If you had told me, ten years ago, that I would spend hours watching people talk about what they ate for breakfast, I would have laughed at you. Real hard, with every bone in my body. I would have ROFLed and LMAOed simultaneously, because my sharper, younger brain would not have thought of a pastime as ridiculous as this. I had too many pop music reality shows to watch instead.
Recently, I was discussing the rudeness of bloggers who don’t reply to comments with Tamara from Orange Pond Connects, who wrote a genial and yet hard-hitting post on the subject. We got to the point of big bloggers and Youtubers, who never reply to comments unless it’s by people they personally know. She told me about a Youtuber who was advised by his/her PR people to not respond to comments, so as to remain mysterious. Something that is even more ridiculous than people like me watching them make breakfast, because they are the ones putting their entire lives on the internet. Really, what is this mystery you speak of?
Some bloggers of any level of popularity seem to miss out on a basic fact – your blog is nothing without your interaction with readers/viewers. If you are so complacent as to never reply to people who actually bother to read/watch your stuff, you are not mysterious, but insecure and arrogant. Yes, mystery is attractive. But, if so much as talking to another person, especially when they have a specific take on something you have put out, is so revealing to you, you never had much mystery in the first place.
There has always been an element of mystery in something produced for public consumption – not just art, but even in sports, news programmes etc. Often it is cultivated, but it is a good promotional strategy because there is no better way of reining audiences in, than to provoke their curiosity. Or you could go the other way, like so many Reality TV stars do, and give audiences everything, but make it so out of the ordinary, that it becomes a curiosity as well. With the first, you don’t say everything. With the second, you say something that people in the real world can’t fully comprehend.
It’s the old ‘donkey and the carrot’ idea – give people the idea that something satisfying is there down the line, but never actually give it to them. Of course, this whole premise is based on the fact that what you have to give is equivalent to what a carrot means to a donkey. You or your work has to be interesting. Youtube and blogging in general has introduced people in the entertainment and content creation business to the fact that everyday things can also be of interest. Only Beverly Hills housewives aren’t interesting, regular housewives also have an audience.
The difference lies in the fact that, not every regular home-maker (I hate the term ‘housewife’) is interested in taking high-quality pictures of her daily meals, presented on expensive cutlery. The reason I watch people making breakfast is the same reason I used to watch cookery shows on TV ten years ago – content and presentation. However, while these shows were built by trained professionals who had market research and extensive resources at hand, these blogs are completely personalised, limited to the presenter/content creator’s own experiences. The relatability is unbeatable, but the research isn’t, expectantly, up to the mark.
Which doesn’t mean I am a snob when it comes to hand-sown, home-grown media. Neither is Francis Ford Coppola, director of films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, who said in the 80’s that home videos and camcorders were the future of entertainment. I actually prefer consuming content by more modest bloggers/vloggers, especially when I see the effort and originality they reflect with their limited means. They don’t have idiotic PR companies advising them to not interact with their readership/audience, and so they take a lot of effort to graciously reply to comments, participate in community activities, interact with bloggers on their blogs. The last two are optional, but the first is a no-brainer. If you are putting stuff out there, you have to be gracious and sensible enough to respond to what comes back to you. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. No matter how interesting your content maybe, people will get a whiff of how you consider yourself above human interaction, and they’ll stop interacting. There is a huge difference between being mysterious and being affable.
I have no interest in putting my entire life on the internet, or even to people I personally know. No one is allowed to be critical of my life. With my social media, I am trying to put out the best in me, things I feel will be useful to people, and things that are also of interest to me. Potential social media voyeurs will be disappointed, because there is nothing to tell, nor will anything ever be told. The biggest mystery I am holding about myself is that I am drop dead gorgeous, but it’s not like I will ever tell you about it.