Day: May 17, 2014

Why Be Online?

Why blog?  Why be online? Why facebook, tweet, chat, instagram and vlog?  Why bother with it all?

Why deal with the online rat race?
Why deal with the online rat race?

I remember when I first started blogging my brother in law couldn’t figure out the appeal.  He’s more of a practical person so putting so much effort into something that was just a hobby and didn’t really create anything to use seemed confusing.  (or at least that’s was my take of what he thought I could be wrong).

Others have thought it was a huge waste of time.  Others embarrassing or ‘brutally honest’.  Some thought I did it for my ego or at the shot of being famous.  I’d be lying if I said there isn’t that momentary reason but that’s not something that will keep me blogging for 6 years.

Why plaster myself all over twitter, facebook, and youtube?

It’s actually kind of a hard question to answer because it changes from day to day.  But here are some of the reasons I have found it great to be active in all things online (in no particular order):

(Also I am the only one in my family that is an active personal content creator. 2 of my sisters do not even have facebook accounts, my parents don’t have active presences online and none of my in-person friends really do outside of facebook and private blogs)

So benefits of being online and some advice-

-To work through my life choices and receive guidance.  I cannot benefit from others experiences and perspectives when I write in my journal but I can in my blog.

– Keep in touch with people I never would have otherwise.  And do relationships sometimes feel a little shallow from facebook? Yes.  Do I prefer one-on-one interaction?  Yes.  But, life is rarely the choice of one great thing vs one horrible thing.  Usually it’s picking from 2 less than perfect options.  Given the choice between updates online from friends and a yearly Christmas card I’ll take the updates online!

– I have a literal social network- This week I am going to Tampa and visiting my friend Kim.  Kim and I were friends in high school but she wasn’t one of my 3 best friends (Amanda, Cay and Meredith).  However, we were friends on facebook and it turns out we totally have the same political beliefs and ideas so we’ve had some great conversations.  I needed a vacation and she was kind enough to invite me.

Last year I visited with my friend Samantha in Seal Beach, CA and we met on twitter.   I have legitimate friends all over the place and the main reason that network of friends exists is because of my internet presence. 2 years ago I visited DC and most of the people I saw I had maintained the friendship because of social networks. Hurray!

– It helps you fine tune your opinions.  Writing movie and book reviews and being challenged on those ideas makes you think more deeply about them and why you are drawn to certain things.  While yes sometimes things should just be enjoyed I find I enjoy them much more now that I have pondered what moves me and why.

– Having an online presence makes you realize that yes there are trolls but for every troll there are a 1,000 wonderful people.  It’s really quite heartening.

– Creating an online presence allows you to manage the content.  Ever read that blog and there are the incredibly idiotic trolls in the comments and you’ve wanted to delete them?  I have and on my blog I can! For the most part if you are thoughtful and interesting I’ll put your thoughts but if you are just calling me a ‘fat #$%%$#’ than no, I will not put that comment.   It’s great to be the one to be in charge.

– Being a content creator allows you to be a missionary of sorts for things you love.  Sometimes that is literally missionary work for my church.  Other times it is just a movie I love or a book that moved me.  Even if I get one other person to read a book they might not have otherwise read that is exciting.

– Developing content teaches you so many useful skills.  I have become a much better writer through blogging than I could have ever been through school classes.  Same thing with video editing and even acting.  Things like removing filler words is a useful skill for everyday conversation. I would not have had the skills to get and attempt my new job if I hadn’t decided to learn as much from both blogging and vlogging over the last 6 years and it never stops.  I have so many new techniques and skills I want to learn.

– It can actually make a difference. I’m a 33 year old single woman from Utah. My life is very small but being a content creator I get to all of the sudden be big.  In the world of blogging I realize I’m still small but think about it.  I get to say to 150-500 people daily that someone living their small life is awesome.  I can tell the kid being bullied, or the big girl she is beautiful, the non-athlete to start swimming, the person to start believing. All of those moments have actually happened many times over 6 years and it is humbling and wonderful. Makes it all worth it.

– It’s honestly a ton of fun.  If creating videos or blog writing becomes a chore than take a step back and give yourself a break.  It should be fun.  It is fun (intermixed with some tough times and venting but even that can be fun).  Even if it is not necessarily fun it should be rewarding. If you start looking at it too clinically and hoping for great numbers and views you will lose enthusiasm very quickly and probably won’t produce good content. Just be yourself and have fun.

– Find your niche.  I started on youtube with box reviews because you have to focus on something and then expand from there. This blog is a little different because I treated it like I was the editor of my own magazine.  What I find interesting I post and some of my favorite posts (Carousel of Progress or the 5 Favorite Films) almost nobody read.  That’s ok. I enjoyed writing them and that’s what matters.

– Realize your ideal audience.  It is very easy to start to focus on the numbers, especially when you have a post that gives things a spike. It’s exciting and feels good to know people are viewing your content.  However, don’t become too focused on it.  I would love to be a fulltime youtuber and blogger and have millions of monthly hits because I think I could make even better content but if you are looking at it through only that dream lens you may discount 100-300 hits and if you think about it that’s a lot of hits.

If you were in a store and had 300 people come in and look around you’d feel great.  Plus, with a core audience who follows your content you can create bonds with them that you can’t do at the fulltime viewership levels.  Some of my favorite youtubers have actually expressed nostalgia for the beginning when they knew the fans and could respond/interact with them.

– Produce content as often and as regularly as you can. Don’t worry about the content being perfect.  Try to make it as high in quality as you can but you are going to look at old posts and cringe.  That’s ok.  You build an audience (small as it may be) by producing content regularly and having good ideas no matter how unattractively wrapped they may be.  People are amazingly forgiving to the hobbyist writer/vlogger if an attempt at quality is being made and the ideas are good.

– In history never was it easier to be a creator.  Authoriship was reserved for the few, reading for the rich, movie-making for the well connected and talented but now anyone with ideas can create, so find out what you like and go for it.  I guarantee you tapping into that part of yourself will be an eye opening experience.

– People criticize nanowrimo because a lot of junk is created they are missing the point.  People are creating stories and when they engage in that process their stories become better, the world becomes better and we all tell better stories.

How’s this for interesting-

Princeton University did a study where they followed the brain activity of 2 people, one telling a story, and the other listening to said story:

“When the woman spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

So that is why being online is a good idea.  Even in a a 140 character tweet I can tell a story and that story sparks a thought in another person and then our literal brains are enlightened together.  That is awesome.

Is it a waste of time? It can be for sure but I’ve found even talking about silly things like Survivor or a recipe I’ve tried connects me with people that are engaging, funny, and worth the time.

-And finally every once in a while you will produce something truly special. I felt that way about my Heroism and Weight Loss piece.  The idea came to me after my writing conference and I got more excited as I thought about it.  I even tweeted it was going to be epic.  After I wrote it I was so glad I decided to be online back in 2008 because it led me to write that piece. A week or so later I got a message from one of my Survivor chatting buddies and she told me how she had struggled with an eating disorder and my words really meant a lot to her.

It doesn’t get better than that my friends. So go be online and have a blast. Create something great.