Your Job Just Changed

Guess what? You’ve got something new to add to your job description.

There is a receptionist I know.

She works at a busy, busy practice. But when you’re in her waiting room, you feel like you’re in her living room.

She’s warm. She delights in seeing you (and “you” could be you, me, your mother’s friend, Carl). But what touches me the most is that she looks you in the eye and greets you by your name. And I am ennobled in her waiting room.

I’ve wondered if that’s part of her job description. And what a brilliant description! Part of your job is to see and celebrate people.

Don’t blame me, I found out from Caitie’s ‘The Lightning Notes.’

Yeah, the receptionist at my doctors office doesn’t do this at all, but you know what? I can be the patient who she looks forward to. Not for some narcissistic reason, expecting the red carpet to be rolled out for me when I arrive.

No, the opposite. We’re the ones doing the work.

When we leave any establishment we should leave a wake of good feelings. In a world where customer facing service is seen as a battle front we can be filling those “soldiers” with respect and care and kindness.

You’re hired.

Willed from Wires is Still Alive

When I got rid of all my stuff and left NYC in 2010, the only thing I wanted to do was hang out with my friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. In between all those hang sessions were quiet times in coffee shops and bus stations. With some of that downtime I started drawing again. As you can see by the photo above (from 2012), I was drawing quite a bit.

Then someone offered to buy some of my robot drawings. I got custom orders. A few bulk orders. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I was selling drawings of robots out of my back pack.

I made a small run of a zines filled with my robot drawings. I made city-specific pieces and posted them online to help pay for bus fare, or coffee for the week. Over the years my Willed From Wires Big Cartel store sat there, doing it’s job.

It’s 2018 and I still get the occasional order for a robot drawing or two. Mostly former clients, but the occasional random order. Willed From Wires remains a hobby, very much on the side, one that I don’t push much. I last made this depressing Tweet from the @willedfromwires account in 2013.

I’m writing about all this now – in 2018 – to illustrate that everything we do creatively can still live and grow without feeding the social media beast. I can’t do several things full-time. No one can. But we can do side things that are actually on the side, and they can still flourish and grow.

Practice the Wake-Up Practices

I love this bit from ‘How we Handle the Stuff That Gets in the Way‘ from Caitie Whelan,

The most enlivening counter I’ve found to this are regular wake-up practices.

Walking, driving, making dinner without music, podcasts, phone calls. Meditation or contemplation, even if only for two minutes. Writing down any insights that arise in silence, no matter how minor they seem.

When I’m stuck, staring at my computer screen and shaking my fist, unable to focus, to finish, to create, I remember the wake-up practices. Usually I get on my shoes and go for a walk in the woods or a drive to nowhere in particular. Just something that requires a bit of focus on the present – don’t drive off the cliff, stay on the walk path – and that wakes my spirit. It clears some of the channels in my brain that got filled up with static and mush.

Be Your Own Press

Support the work of people you admire. If you’re broke, just tell some friends about them – they could probably use the promotion! Hate the “garbage” out there, getting all the press?

BE YOUR OWN PRESS.

You’ve got social media followers. Tell them about awesome things.

You’ve got friends in your inbox. Email them.

You’ve got friends you message. Send them a link.

Schedule Time for Good Things

I’ve always thought of my running as a pretty private undertaking. Sure, I share some photos on occasion on social media, but compared to other runners I appear quite reserved. When I started running back in 2016 I decided to not really write about my “fitness journey” because I feared not following through. What if I stopped after my first 5K race? Or if I got hurt and couldn’t run for a month or six? What then?

It’s been nearly two years now, and I think I’m a runner now. I guess maybe it’s safe to write about it.

Continue reading

Be Your Own Algorithm

Your heartfelt posts and whimsical prose may only be seen by 10% of your actual audience. It’s not your fault, it’s just the way the system is rigged.

If Twitter shut down tomorrow, could you re-connect with the people you interact with everyday? That friend in another country that posts great photos from coffee shops? Or that friend two states away that’s always recommending great music?

Get an email. Get a phone number. No, you can’t keep in touch with everyone. That’s a full statement. You can’t keep in touch with everyone. Just as you can’t really be friends with 542 people on Twitter.

Then when you have phone numbers and email addresses you can speak directly. No one else is butting into your conversations. There are no ads. Your conversations are not being mined, a profile is not being built, your interactions are not being mapped by AI.

Yes, it’s a bit jarring at first. Your interactions with friends, no longer appearing next to explosive news reports, and tragic school shootings, but you’ll adjust. And you’ll get work done. And you’ll still have strong connections with friends.

It can happen, without a social media algorithm coming into play because you’re the one choosing, intentionally seeking who you want to reach. You are the algorithm.

 

You Don’t Have Time to Read All the Comments

I learned back in the mid 2000s to never read the comments. When you give a bad review of an album, fans (and sometimes the band) will sometimes have a few comments about your review.

Tricky is a smart, brilliant, informative show about online journalism, social media, and more hosted by Heather Chaplin and Emily Bell, from the Journalism and Design program at The New School. In their latest episode they discuss comments and moderation with Andrew Losowsky of the Coral Project, who rips into a few great points here (time stamped link to the audio, give it a listen).

I love the part of the “precarious position” when offloading your comments (and community building) to 3rd party sites like Facebook and Twitter. Think FB live video interviews and Twitter. Two types of “fan building” strategies, but like Losowsky mentions, you are “handing over the ownership of the direct relationship between you and the reader, to a 3rd party who will monetize that and sell it back to you.”

It’s true. All of it.

Seeing all that engagement and interaction on FB and Twitter looks great, and it might even get you more followers and likes. But think about it: what does Facebook require of you to reach 100% of those people who clicked “like?”

Pay up.

The same is true of Twitter if you look at your analytics – ain’t no way all your followers saw your last Tweet.

Yes, trying to do the same thing on your own site is harder. It’s not as good looking. It probably won’t net you the same number of likes or faves or whatever.

But if it gets you one email address, then you can reach someone directly. If they signed up for your mailing list, you’ve now started a relationship.

Sure, the same could happen on Twitter. You can meet some great people on there – I HAVE! But we don’t all have the time (or sometimes the headspace) to “hang out” on social media all the time to build and maintain these relationships. I’m not talking about short changing the relationship, or devaluing one email to a mere transaction.

Instead I mean this: if the goal is to be a 24/7 news outlet with employees and an office, do what you have to do. But if you’re a lone artist, musician, writer – chances are your efforts are better spent on your craft than on building up digital badges on social media.

Even now as I write this I feel like I need to push the link more on Twitter, and “engage” in conversation over there about this subject. Then other people can chime in! Look at this big, public discourse!

But I also want to go for a run. I have client work to do, too.

Just as a newsroom may not have the resources to moderate comment sections across their entire website, you, a lone creator, probably don’t have the resources to do 432098 things at once, either.

Unfriend Facebook in 2018

You don’t need Facebook to keep up with friends and family.

Talking minutes are unlimited on our smart phones, and messaging is damn near free. We can also send photos and videos to anyone who has a smart phone (which is basically everyone now).

Facebook’s algorithims serve up news posts in your feed to capitvate your attention. Facebook has all your photos. Facebook has the contact information of your friends and family – what a chore it would be to have to ask all those people for their phone number or email address, right?

Facebook’s got us. They pulled us in, and now we can’t quit.

Except, we can quit.

We pulled our money out of banks that financed the Dakota Access Pipeline. We stopped eating at Chick-fil-A. Maybe we didn’t buy tickets to the next Coachella.

These are choices, deliberate actions. That same sort of choices that Facebook made in conference rooms to lock you into their system.

You don’t need Facebook, they need you.

 

The Answer Isn’t More

You’re already doing enough.

Live blogging wasn’t fast enough. Now it’s live video from your phone.

It wasn’t enough to just be on one social media network. Better be on two. Or three. Or half a dozen.

Oh, just a monthly email newsletter? Why not a weekly vlog series, too?

It’s okay to look at all these things and:

  1. Be overwhelmed
  2. Not do any of them

Growth is hard in 2018, what with media’s saturation of damn near everything. Seemingly ever channel has been over run with marketing, links, polls, videos, and branding. Click this, watch that, share this and follow these four accounts to enter our give away.

So step back. Look at what you’re doing already that does work. If you only have two online sales a month it doesn’t mean you’re not hustling enough. It means you have two opportunities to absolutely delight someone. Focus on how you can do that while not running yourself into the ground

We’re Renting Space at the Food Court on Social Media

This article at Wired (‘It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech‘) hits on two areas that I’ve been thinking about a lot.

There are, moreover, no nutritional labels in this cafeteria. For Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, all speech—whether it’s a breaking news story, a saccharine animal video, an anti-Semitic meme, or a clever advertisement for razors—is but “content,” each post just another slice of pie on the carousel. A personal post looks almost the same as an ad, which looks very similar to a New York Times article, which has much the same visual feel as a fake newspaper created in an afternoon.

VISIT US AT THE UNSAFE FOODCOURT!

As a white male on Twitter I can expect to not be harassed, doxed, or threatened. So I’m not worried when I visit the social media food court.

I can walk in and not be cat called. No one will question my knowledge of the band shirt I’m wearing. No one will stare at me as if I don’t belong.

Promoting my wares on a website that does little to address its harassment and nazi and racist problem makes it hard for me to reach the very people I love. I am effectively hanging out at the ‘Make The Food Court Great Again’ food court, and wondering why most of my customers all look like me.

OUR STUFF LOOKS JUST LIKE RACIST GARBAGE!

The words on social media look the same, whether you’re a humble dad in Nebraska or a Holocaust denying politician in the deep south. And either can be faked, because the playing field is leveled.

SO NOW WHAT?

We dust off our websites. Clean ’em up a bit. Get rid of any nasty 3rd party ad tracking. Get rid of comments (since anyone can appear and dirty up the place). We treat our space like our own little cafe.

We won’t have the same foot traffic like a the mall (not yet), but the people who do show up are signaling that they want what we have. I know, losing that 2000+ followers is a bummer, but remember you’re probably only reaching 10% on a given day anyway.