Any content creator lamenting for the “good ol’ days” is one who’s just not ready for change.
The digital landscape isn’t one that’s ever still. We’ve come a long way from blogging’s humble beginnings, where we had these stand-alone sites that held all the content. I’m sure the bloggers back then couldn’t have seen any of this coming—in a world where you got your video from sketchy Russian sites instead of the juggernaut that’s YouTube in 2018, you just had to have a very different view of how everything worked.
But change was afoot, and soon social media would alter the way things worked forever. While we’d still have a handful of creators who stood out from the rest, now we had access to them like never before—everyone had a voice.
Bloggers simply weren’t ready for all that came next.
So somewhere in my crazy mind, I’d convinced myself it’d be a good idea to write my wrap-up for The 2016 100 all as one post, because I’m always so curt with my posts, of course. A few days of working on it quickly killed that idea, and here were are with the second part of my wrap-up, covering the things I didn’t get around to in 2016, but still plan to manage this year, as well as my reasons why.
(Note: You will see these in some form in The 2017 100, so you know—don’t be too surprised.)
What I Didn’t Do, But Still Want to Do Next Year
7) Stop biting my nails — Ugh. What I probably need to do first is reduce the amount of stress in my life to get a better chance of dropping this disgusting habit. I had a good run early in the year, but hey. Maybe I’ll have better luck this time! 8) Get rid of the wedding thank you cards I never sent — I don’t think those past thank you’s are getting sent. It’s just… not something I’m doing. Instead, I think I’d love to start sending Christmas letters with some personalisation. I’m not a complete jackass, guys, but there needs to be a point where we agree to move on. 13) Sort out my old TD employee RSP — Any outstanding finances in general, really: part of being an adult is knowing how much your insurance will pay out. What your benefits cover. What’s in your stock portfolio. 2017 Casey Palmer needs a better handle on all this kind of stuff!
14) Consolidate everything down to a single notepad — I mean, you don’t see the magic happening, but my desk and dining room table are plastered with pages of notes as I draft out my posts. Will it happen? Maybe. Do I want it to? Oh heck yes ?
Three years into parenthood, every new day’s an adventure, and the rules change as quickly as our kids do. We parents learn to do the best we can with what we’ve got, and with two sons whose faces light up whenever I get home from work, I’d say I’m not doing half-bad.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Back when this journey started, everyone had an opinion—what sunscreen to use. Which songs to sing for our baby’s best development. My peers put every move I made under the microscope, everyone considering themselves experts on parenting. After all, they were once kids themselves, right? They’d all hold me to some idealised standard from what they knew as kids, or what they saw online—and therein, folks, lies the problem…
…the way they thought parenting was meant to be wasn’t the real picture at all.
I can’t even lie, guys — coming up with a list of 100 goals for the fourth year in a row was hard — ridiculously so. I’m a very different me than I was when The 2013 100 came out, back when free time was still an abundant commodity I didn’t even know I was taking for granted, trying to fill it with countless things that’d keep life interesting.
A problem I most definitely don’t have in 2016!
As I work at surviving the upcoming year — especially with our second child’s imminent arrival — I needed to make the list a lot more realistic; I’m all too skilled at chasing ambitions that exceed my lifestyle’s capacity, and I’ll need to keep wary of that in 2016 if I want to see myself make it out the other side!
So without further ado, The 2016 100. It took a couple of days to polish off after recovering from the gauntlet that was 2015, but I feel like it’s a list that will really make waves in this life o’ mine should I see it finished!
But hey — that’s what I say every year ????
Thanks for reading!
1) Write an amazing series for Black History Month 2) Win a vacation for my dry cleaner 3) Watch Creed; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; Ant-Man 4) Take Eric to a sporting event so he can stop complaining about getting left from sporting events 5) Phase my old 3.5″ hard drive out 6) Get rid of my old electronics 7) Stop biting my nails 8) Get rid of the wedding thank you cards I never sent 9) Clean out the basement crawl space 10) Build shelves into the crawl space 11) Give my FWD Powershot 2 to my old manager the hockey coach 12) Do the CN Tower Edgewalk 13) Sort out my old TD employee RSP 14) Consolidate everything down to a single notepad
Though a chiropractor I started seeing late into 2015 told me I’d developed some mild sciatica in my back, I didn’t need him to tell me I carry too much STUFF. In a digital age where we can pack mountains of information into a single device, there’s really NO NEED for me to carry all the draft posts and note that I do — save the fact that working from hard copy’s the way my brain’s WIRED.
In 2016, I need a little more focus to keep all my ideas stored in one place so I’m not constantly carrying EVERYTHING in my house made of paper, knowing that I probably scribbled SOMETHING on ALL of ’em.
15) Sort out the Internet situation at home so I can stop relying on tethering to LTE data 16) Learn enough Spanish to understand my sister-in-law’s Mexican wedding in May 17) Find time for date nights, which will involve finding someone who wants to babysit two kids… how about we just find more awesome things to do at home, just in case? 18) Try Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake 19) Get to 0 drafts on CaseyPalmer.com by converting everything into live posts 20) Install the growth chart for my kids that we got at my office baby shower 21) Update all the old content on CaseyPalmer.com 22) Upgrade the site infrastructure to better support contest traffic 23) Redesign the heck out of the blog (Twenty Sixteen, what up) 24) Find the time to pack more lunches for work 25) Clean up and optimize my Pinterest account (I still have that copy of Pinterest Savvy lying around somewhere) 26) Shave more regularly 27) Hand out my remaining business “cep” cards so I can put in a new order (wait — do we still do business cards?) 28) Clear out the bookshelves to prepare for Baby #2 29) Replace the lost key to our 2011 Ford Edge 30) Figure out what I ACTUALLY need to run my site and invest in THAT. 31) Replace our bathroom sink 32) Meet with the people who I never seemed to schedule in through 2015 (Aaron, Emma, Ria, Adrienne, Dianna) 33) Get a Brookhaven Computer Cabinet
The 1% of the Casa de Palmer workspace I use to do all the things isn’t the best — in fact, it’s falling apart. As I get older and start formalizing my #BloggerLife, Sarah and I agree that my workspace should evolve to show that. It’ll take some saving to make it happen, but it’d be a nice addition to the home.
What up world? I know — it’s been a while and the world hasn’t stopped turning in my absence, but to put it simply, this boy’s been busy.
One major item that flooded my headspace was the 60 Days in Paradise contest, which sought to award one Canadian $50,000 ($30,000 pay for documenting a $20,000 trip). Though I didn’t place in the Top 10 and advance, it was a great wake-up call to get my head out of the clouds and return to taking care of house and all the opportunities I already have around me.
But losing in a contest with such an attractive prize, especially when you’ve convinced yourself that you must stand a good chance with a killer music video, heartwarming bio; and plenty of interaction about the contest while the judges made their decision — it can take a toll. Once upon a time, I’d sulk it out. I still remember to this day what it felt like to get 8th in the 8th Annual Ontario Spelling Bee finals, tripped up on a word as simple as “perusal” (which I swear was pronounced by a man with a heavy Southern twang, making it sound like “puh-rooz-e-ul”). Or when I flunked my driver’s test in 2003, getting me so down that I wouldn’t try again until my 30th birthday.
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I recently had lunch with a friend who pointed out that I’ve been a bit of a recluse lately, vanishing from the Toronto Twitter social scene. As we enter the final month of Sarah’s pregnancy (I know, right?!), I’m tying up loose ends on all fronts. Assembling furniture and installing car seats. Completing projects and checking ideas off of the to-do lists. I put my blogging life on hold as I prepared for a far greater role.
Blogging’s been fun, but it’s time to get real.
The City of Legends
It’s already started — my journey down the path of becoming an urban legend in Toronto Twitter’s lore is well underway with my time spent less on parties and product, and more on pre-natal living and planning.
The Casey you knew is dead and gone, grown up forevermore.
Once upon a time, we used to party relentlessly in this city. A week wouldn’t go by without a bevvy of events flooding the calendar, having social medialites explore the city in search of some fun. It wasn’t business or about exposure — many of us entered the social media scene looking for new friends and experiences, getting a feel for this uncharted world before us.
You’d think that things could only get better forever, the way it was going. The parties grew, the exposure broadened — brands poured resources into the community with bloggers standing tall as the mouthpiece to audiences they couldn’t previously approach nearly as intimately.
That was then, and this is 2013. It’s not news — I’ve discussed it before — everything changed. Fewer parties, more structure, and a whole bunch of urban legends where the pillars of Toronto Twitter used to stand — everyone was all grown up with everywhere to go, except the places we’d already been.
Why We Can’t Blog As We Used To
Everyone’s been asking how I’m doing. Becoming a father is no easy task — I’m about to undergo what’s possibly the ultimate transformation in life; the one that sees you change from your parents’ child to a parent seemingly overnight. It can be devastating. Overwhelming. Everything you were once sure of can come into question, and there’s no instruction manual for what comes next! But amidst the chaos and lessons that’re sure to come, surprisingly there’s one thing I’m feeling right now above all else:
When you’re expecting a child, everyone wants to know whether you’re ready. Some will offer their stories to reassure you and show that they’ve been in your shoes, letting you know you’ll be fine. Some ask out of curiosity — not having kids themselves — wanting to know how you know you’ll be ready to have kids. All too many parents want to make you company for their misery, using scare tactics for what? To make them feel better? The awesome ones will offer a helping hand for anything you might need while making the change.
But what comes next? Where’s everything when your attention’s demanded elsewhere, but you still feel drawn to all you’ve created, fully aware that you won’t do it justice the way it is right now.
Here’re a few beliefs I have that’ll shape that decision:
1. Blogging’s Gone the Way of the Dinosaur
Not going — gone. I have a blog post half-written on the why (and I have a great many friends who’d happily disagree with me on the point), but in Toronto at least, the last hurrah of blogging was somewhere around 2011. Since then, messaging got shorter with Twitter, prettier with Tumblr and relatable with YouTube. With more people using high-speed Internet at home and high-cap data plans on their phones (which, by the way, make for horrible reading devices over extended periods of time), the demand for high-quality content in bite-sized pieces is higher than ever. Though in many ways, YouTube’s already saturated and matured so much that getting rich from it is far harder than before; video is the name of the game right now, whether bloggers want to admit it or not.
2. Swag Don’t Pay the Bills
Here are two things that’re at a premium in Toronto — space and disposable income. With about 1,200 square feet to play with, you only have room for so much stuff. In fact, for the most part, I’m only working with about 6 square feet (15 cubic)! I recently converted my home office into a nursery, so stuff only goes so far unless I can put it in a desk drawer or dispose of it after a while.
What people need to remember is that time is money — or at the very least, an investment. Ultimately, the time you spend in life should always go toward improving your life and those of the people you care about. (So you know, you accomplish part of this through improving the world around you, but I’ll cover this another time.) I dialled down on the events I’m willing to attend and products I’m willing to promote some time back. There’s only so much time available to me, and got to a point where the value of what I got needed to match the time invested, whether valued through time with family and friends, goods and services, or the stuff that will put food on the table.
3. Bored City is Bored
Toronto — or “Fauxronto” as I’ve been wont to call it lately — is only growing colder and more apathetic. We keep to ourselves and prefer to drag each other down like crabs in a bucket rather than rally together so we all might win. We mistakenly believe that there isn’t enough wealth to go around and act accordingly, thinking we need to defend what little we have to the death and not share it around to see it grow.
And as the world demands more of our time and efforts than ever before, we’ll quickly discover that this isn’t sustainable.
I don’t know about the world (it probably has bigger problems, anyway), but Toronto needs a wake-up call. It needs something amazing to get its people caring again (and no, it’s not Drake). I know bloggers are trying to stand out and get their message across to as many people as possible, but to be effective at it, they need to stop striving for mediocrity.
At any given time, there are 7 billion people on the planet trying to do what you do. This isn’t your parents’ world, where you strove to be top of your class or being a local celebrity gave you a free pass for life. You’re now being compared to everyone in the world, and it’s time for us all to step our game up or fade into obscurity.
There’s more to life than events and free food. There is more… than this.
To Parenthood… and Beyond!
Nothing will make you feel as helpless as being an expecting father with a wife suddenly on bed rest, not knowing what you can do to help, trying anything and everything possible to make things better.
Sarah made me a map of No Frills for my first solo grocery trip so I wouldn’t get too lost. Definitely helped, and didn’t need it anymore for the second trip!
Supply and demand is a bitch, and sometimes grocery stores don’t carry everything that you’re looking for. So I needed to go back and get the rest.
Grocery store ads are a lie. I went to No Frills in search of this magical 10-pound bag of carrots for $2, but all I found was a huge-ass pile of onions with a small carrot sign off to the side, suggesting that they were once there. I am dubious.
I don’t normally eat a lot of ice cream, but a friend introduced Sarah and I to President Choice’s Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream, which is sugary-salty crack. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.
When half of your tag team is out of commission, you get an entirely new appreciation for everything they do, whether it’s running errands across town, household chores, or simply being able to get up and walk down the block to put something in the mail. It’s like she’s a captive in her own home, so in her place, I add her role to my balancing act of work, family and digital pursuits. Perusing the aisles at the grocery store means less time editing photos. Getting supplies at Babies “R” Us means less time sorting out thoughts for the blog. Bit by bit, the social media shuffle feels less the priority and more something I’m leaving behind to become what I must be next.
Bye Bye, Man About Town — Hello, Daddy Blogger!
I’ve spent three years letting social media know who I am. I’m the guy who’s unafraid to engage a crowd in real discussion, even if someone’s clearly an idiot. Who’s willing to forgo sleep and personal gain to help my friends succeed, believing that we only truly help ourselves when we help the whole improve. And I’m the guy who’s been straight with everyone since Day 1 — the married guy who wants everyone to get along, wishing that we could all just work together to change things for the better.
But egos get in the way. My ego tells me that I’ve worked hard at writing, relationship management and photography to create the blog you see today. I always expect to perform at a certain standard and want to make sure that anyone working with me shares my vision. The egos of other bloggers scream that there’s not enough product, opportunities or exposure out there for everybody, and so we all fight our hardest to be better than the next blogger to prove that we deserve everything we get. I’ve suggested things like group blogging or a blogger consortium before, but it’s been shot down by questions of who gets what and how to make sure everyone contributes their fair share.
Though my current blog’s only been around a couple of years, everything that’s gone into it took years to develop. I’ve built websites since I was 15. I picked up my first camera at 13. My Mom jokes that I started drawing as soon as I came out of the womb!
But if I spend all my time on social media, I won’t have much time left teaching my child about the world that social media’s in. And that’s the real point of parenting, isn’t it?
What Next? What NOW.
So what’s next? I’ve written up a storm. I recently managed to carry out one of my goals in The 2013 100 and end up on the first page of Google results for “Casey” (at least when you’re browsing in Canada). I’m so much further along than I was when I’d started this trek, but I’m not like everyone else. There aren’t many Twitter friends I have who’re married, even fewer with kids, and in the tiny slice of the group that remains, the ones who blog I could count on one hand — two at most.
I’m sailing into largely uncharted territory, trying to play like the other kids do with a completely different set of rules.
But a game I’m still willing to play.
I’m still writing. I’m still striving to make better content every time I put something out, challenging how things currently are and battling for a better breed of human being. A baby isn’t an obstacle — it’s an opportunity. I want to wake up seeing the possibilities for the world around me — not fixate on its problems and simply accept them for what they are.
The journey doesn’t just suddenly stop.
The Dawn of the Daddy Blogger
So, in the end, you can fool yourself all you want, but real life wins. Bills need paying, mouths need feeding, and no one’s gonna hold your hand and do it for you. It’s a real world out there with real issues, and while social media’s good respite from it all, it’s not sustainable living. You need to come out and face the world eventually.
And that’s been my 2013 — maturing from “look at all these things I’ll miss” to “look at all these things waiting for me in my new life!” Social media tools come and go — we went from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter to Google+ to New MySpace (obviously, not all of these did as well as they’d hoped) — but the big, bad world ain’t going nowhere.
So goodbye to 2011 Casey. Goodbye to doing ten tweetchats a week; saying “yes” to every invite that comes my way; to toiling over reviews for products that I could easily just buy myself; or to getting along with people who poison my environment in the name of keeping the peace in the community.
Ain’t nobody got time for all that—it’s time to get my grown man on!
Nobody knows what’s coming next, but I’ll be there, toiling away in the shadows, getting ready for a day where social media and reality are two sides of the same coin.
Until next we meet,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’
— Mark 8:36, The Holy Bible, New International Version
Remember when social media in Toronto was fun? I remember my first encounter with Twitter back in 2008 when I hit a marketing event with Sarah, who I’d only just started dating. There was a Twitter stream projected at the front of the room, and I posted tweets with my signature brand of crazy, getting lots of laughs from others attending. In fact, it’s where I first met Zaigham, who I’d get to know a little better over the years. (Also, Sarah was not impressed with my antics. Only a mere six months out from her Humber postgrad in PR, she believed that “reputation was everything”, and that if I didn’t seem professional, I was only shooting myself in the foot. Five years, 35,000 tweets and 2,300 followers later, I think she’s okay admitting she was wrong.)
The point is — it was fun. Twitter was full of random tweets about anything, and it seemed like no one cared about being rowdy in public. Back then, Twitter was a party 24/7 with everybody invited!
But then something changed. The better people got at tweeting, the more the world took note. Businesses wanted in on this virtually untapped market of clients and the influencers who spoke to them. Everything started getting Twitter handles associated with them — TV shows, ads, businesses cards — the magnetic pull of Twitter was inescapable.
Which makes it a bit funny that it’s been dead quiet in Toronto for a while now.
I know that our social medialites are up to stuff — there’s never a shortage of brand-sponsored events in Toronto — but by this time last year, we’d already had DefineTO and Social Media Week Toronto. We got together for drinks on patios and birthday and dinners and parties. There was a stronger sense of community in Toronto, and no matter whether you blogged or not, or if you had 100 or 1000 followers, there was a place for you.
So what happened? Where did everybody go? What made the world we know change so much that everything seemed to just up and vanish, leaving a social void in its wake?
Has the Toronto Twitter scene had its time in the limelight? Are we moving on to other tools that better serve the needs of the social medialite? Or, have the people who were big on Twitter a couple of years back simply grown tired of it and moved on, making way for a new generation of social media ne’er-do-wells?
Turns out that it may have just been a long time coming.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Maybe the social media we know never really was all that social. Or perhaps it was a means to an end, and we’ve seen the game through to its next phase. Maybe it’s time to look at social media in a new light.
There was a time where the Twitter experience was a lot less strategic. You had the people who were all business, all the time. You had those who were a little unhinged, causing trouble simply because they could. But more people fell somewhere in the middle, tweeting and hitting events to see who else was in their city, make new friends and step out from their comfort zones, trying to get a little more of what life had to offer.
The rules of the game have changed: no longer is a social medialite simply a person with a phone who’s painting the town red; social medialites are commodities. Resources who brands choose to court to put a human element to products and services — in the best cases, synergy happens between brands and social medialites, and they weave a story together.
But all of this takes time. It takes time to plan an event and make it memorable enough for being to want to talk about it when they get home. Tweetchats don’t happen by themselves — they need promotion and targeting to make sure the right stuff gets to the right people. And it’s not like there’s a magic swag fairy who just picks people at random, leaving goodies on their doorstep — you need to know your market and who’d be the most likely to use and promote your product.
And who better to know who to find than the social medialites interacting with them?
But when you’re spending all that time making those connections and creating the best content you possibly can, you show up to friends’ parties a little less often. Your tweets are a little less random, with more of them promoting your blog or events you’re hosting.
But there’s no manual to social media. There’s no guidebook showing us how to go viral and make millions from our content. But we still try, clinging to the hope that we’ll somehow break apart from the pack — while still making it up as we go. Many of us have mastered how we use social media and how we package our messages, but that’s not enough. In Toronto, everyone wants to be the best. We all want to be different from everyone else and excel beyond our peers. But is it our ambition that killed the social in social media?
It takes two to tango, though. While the tool’s changed and its legitimacy makes it a lot different from it was when we first crossed paths, the people who use the tool have changed too. We’re all a little older, a little wiser and a little harder from the years we’ve spent on social media. Social media’s like everything you’d experience in a regular life amplified — but you can only keep the pace for so long; life reveals your path sooner or later. I chose to get married and have kids — I see Tiff and Val are hot on my heels (for the marriage part, anyway). People like Christine Estima, Anne and Jorge up and left the city.
Or there’re things that mark us and make us a little less social. Christine Pantazis recently lost her grandmother. Chris Vollick lost his mom. We’re reminded again and again that social media isn’t everything and that we need to strike a balance between all the facets of our lives and not just gravitate to one just because we like it better.
And in several cases, when a tool founds your relationship and you stop using the tool like you used to — something else steps in to fill that void, and it’s usually not the company you’ve kept online.
Did our real-life commitments kill the social in social media?
The New Media
So what happened to the social media scene in Toronto? Did it sell out? Was it abandoned by a user base that got too big too quickly, changing how they interacted with the very tools that got them where they are? Or did “life” simply get in the way with its relationships and jobs and babies, leaving little time to tweet ‘n’ greet?
It’s a little of Column A, a little of Column Z. There’re likely a million reasons why those who were the most visible in the scene up and vanished to what we hope are better places, but I think everyone just grew up a little.
Growing up means different things to different people. To some of us, it means taking blogging more seriously and working toward writing for a supplementary income. To others, it means more of a traditional approach with relationships, children, or other added responsibilities. In any case, many of us have shifted from using social media as a primary source of information and connection to a communication tool. We’ve learned how to structure interaction in one-hour blocks with tweetchats. We’ve learned how to communicate our thoughts in 140 characters or less to engage an audience. Now, we plan events, develop strategies for brands and take images and Vines that tell a story.
We’ve become so good and engrossed in our media that we’ve forgotten all about the social. We’ve passed the torch along to those entering the world of social media today. Twitter and Facebook are established, and in ways, they’re already the tools of the yesteryear, with their biggest demographics already in their late 20s to mid-30s.
Is it all worth it? Is severing the ties just to make names for ourselves really the only thing that matters? Are we all but mere stepping stones to one another in a quest to reach our true potential?
I sincerely hope not.
The New Toronto Media Scene
For now, it’s a little quieter in Toronto. The events are more exclusive and the crowds aren’t quite so loud. We have an army of Toronto social medialites sharpening their skills and honing their abilities with no end in sight. We’re becoming the best we can be individually… while forgetting that we could accomplish so much more collectively.
So I say rest in peace to Toronto’s social scene. We’ve chosen our allies, we’ve figured out who to trust. We’ve made our mistakes and celebrated our victories. The blogosphere spins ever on, but so many of us run lonelier than we ever did to begin with.
Welcome to the new Toronto media scene. Please enjoy your stay.
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
–Birdman (featuring The Clipse), “What Happened to that Boy?”, Birdman, 2002
I decided to stay away from blogging until I had something worthwhile to say. I’m not just an event blogger. I don’t just take photos of food and share stories from my past.
I used to draw. I used to write novels. I used to spend months on projects instead of trying to crank content out to keep — what, relevant? Popular? To show how good I am at social media?
Whatever the reason, I was lost. I was blogging out of control with no end in sight.
This wasn’t the way it meant to be.
After two solid years of spending the lion’s share of my time on social media and events related to it, I’ve figured out that I’m far happier investing time in creating quality projects than I am doing lots of little things daily to keep fresh in everyone’s mind. I wasn’t doing anything for myself anymore — I was starting to do things because of so many other obligations, and not simply because I could. It was like being 16 all over again.
We might be the sum of our experiences, but we are measured by the sum of what we put out into the world around us — and if we put stuff out that we can’t always stand behind, then what does that add up to?
Christine recently asked me a question that caught me dead in my tracks. It was so alarmingly simple that I’m surprised I hadn’t thought on it before, but the more I thought on it, the more I realized that I’d lost my way and needed to stop figure out what exactly I was doing. It was only four words, but they captured much of what I’ve felt lately — and that question is this:
“What are your goals?”
Why Am I Doing This?
I usually start things for one reason: because they’re interesting. When I started blogging on LiveJournal in 2002, it was because it gave me an outlet to express myself through all the emotional turmoil and confusion that was my transition from high school to university. When I started doomsdayblaze.com and Fish ‘n’ Chimps in 2003, I was looking to develop my coding skills even further and put a regular webcomic out about the characters I’d grown to love. I started using Facebook in 2005 because it was “cool” and gave me a better place to represent myself than I would anonymously on other sites like AsianAvenue or BlackPlanet.
I start things because they interest me, and social media was no different. When I started with a Twitter account in ’08, I barely used it, and no one was listening to me. That would change when I finally started meeting people at tweetups by the end of 2010 and building a network of peers, friends and business associates to work with.
But there lies the problem — work at something enough, and it reaches a tipping point where what was fun and interesting suddenly becomes serious. You become marketable. That thing you dabbled in suddenly becomes work.
LiveJournal became less important to keep up as my life became more routine and I found less wonder in each day — forcing myself to write about myself became an uphill battle that I didn’t want to fight. With school, work and a social life, I found myself at home less and less often, which meant my art suffered from my absence, and my content for doomsdayblaze.com with it. And while I still use Facebook and connect with my friends, I’ve stopped broadcasting my every thought like I used to and started sharing — almost instinctively — the ideas which I think others would actually respond to.
But social media took that tipping point to an entirely new level.
Blogging Outta Control
I’ve changed a lot over the years of social media, blogging attempts and general Internet consumption… but is it for the better?
Okay, let’s be real — for the most part, bloggers don’t know what the heck they’re doing. They like to party, they like to get free stuff and they like to feel important — but why are they blogging? Ask a blogger what their goals are for their blog and wait to see if they have an answer. What story are they trying to tell? Who is their audience? Does it make them happy?
When I hit that first tweetup a little over two years ago, it was an amazing experience for someone who thrives off of the energy level in a room — I met dozens of new people, tried new places — it was a rush.
My calendar would fill with more and more of these events, like HoHoTO shortly afterwards — one of the craziest parties I’d hit up in a while; TwestivalTO and DefineTO which merged dancing, drinking and competitive karaoke; or even the upcoming Bloggers in Sin City, an unconference specifically for bloggers which I wouldn’t have considered investing in during those earlier days.
Twitter’s very likely been one of the last steps in my transition to becoming a complete adult from the big kid I’ve always been. I’ve held jobs pretty steadily for the last 15 years, but never in any of them did I have to work on being a brand. I was given tasks and I did them — but that’s a heck of a lot simpler than doing things while trying to stand out from a crowd. Or trying to develop your own personal signature or way of doing things. Working a job and trying to do things for a boss is simple cause and effect — but social media sees a lot of effort going toward cause… but without the effects being as obvious when you fire things out into the ether, it’s not the same at all.
The Art of Selling Out
Back in the early days of my social media journey, there were others I looked up to with what was almost a reverence, wondering how they managed to make a name for themselves. The Zaighams, the Jos, the Craigs and the Casies of the world – the people I saw out there with thousands of followers; everyone knew their names, and they just seemed to exist on an entirely different level.
The years go by, though, and you see that everyone else is just as human as you are. Everyone else might have some idea of what they’re doing, but they’re not working any less than you are. They’re not any luckier than you are. Oftentimes, that person you’re envying is probably who you could be if you were willing to put the years of work, network building and sheer effort needed to get there.
I’ve learned that nothing comes easy, but in that quest for the best, you can lose sight of who you are. Of what you’re supposed to do. Of why you’re doing it.
So, social media, my eyes are open and I’m awake for the first time in a good while. There’s a lot I need to do, but you know what?
I have all the time in the world to get it done.
Until the next post,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
“Everybody wanna be a star, don’t wanna be who they are.”
— Beanie Sigel, “Everybody Wanna Be A Star”, The Truth (2000)
You can get sucked into the game faster than you can blink.
Build an audience and people will start knocking at your door. Brands, would-be collaborators, haters — making yourself visible for all to see will make you a target for all sorts of attention, like it or not.
But never forget what they came for in the first place.
We’re Bringin’ Blogging Back — YUP!!!
The blogger brand’s diluted. Everyone’s fighting for the same piece of pie and many bloggers are more than happy to do whatever it takes to stand out and go home with the biggest morsels. Some of us fight to keep our integrity, but often feel like integrity doesn’t pay. Commissions pay. Sponsored and affiliate posts pay. But at the same time, if you don’t do it right, they can take away from your brand and everything that you stand for.
Many of us follow the same formula. Sure, we might tweak it — add a personal touch here, an amusing anecdote there — but ultimately, there’s a finite number of opportunities for a finite number of players, all who’re learning from each other how to keep those opportunities coming.
It’s all too easy to lose your way. I love a good event — the chance to practice photography with interesting subjects and to experience things that I wouldn’t otherwise. When brands send me on experiences because they want to see my words and understand my take on it, I’m honoured and flattered. But if I don’t keep a balance between event/product reviews and posts about what I’m really thinking, not only am I alienating my audience, I’m not being true to myself.
So where’s the sweet spot between integrity, relevancy and profitability?
Why Blog If You Can’t Keep It Real?
Cheryl Lynn had it right back in the 70s — “Got to be real!” And in keeping it real — it’s not easy to feed mouths from blogging alone. People are skeptical — selling stuff to people over the Internet takes an insane amount of charisma and influences; not just anyone can separate people from their hard-earned dollars. And being even more real, what incentive do many bloggers out there offer brands to trust them with the products and images that they’ve poured millions into? The idea of free labour and an engaged audience might seem like an attractive package to offer from a blogger’s perspective, but your following of a few thousand is nothing compared to the millions consuming TV, magazines, movies, etc.
If you don’t stand for anything — if all you do is parroting what other bloggers are doing and hoping to get the same success, you’ll soon find that first impression are the only ones to make impressions — you can’t pull the same stunt twice on the Internet and expect it to stick; people are always looking for the next thing. You are not the next social media darling. You are not the next big-time blogger. You’re the next you — what is it that you can do that no one else can?
Going Back to Myself
In the end, this is my promise. I will stand for a higher standard. I will work to stand out from the crowd not through elitism, but through telling a story and sharing thoughts that improve the world, not simply beat to the rhythm it already has. I will challenge things and ask the hard questions. I will be a blogger — and not just a mouthpiece.
Stand for something or fall for anything. The world’s waiting for you to be yourself — why be the next whoever or act like everybody else? Show us what makes you different, and the world might start paying attention!
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
There are some of us in the world who don’t really have a “bucket list” or anything like that. I haven’t really made a list of things I’d like to do before I die; I don’t have anything I’m seriously willing to give a kidney for — I just live life and enjoy whatever it happens to throw my way.
And sometimes, life throws me experiences that make me do a double-take. Like the time I became a cast member (or a “haunter”) at Screemers Haunted Theme Park!
To Scare or Not to Scare?
I almost didn’t go to Screemers’ Night Out at first — it was the same night that I was supposed to head up to Collingwood for an annual chalet retreat, and haunted houses have never been my thing. I just don’t scare easily! But I read through the email that Jamie had sent me as way of an invite (to Toronto’s “spookiest bloggers”, though I’m still at a loss for what that means exactly…), and I realized that this would be a little different from your typical event — I wasn’t there to give the haunters their best shot at scaring the pants off of me…
…I would be DOING the scaring!
Life is the sum of our experiences, this is true — but it’s the unique experiences that really stand out! And while working at a haunted house is never something that’d ever been on my radar (I mean, let’s be serious — I’ve spent the last decade in office jobs; you can’t get any more “normal”), there was no way I was about to pass up permission to scare the hell out of people!
And Scare I Did!!!
It was pretty cool — after some quick makeup and airbrushing in the rear “haunters’ dressing room” and changing into an orange jumpsuit (with blood spatters added for extra effect), I was ready to scare some unsuspecting humans!!!
So I guess I was expected to go scare people for a few minutes to get a feel for what it’s like to be a haunter at Screemers, but I got a little carried away…
Yeah… the free Molson Canadian and Jägermeister really only helped to get me more amped up to mess with people’s heads — and while I started in the front of the Asylum, popping up from behind a window to scare people, I quickly learned some lessons from my more seasoned coworkers:
1. No one’s scared of zombies
Sure, you can announce yourself with a loud growl and slowly move toward them, but that won’t really instil fear in people — just initial surprise that quickly peters off.
2. Location, location, location!
My scare potential totally skyrocketed when I changed locations to the second half of the Asylum — a maze of mirrors and prison bars washed in pulsing strobe lights! But location was a lead-in to the third lesson…
3. Fear is PSYCHOLOGICAL
A creepy grin and utter silence will do more than a single growl and low moan ever will — and it’s better for your throat in the long run!
What I’d learn most is that the unknown is what will drive people crazy. Banging noises from unseen sources and threats laid out in the open but not knowing what they’ll do next — these freak people out. Getting through something like Screemers is a testament to your sanity more so than anything else as they slowly try to chip away at it!
In short, it was awesome.
In the end, I was broken out of my trance when Val, Zach, Tiff and her fiancé Ryan crossed my path and recognized me — just as well, because I was being summoned to make my way up to the chalet!
Thanks go out to Jamie and Screemers for a fun-filled night of moistening pants!
But you didn’t think I was going to let my wife and our friends get away with cutting my fun short, did you???
Haunting Knows No Bounds
The makeup goes on easily enough, but with the dress room only having a dinky little washroom, there’s no way it was coming off very easily!
So, with my friend Trevor in tow, I made my way home by TTC with the makeup still on.
This in itself closed the night with three last stories:
A hospital worker thought I had been grievously injured at the Canada vs Cuba game that Trevor had gone to and offered to give me emergency first aid for my cuts and scrapes. She felt pretty dumb after I explained that it was only makeup….
When we got back home, as planned, Trevor went in first to Sarah in the front room to let her know I was running a little late. I let a couple of minutes pass, crept up to the window and BANGED on it, making a gruesome face. I’ve never heard Sarah scream so loud in my life!!!
Finally, we got up to the chalet and I darted over to the entrance. Rapping hard on the door a few times, I waited there with a hood over my head, when who should answer — Trevor’s wife Sakshi! Yanking the hood back and giving a triumphant growl, well — let’s just say that Sakshi screamed even louder than Sarah did!