I see Facebook friends of mine with hundreds of ‘friends’, thousands of likes and countless ‘funny’ posts showing dogs in superhero suits and cats that look like Hitler. On twitter, someone I once had a fight with over a girl we both fancied has 600 people following him and all he does is give his opinion, in Olde Worlde English, on Manchester United football matches. I lost the fight but got the girl. She ‘chucked’ me a few weeks later though. Some celebrities have millions of followers and from what I can see, they all pretty much say the same thing, especially if anyone remotely famous or important drops dead. One celebrity tweeted a photo of the food they were about to eat, then later tweeted the photo of their empty plate… This got something like 2000 re-tweets. I see videos on YouTube with millions, some with hundreds of millions of views, usually they are little less than a pet doing something cute or funny, someone falling over, something exploding using vinegar or pranks made on the unsuspecting. Yet they go viral, get lots of shares, endless comments and make their creators famous enough to end up with a slot presenting some daft cable TV show.
I needed to get myself a slice of this pie. Reading through all the posts and tweets and looking at selfies and photo-bombs and knowing now what ‘planking’ really is, I set about my quest for internet glory, internet fame and the riches that would follow. Soon I too would be mourning the loss of some fellow celebrity as if I knew them personally and I too would be tweeting a photo of my lunch.
For weeks on end I grabbed clip after clip of our children doing their thing. My post production was, I felt, on a par with Hollywood, the titles amazing, the effects I humbly suggest were nothing less than stunning, imovie had liberated my creative juices, Garage Band had given me the musical talent of Eddie Van Halen and now YouTube would give my video an audience of millions and fans a plenty. 4 months after posting my mini-feature, I have had 4 views, 1 like (thanks Dad), no comments and no shares. Facing such humiliation was hard, but I continued my efforts. With the upgraded imovie, my second attempt would harness ‘stop-frame’ technology, high definition and now, Facebook linking to capture those elusive millions. And, having studied in-depth what was trending, I just knew that me falling off my bicycle would be an overnight success. This time I fared better, 2 likes (thanks Dad and thanks Auntie Mimi), 9 views and one offensive comment that I had to delete rather quickly. All this in just a few days. The snowball had started rolling, momentum was growing… The following week YouTube administrators took it down for music copyright infringement. It turns out that copying an Eddie Van Halen track using Garage Band is really not a talent after all.
My burping rabbit clip didn’t rock the world either. It did mark my entry into double digits though. 11 views.
I decided the time and effort of making videos was too much, but as I had finally dipped my toes into the Facebook world it seemed logical to pursue this further. It would even remind people when my birthday was due so they could send me their greetings without any effort or expense. After being happy with just my normal quota of 5 or 6 Birthday cards each year for the past ten years, having my inbox full of Birthday well wishing would boost my self esteem no end. I now have 30 friends, 20 of whom I vaguely remember from school, 4 whom I really don’t know at all, of the remaining 6, I live with 1 of them and speak to the others most weeks anyway. My most popular post (a cat that looked like Hitler) managed to be viewed by a feeble 120. And to put salt on the wound, someone then posted the very same picture to my timeline, and they managed to get over 15,000 views. On my birthday, only 6 people posted well wishes, one just saying I should go away and die, so really then, only 5. Still, being positive, that’s a 100% increase on the previous year.
My Linked-In efforts made a poor showing as well, 60 connections consisting mostly of my Facebook ‘friends’. Deviant Art is no better, 2 followers, 3 comments (by a strange coincidence, one just said ‘go away and die’), Dare I mention Twitter… No. I have just 1 follower who stopped following me after just a few days.
And so it can be said, with a certain conviction, that my overall social standing in the online social world is that of a social outcast. If there were an award for online failure, I would be the winner. “Unfortunately Mr. No-mates can’t be here to collect his award tonight and we couldn’t find any friends to accept it on his behalf, so moving swiftly along…” Billions upon billions surf the web, yet only a handful seem to find me. And statistically, of the handful that have found me and made an effort to comment, 46% of them want me to go away and die.
Knowing how unpopular or unimportant I am online is of no significance though. It doesn’t really reflect anything to do with my real life. I do have friends, not many I admit, but they are real, physically close when I need them and genuine. My family love me and those who know me know there is more to me than a few rubbish videos and photos of cats looking like Hitler. The most important well wishes on my Birthday come from the four most important people in my life and their spoken ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ on what I do or say are worth far more than any online ones. The truth is, I don’t really care about my failure to socially network online because I am not really aiming for online success. I thought I was but actually, Facebook, Twitter, Deviant Art, You Tube and all these things are just distractions I wander into as and when the mood takes me and time allows.
Most online ‘likes’ are worthless, most ‘comments’ are baseless and growing ‘followers’ has little true relevance unless you’re a celebrity selling your ghostwritten book. Knowing that you’ve stopped off at Starbucks and looking at the photo of your coffee and bun you’ve kindly posted leaves me in little doubt that the social network is beyond help and I am better off not worrying about being an active part of it.