A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Social Media

Five years ago, I started toying with the notion of starting a blog. Everyone was doing it, and most of the ones I read just weren’t that impressive to me. I figured, “I can do that.” People were getting respected and admired for writing about the dumbest of things. Hundreds of people were listening to what these bloggers had to say. Maybe even thousands in some cases. And since there was really no other way for a non-connected writer like myself to get his words and thoughts out there, I figured I would give it a go.

I didn’t know code or anything like that, so I launched a search to find a WYSIWYG template. (Though I didn’t use that term then. I didn’t know that was a term.)

I found Blogger, and was impressed with the simplicity. This was a writer’s template, not one for computer programmers. After a few days I determined to follow the old adage, “write what you know”. So I did. I chose to write advice and opinions on stage acting, while sharing my own personal adventures in same. The result was “Always Off Book“, my first blog, which I still keep today.

The many followers never really showed, though certain posts I have published over the years have sparked some debate and conversation that lasted a while. Nonetheless I hold onto it out of love.

A few years later came Myspace. I saw it as a bit silly and confusing, but I reluctantly joined as a way to keep in touch with friends from a central location without having to use e-mail. I thought perhaps people would be more likley to respond to my messages if I used it. They weren’t, but I held on anyway because it had some fun elements.

Then there was Facebook, which I joined with the same ill-fated mission as when I joined Myspace. It has eclipsed MySpace, but I don’t understand why. It’s basically the same thing. I get ignored by friends just as efficiently there as I did on Myspace.

Just before Christmas of last year, I got it in my head to start a new blog in addition to Always Off Book. You’re currently reading that blog, and if you go back to entries from January you can read the story behind why this one exists. [author’s note: this is in reference to Too XYZ, not TyUnglebower.com]

A mere 30 or so days ago, with a very skeptical bent of mind, I joined Twitter for the first time.

In all of these actions, I was engaging in “new media” or as those within it prefer to call it now “social media”.

But I am not your typical independent firebrand Gen-Y individual looking to burn my personal brand on everything that moves so I can get ahead and become location independent. (There’s my SEO sentence for the day.) No, I use these things to connect with people. To do what writers do and share my ideas through writing, so that people might have a better day because of something I write. I don’t need to change the world, but I want to alter its trajectory a bit, and hopefully run into like minded people. Also to experience organic networking that would lead to bigger and better things.

In some ways, this has happened. Overall however, I don’t know if I could be called a social media success story at this point. And I think I know part of the reason. It has taken me a while, but the truth has begun to dawn on me. The answer is this…

I see social media as a tool to do things. A means to an end, not the end itself.

And I believe most people, especially the “Gen-Y” types see it as the end in and of itself.

Like I told you, I joined Facebook, (and Myspace before it) to keep in touch with my friends. That is all I use if for. I don’t spread a “personal brand” with it. (Let’s just say right here and now that I think the overall concept of personal branding as it is currently defined is about 50% bullshit.)

Youtube is just for laughs. Twitter is…well I’m still working on what the hell Twitter is supposed to be for me right now.

And then there are my blogs. These are the pride and joy of my online presence. Where content is king, dammit. (And if you don’t like that I said that because it is “sooo 2007” then you are free to take your short attention span elsewhere.)

I have met some good people with social media over the years. Mostly because they found my content and it spoke to them, (which is how I wanted it to be originally), but also through intentional means. I don’t mean to lump all of the new friends I have made into the same cold stew. But the social media thing really is in many ways extending beyond its own usefulness for someone like me, now that it is seen so often as more than a tool.

You know what 75% of the Tweets, blogs, videos and Facebook pages I encounter in social media are dedicated to? Social media itself. Some days it seems that many people in social media just can’t shut up about it, or use it for a purpose outside of social media aggrandizement. Content consists of…

–How to get more followers on Twitter
–How Social Media Can Expand Your Business
–How Social Media Defines Your Personal Brand
–Like it or not, Privacy is dead, make sure the 10,000 people that may hire you one day approve of every last posting you ever put on Facebook ever, because they are going to check it. Here’s how to make sure you’re ok.
–SEO doesn’t have to be boring, but it does have to be.
–Networking, Networking, and More Networking
–How to Tie your Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Tumbler, WordPress, and Foursquare accounts into Your Toaster.
–Not to mention the approximately 458 million posts that incorporate both “Gen-Y” and “Social Media” into their titles.

The fact is, that isn’t me. Hell, I can’t even get a straight answer from somebody as to whether or not I am even in Generation-Y.

I am not against marketing. Businesses need to do it. Freelancers, such as I am trying to be, have to do it in regards to the services they hope to sell. I am working on it, believe me.

But I can’t do all of it all of the time, every waking moment. The ubiquity of it all! The pavement pounding and the phone calls, and the ads and the networking and the back scratching and the link passing, just to get people to have a conversation with me? A conversation?? Kind of sounds like job hunting. The way it was before social media even entered our lives. Which begs the question, if it isn’t any easier than it used to be to connect with people for non-retail purposes, has social media served a greater purpose?

I don’t know. I can’t answer that. All I can say is I’d rather connect to people through my ideas for once, instead of having to listen to lectures and read articles and retweet tweets pertaining to the mastery of nuance of the latest social media fad. (I maintain Twitter itself will level off and be replaced some year.) I want to at some point not be wheeling and dealing, searching and sliding, researching and networking and scratching backs and learning the latest lingo just to connect with human beings. I’d like to use social media once in a while for the very thing I got into it for in the first place. To make a personal difference in people’s lives without feeling like I’m trying to sell them a used car. I’d like to succeed by using social media when appropriate without having to surrender to the notion that it is the new voluntary version of Big Brother.

I’d like to matter with the aid of social media. Not because of it.

But perhaps I am just TOO XYZ for that too.


  1. Haha. This is a great post Ty. There's a lot of truth in here (about most of social media being about social media), but there is also (excuse the directness) a lot of ignorance on the value of social media.

    I'm in a hurry now, but I actually have an answer that might help, or at least add to the conversation. I'll either write you an email/message on brazen or write a post about it myself.

    In the meantime, all I'll say twitter/fb/blogging/linkedin/youtube/etc. are all platforms. they are not Tools. Platforms can be used to stage an act, tools are used for a purpose. There is no purpose to these platforms. They are just venues for creative usage.

    Again, more constructive and less vague answer coming soon.

  2. Thoughtful post Ty. Conversation and content share the throne in my view and social media can be used any way you want to use it. Facebook and Twitter add to my happiness because they connect me with other people while I am banging out my dissertation. The people I connect with are a breath of fresh air coming in my window. Without them I would not be writing as much, or chatting as much. I would be in my office at the University with a bunch of noisy gen y post grads with no shut off button. I like that I can tune in and out when it suits me. I certainly don't feel the need to make everything I tweet about, every status update, or post matter every time. I sometimes put good content out there and I appreciate others' efforts.

  3. Thank you both for your comments, (though I take small exception to the idea of being called “ignorant” on such things. Behind the times or not suited for the medium, perhaps, but I'm no ignorant about the nature of what it is all IN THEORY supposed to do.)

    I am with you Heather, in regards to using it the way you suggest. But I just keep hearing from so many people how it has to be done a certain way if I hope to get anywhere with it, even in that sort of context.

    I look forward to continuing the conversation.

  4. Hi Ty, lovely to touch base with you again and frankly enlightening to read of your other thoughts here besides the excellent subject of theatre. I'm glad you still write a blog for that as well. I sent you a message on Twitter as I wasn't sure if you were the same individual of before. Look forward to reading a lot more from you. regards

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