ in the hopes that I would get some sort of response. But to my dismay I encountered a technical glitch. While I could see my post on my own timeline, it was non-existent on the original poster’s live feed. (If you are having this problem as well, you are not alone!) It was like I had finally gotten the courage to speak only to discover that I had lost my voice. Yet technical glitch or not, such is the Catch 22 of social media.
The great thing about social media is that it allows us to connect with others either anonymously or via our online alter egos. If we are interested, we ‘like’ the comment or even reply with a witty remark. If not, we ignore it and go about our merry way. Only in the realm of social media is it acceptable to ignore a person’s invitation to connect. Imagine trying to catch up with an old friend at a restaurant only to have them turn around three seconds later and talk to a stranger about a cat video they had seen on youtube. Social faux pas indeed! Yet this is also the great disadvantage of social media when it comes to making new connections.
Because we can pick and choose which parts of our personality to publish, we create an emotionless façade. We choose either to disseminate bile and troll the local forums or reach out to our followers and brighten their day. In both cases, we can still lead our everyday lives with none the wiser. Knowing this, why was I so frustrated when my tweet did not reach its intended audience? Perhaps because in that moment, I felt like that person in the restaurant, going out on a limb to connect with another human being only to be ignored in favor of an inconsequential cat video. But the reality of the situation is that I did not know this person. Whether or not they saw my comment, they were not obligated to respond. I had invested too much emotion and energy into this online persona and dare I say fandom as well. I needed to remember that my self-worth and confidence came not from the number followers I had but from the achievements I have made in the real world, the relationships I have built with people I can touch and interact with. I needed to remind myself that social media and fandoms, like fine dining and red wine, are wonderful gifts that should be enjoyed in moderation. In this sense, I guess I am blessed that I do not blog for a living.