Lessons from putting myself out there II: getting “in” on the online scene

In the last entry I wrote about putting myself out there, I talked about just getting out there, since 90% of life is just showing up. For this post, I’m going to touch upon more of the same, but with special attention to the Internet and new media, which is not the future–it’s the present.

We live in an age where the first thing we do when we’re looking for something is to get on Google instead of the phone book. The current hierarchy of communication prioritizes Facebook over e-mail–ironic, considering people thought letter-writing was dead because of e-mail, but now Facebook wall posts come first, passive-aggressive status updates after, then private messages, then e-mail. Anonymity on the Internet allows for juvenile behavior, such as posting ignoble comments and assuming impunity.

If you’re scared, don’t worry–I was too. An analogy I like to use is the swimming pool: I absolutely love doing laps, and try to get in three or four trips each week because it’s better when I’m wetter ;). Unfortunately, like in all places, there will be that occasional jerk whose existence seems to revolve solely around making other people miserable. Or perhaps even a few jerks. Now, knowing that some jerks will be in the same space as me, do I go to another place to swim, only to find other jerks with different names and faces? Can’t run away from them, they’ll always be there. Do I engage them and put them in their place? Probably not the best strategy, because then I’m not having fun because I’ve wasted too much energy on them, and I’m not likely going to get them to change. If anything, they’re incline to be more jerk-ish toward me because I challenged their self-importance. So do I stop swimming? NO. Absolutely not. This lets them win, and I give up doing what I love, while allowing the jerks to do it instead! What I do is I keep swimming and try to focus my attention on the fact I’m having fun, I’m doing what I love–and somehow, occasionally, I meet cool people in the pool as well. So if I don’t go to the pool, I miss out on swimming, I let the jerks have all the fun, and from not showing up, I don’t get to meet the cool people. So put yourself out there!

That said, it’s good to go out and meet people, socialize, network–to let people know you exist. With the Internet, you really hammer the point in by allowing people to see your personality. At the moment, my domain name http://www.heyitsjohnnyc.com just redirects here to my WordPress blog, and while it works for now, in the near future, I’ll have my full site up and running to be more accessible for everyone. So do yourself a favor and register the domain name you want, then go to the settings and have it re-direct it to your blog just to let people know you exist.

Lesson 1: Have a website

Whether it’s a simple or a complex site with Flash animation, there is a certain respect you will gain from going out there and showing that there’s a space on the Internet that is devoted to you. A place to put an “about me” where you can tell people a little about your interests, where you studied, what kind of work you do, and what you’ve done in your life that spares them the awkward 15 minutes after introducing yourselves before actually start getting to know one another. Even if it’s just a few pages and re-directs to your YouTube channel, Flickr photo album, WordPress blog, and a live Twitter status update application, you have begun the process of creating an online persona and branding yourself. Type in “Hey it’s Johnny C” and most of those results bring me up–and someone else on the VolksRodder forum who is definitely NOT me. 😉

Lesson 2: Use Facebook, but not exclusively

Everyone and their mom can be found on Facebook nowadays. Facebook is Big Brother in every sense imaginable by George Orwell, and well-established in the documentary, We Live in Public, but you can turn that around and still have fun with it. Watch this movie, Me and the Big Guy. Done? Good. What I learned when everyone is watching you is that you ultimately control how they see you, especially on Facebook. Think about it: you’re on Facebook all day long, seeing what everyone else is up to, thinking that they seem to be having more fun than you in all of their pictures of last Friday–which is exactly what they’re doing when they see you.

It’s a good idea to use Facebook for its original intention: connecting yourself to others. Almost all of my professional contacts are on my “friends” list on Facebook, whether they are directors, producers, actors, graduate students, paralegals, fighters, or traceurs, the one thing they all have in common is that they know me. I can send out a friend request, but it’s up to them to decide if they want to give me a view of their world and to see mine. We save time by taking a quick glance at the basic profile information, the most recent photos posted, status updates, and whatever is on their wall.

Having these contacts also reminds me to never, ever, EVER post passive-aggressive wall posts or negative status updates, no matter how bad of a day I’m having–whether it’s your personal blog, your Facebook profile, or whatever window to your world, if people see it, it doesn’t matter what you think–it’s what they think. To that end, I avoid giving people whom I can’t stand (who are also on my “friends” list) the pleasure of seeing me upset by having a good attitude and laughing about things in my positive posts and interaction with others. And if I make mistakes? Whoops! Admit them, laugh, and don’t try to cover up–it’s about recovering, not concealing, because you can always find your old mistakes with a little digging, such as with the WayBack Machine.

This is the beauty of the Internet and life: you can redefine yourself, since it doesn’t matter what law school you went to or how big your harem was when you had money–it’s about who you choose to be now. In the past couple years, I made two mistakes that I learned from: 1) do NOT delete yourself from Facebook, because it’s like the earlier analogy with the swimming pool–you miss out on meeting potentially cool people and fun; 2) do NOT post excessively angry or negative content–you can gripe about traffic or tell people you need a break from life because your girlfriend just broke up with you, but it’s all based on how you frame it. Don’t call her a bitch or slut, try to say something along the lines of “Hey folks, welcome me to the singles club–who wants to do something Friday since my weekends are now a lot more open to have fun?” You attract better people your way instead of isolating yourself by saying “FUCK THE MCAT! FUCK MY BOSS! FUCK PEOPLE WHO ARE MEDDLING WITH MY LIFE EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY TELL EVERYONE ABOUT MY PRIVATE LIFE IN MY STATUS UPDATES!” Who wants to be friends with people like that?

I laugh at their passive-aggressive or excessively negative updates because 1) their intended target of their rage will never see their anger, and if they do, they benefit from seeing them suffer; 2) they look and continue to be unhappy; 3) they further isolate themselves from their target and others by expressing that negativity. Simple solution: just talk directly to the person. If you don’t, you stay angry, and the person may never know they made you angry to begin with: while you are upset, they’re sleeping peacefully not thinking about you. Make your Facebook profile one that makes people want to see what you’re up to because you’re fun and positive, not one that makes people want to click on that big “x” in the right corner to hide you from their status feed or–gasp–delete you from their friends list because you’re annoying.

Now before I move on to the next point, I just want to make one thing abundantly clear: Facebook is not a replacement for e-mail or face-to-face interaction. Never, ever, EVER forget that! Attachments, work material, and other things you’d like to keep private are one reason why you should keep e-mailing, but also because it’s a direct link to someone who neither Facebook or your Facebook friends can see. It’s not as personal as being face-to-face, but compared to Facebook, it is preferable.

Lesson 3: Use YouTube, Twitter, WordPress, and Flickr to give people a window to your world–or a way to reshape your world

New media is a way to put yourself out there with your writing, pictures, and videos. YouTube, for one, is not going to replace television–YouTube stands on its own. With that in mind, that does not mean that you need to post videos of you talking about nothing, or close-ups of girls’ feet in order to show people your world. Before I ever uploaded anything on YouTube, my interaction was from commenting on other videos and making friends, and adding videos to my favorites list to show people what I enjoy looking at. I make no attempt to hide that I look at videos of guinea pigs, bunnies, hamsters, how to get that magical six-pack of abs, or songs I just can’t find anywhere else and old music videos I love, on top of original content other users post. When you start posting your own videos, no matter how mundane you may think they are–somebody just may watch you.

Likewise, for blogging, as long as you’re putting yourself out there, you’re giving people an insight to your personality and your thoughts. Even if it’s just re-posting links to news articles and a one or two sentence comment you have about the article or the state of the world, it lets people know what you’re thinking. Post a silly poem, post a rant about how you hate traffic in L.A., and you’ll be surprised at the occasional responses you get. You don’t have to be special–you just have to be someone others can relate to, and that is usually just a fellow human being.

The same goes for pictures–they don’t have to be award-winning photos from a professional camera like the Canon Rebel XTi, they just have to let people know what you like. What you may find okay may actually interest someone else, no matter what you think. On top of that, pictures say a thousand words, and with a blog and some pretty pictures, that says a lot about you. Add your YouTube channel and people can start to relate.

Lastly, get Twitter even if you don’t reply to other people or feel you have enough to say in 140 characters–for those you follow, you can get an insight on where they are and whatever news they think is worth sharing. I got the news of Bin Laden’s death on Twitter first, and Twitter fueled the Egyptian revolution that ousted Mubarak. So it definitely connects you to others, even if you don’t have much to offer but to be an audience to them.

Lesson 4: Communicate and interact with people

This may sound like more of the same, but it’s a point I cannot emphasize enough. If you take a passive role and just watch people, you more than likely will get affected subconsciously, whether it is envy of their fun or spending too much time on others instead of being yourself and getting out there. If you like a video, if someone says something interesting in their blog, if someone posts on your Facebook wall–say something! If you have something to share, chances are, the people you talk to will usually be the ones who reply first to whatever you’re putting out there. We’re all people, and the divide that is created is one that you ultimately benefit from by being able to cross that bridge. You may think that the other person will see you as a personal space invader, and whether or not that happens–sometimes, they may actually just see you as a friendly person who is willing to reach out. We’re all pretty shy in some way or another, but being noticed is a pretty nice feeling. No one will stroke your ego unless they know you’re there and safe–usually, but not often, one good turn deserves another.

Lesson 5: Jerks and trolls will always be around to try to ruin your fun–keep having fun anyway

Some people like to tell jerks off–this usually encourages more jerk-off behavior. Ignoring them is usually a good route, but what I’ve noticed is sometimes, we can all be jerks and trolls without realizing it at some point or another. A quick way to see if someone is willing to play it real is to talk civilly with them, and if they continue aggravating, say goodbye, and be gone. A couple girls recently posted passive-aggressive Facebook status updates directed toward me, and didn’t respond to me when I inquired. I didn’t tell either of them that they were jerks, but I let them know that they won’t solve any problems by complaining about people, hoping we’ll read it, yet hoping we won’t see it in a paradoxical way, and then getting surprised if we respond. They can continue being upset with me, posting negative updates about me, but as I said earlier, ultimately, they look like grouches, and if they make no attempt to communicate with me, their loss. I’ve had this done to me multiple times, and the general trend is I get deleted by a person, I find this person’s blog, and I see they’re still complaining about me much later down the line. I laugh, because again: they’re so focused on griping about me that they don’t have time for fun.

Another guy I knew basically lived on Facebook and creating his persona there. His life revolved around his Yelp reviews, his status updates every 15 minutes, his photos, his videos, and responding to most people commenting on his posts. Yet his profile indicated that he never held a job longer than two months–being on Facebook was his job, essentially. Eventually, he removed me from his friends list because he didn’t like the fact my opinions differed from his, particularly with his warped definition of manliness (his dictionary identified manliness as being a boorish frat boy who can drink a keg and has a six-pack of abs, mine defines manliness as being a self-sufficient and worldly gentleman). But I didn’t attack his opinion or tell him he was wrong–all I did was share mine and ask where he got his.

Avoid making the Internet a substitute for your life, whether it’s on Facebook or World of Warcraft, or wherever you go to be someone else besides yourself. If you can be consistent as a friendly, creative guy who is approachable in real life and on Facebook, then you know you’re doing something right. I’m no different online than I am in real life, which is why people know that when I’m upset online, I’m upset when they see me, but I’m also a person who chooses to have a good attitude and not affirm the negativity when a jerk projects their bad vibes onto me.

You can create an online persona, whether it’s to market yourself for success, or a way to hide yourself anonymously and take out your anger at the world. You can get so caught up in your online persona that you forget that the real world is out there. The Internet is a supplement to living life–not a replacement. Otherwise, you’re on your way to entering the matrix delusion. When you put yourself out there, things can go well or totally suck. But you’ll never know until you go put yourself out there.

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