– SotDs, sensibilities and virtual soapboxes
That ‘life’ – even the virtual ‘lives’ we lead online, can prove stranger than anything an aspiring fiction writer can cook up, was brought home yesterday evening, when I had my own daily dose of an oversized WTF moment.
Another perfume blogger posted a polemic/satirical rant about the proliferation of what he saw as utterly pointless SotD (Scent of the Day) posts and tweets on Facebook perfume groups and Twitter feeds. To this gentleman, such posts/tweets were not only deathly uninteresting in and of themselves, he frankly didn’t give a flying what anyone else was wearing. He saw these posts – often accompanied by links to a Fragrantica page on said SotD, or an image found elsewhere – as nothing more nor less than desperate cries for attention happily perpetuated by other members, who could then ‘like’ the post, start engaging the poster, and then start – or not – a conversation about it.
Dear readers, the horror! The very idea!
I would have liked nothing more than to link to the blog post in question, but alas, the blogger then proceeded to effectively shoot himself in his metaphorical mouth by deleting the post. I’ll be getting back to that.
The ensuing debate that raged across two Facebook perfume communities (and probably elsewhere) I know of is still ongoing as I type.
What really rallied my inner Doña Quixota was not just the blithe obliviousness to the role of engagement in social media (which is quite heinous enough) but a total and what I thought an arrogant disregard for one of the founding principles in human interaction.
If you don’t want a conversation, don’t start talking!
Unless, of course, you’re trying to convince yourself of the validity of your own opinions, in which case – go for it! I explain my interpretations of Schopenhauer to my cats several times a day, and so far, they still disagree, unappreciative wretches that they are.
Once upon a time – and it was only last summer – I posted two heavily shared posts on the role of social media on Planet Perfume. It explained something about how we’re conversing or communicating our shared passion for The Ephemeral Art, how those conversations are evolving between the customers of perfumers and houses, and how, if you think about it, we’re very poorly equipped as a species to even have these conversations to begin with, dealing as they do with an art form that bypasses all our neocortical verbal abilities and heads like a Cruise missile straight for our amygdalas which hold our non-verbal, most emotional memories.
This is why – bear with a little arrogance on my part here – not everyone who buys perfume and/or is an active member of a fragrance community/group is a perfume blogger.
It’s bloody hard to write about.
If you could see yours truly mid-review, you’d see a barefaced, disheveled slob in leopard print PJs wearing a cloud of said review, sniffing a wrist and/or a strip of Arches watercolor paper, pacing back and forth between the teapot and the laptop, thumbing a thesaurus, chewing on pencils, blasting (and singing along with) vintage punk records and suspect over the hill metal baritones while muttering sotto voce, tearing at hair, pulling faces and displaying an impressive command of blatantly offensive swear words in several languages. All of it performed in front of the most terrifying space of all – a blank Word page. Now you know!
The Rule of Engagement
In social media, there is a term called the rule of engagement. It boils down to something like this:
If a given online community is set to a value of 100%, then 90% of it will enjoy the show, so to say, but only rarely be driven to participate. Ten percent of them will engage – that is to say, participate in any ongoing conversation, comment on a blog or put up a Facebook status, respond to a tweet and so forth. One percent of that total – this holds true everywhere – will quite independently of everyone else feel compelled to create original content for whatever reasons and always or frequently participate in one form or another.
I see this again and again – on Facebook, on Twitter, the very comments I’m privileged to receive and conversations I initiate on this blog by readers I feel privileged to write for, concerning an art form we all feel so passionate about. And if all you as a reader and perfume aficionado are capable of contributing is your SotD with a Fragrantica link, then that’s perfectly acceptable to me. Trust me, I have more than enough words and opinions for at least five thousand people.
The Facebook Freakfumista Show
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, whether we choose to participate or not, Facebook and social media are revolutionizing our very lives and the way we interact with each other every day.
Because all of them give us a unique and unprecedented opportunity to reinvent and redefine ourselves every single day – and every single moment, if we choose. Whether we post LOLcats, memes, links or simply what we had for dinner, we’re all of us reinventing our own lives and how we choose to represent them – every day.
Not only that – we’re driven by nothing more nor less than our need for being acknowledged, being seen, being told – in an increasingly fragmented, crowded, anonymous life – that we as individuals have some validation in the footprints we leave on the planet.
Personally, I will go to my grave stating that perfume – that ridiculous, expensive, aspirational, superfluous art – has made everything in my life possible.
I became a perfume blogger for one reason – to become a better writer, since that’s my bottom line in self definition. I exceeded beyond my wildest expectations.
As I evolved from those distant beginnings not even three years ago, I also joined perfume groups on Facebook, was invited to join in those online conversations, became known and accepted into that elite one percent. I observed what people were talking about and how they talked, commented on SotD posts, was pointed in several directions I’ve never known otherwise. I posted my own navel-gazing SotD posts, and sometimes, sparked conversations as I did. They were – and still are – a revelation.
While I may be a resident freakfumista and post-punk midlife misanthrope in my own all-too-real life, to find a kind of community and acceptance in the online world of social media has changed my life forever – for real. I have one real life true-blue friend in my immediate vicinity and a sister in faraway Copenhagen. That’s all, two argumentative Schrödinger cats notwithstanding.
But I also have standing invitations, true-blue and exceedingly real friendships and instant community – and another kind of family? – on three continents, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and those endlessly boring, irrelevant SotD posts.
I’ve learned details about lives and personalities I would otherwise never know from finding out what people choose to waft, wear and adore. I’ve shared in their lives, their loves, their woes and their joys, celebrated their successes and cheered them up when they were down. I’ve met people, found readers, I’ve connected, I’ve had long, involved Skype conversations. I’ve fallen in love and certainly laughter with not a few of them in a way that feels less like fake, superficial acquaintances and more like family in the best sense of the word, and to a writer in BFE nowhere who has not much at all, that has meant and still means more than you know.
So those silly, volatile, vociferous Facebook groups and Twitter conversations – the endless revolving virtual happy hour across time zones of SotDs and discussion and dissent, where fellow freakfumistas just like me argue, laugh, post bad jokes and share ourselves, our lives and our preoccupations are far more important than they appear on the surface. For one thing, it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your obsession and have a place to share it.
For another, you may have far more in common with your fellow freakfumistas than just perfume, and isn’t common ground where all true friendships often begin in real life?
The Towering Ivory Soapbox
Any kind of creative expression – regardless of the medium you choose – is in itself a kind of narcissism – or solipsism. If it’s just an exercise in preventing your head from exploding, you might choose to stick with the decidedly old-school method of a pen and a notebook. Alas and alack, so very many of us don’t stop there. We begin to believe our own brand of blarney. We begin to think we have an opinion and what-the-hey, why not commit that ultimate exercise in vanity…put it out there?
Publish a blog post, put the link up on Facebook and elsewhere, tweet it and tell the world, tell the world that you exist?
It’s a free world, we have freedom of speech and freedom of opinion, and the online world has plenty of room enough for everyone. Say whatever you please. Stand by what you say.
So long as you’re aware that nothing – not even in the blogosphere – exists in a vacuum, and whatever you do say can and often does find a level – or an audience. You may get a reaction to your words and your opinions, if not always the reaction you would choose. But blogging is itself a social medium, and by choosing to blog, you are also opening yourself up to criticism, dissent and discussion. How you decide to deal with it says very much about the courage of your convictions and very much more about your social media credibility.
I think it’s a crying shame that particular blogger deleted the post – as if he didn’t get the reaction he was hoping for, so he then chose to erase it. I would have respected it very much more if he hadn’t, and had the determination to stand by what he wrote.
Dissent, discussion and even the occasional satire is a many-splendored thing. All too often though, it backfires on the writer. Not because of the mode of expression he chose, but because the writer didn’t have the necessary writing skills to make his intentions crystal clear – or perhaps the motivation or resolve to explain them properly, and if that’s true, then he might have chosen a better angle for a better reception.
Yet, there it is. We live in a social world. We redefine ourselves within that context every single day of our lives, with LOLcats, memes, links, tweets and status updates and SotDs.
Some of us haul out the virtual soapbox and preach to an unseen choir, but in a social world, it isn’t up to us to decide what happens once we do, or even if we might topple from our ivory soapbox towers.
Only that our SotSolipsism might have consequences we could never have foreseen.
Image: via The Globe And Mail