Yesterday I read something where an interviewer asked Yoko Ono what she thought John Lennon would make of social media if he were still alive today. She said, if I recall, that he’d probably like using it, because he used to write letters to air his opinions on things, and that’s a lot of what happens on social media.
Then, earlier today Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” played on my playlist, and it reminded me that, although he was still making music and being a fairly vocal activist in his final years, for the most part he’d gotten off the merry-go-round of Big Music and Pop/Rock Stardom and all that stuff. And he was pretty much cool with it.
The mental mashup of those two ideas has been sitting with me a lot today, and then on top of that I’ve spent lunchtime reading some recent tabletop rpg stuff I’ve gotten my hands on, and I also listened to a podcast awhile ago while I worked, all the while checking on Facebook and G+ every so often to see if anything interesting was going on, and – to be totally honest – checking to see if people had commented on things I’ve recently shared or posted.
I have a small but reliable handful of folks who usually engage with me on G+, and a different but equally small handful of folks who will engage with me on Facebook. Generally, written responses don’t come my way outside those small – and cherished – handfuls of friends. Sometimes there’s a voice in my head that tempts me to be sad or whiny about that. But when I really think about it, I’m pretty happy with where I am – close enough to the merry-go-round to observe and comment upon its whirly-twirly spinning, but not actually riding on it. And not TRYING to get back on, either.
I was on it for a while, in my small way, as a podcaster and as a wannabe-game-designer. I made some noise, I had some fun, I expressed myself to varying degrees of success, and got exposed to a whole bunch of new ideas, concepts, perspectives, and people. I was privileged and lucky. Most of the people were awesome and I still cherish them. Many of the ideas and perspectives were eye-opening and life-expanding. And many of the game-concepts opened up a whole new way of playing that I now value so much that I can’t imagine life as a tabletop roleplayer without them. Meanwhile, there were very few downsides. I said plenty of stupid things, not to mention some inadvertent and ignorantly sexist things, participated in cultural appropriation and stereotyping, and other stuff that I now wish I could have unsaid and unwrote. But very few people ever called me out on my crap, and when they did, it was almost always with patience and integrity. I only ever got involved in one fairly significant shitstorm as a podcaster, and only one other separate incident as a wannabe-game-designer.
Each of those shitstorm incidents came just before I got off of the merry-go-round, but I can’t say that either of them “drove” me to step off. More than anything else, the tangled web of my mental health and a stint in partial-hospitalization that grew out of that web was what prompted my exit from the whirling wheel of rpg-podcaster-indie-designer-microfame.
A few years have passed, I’m better, I’m stronger, I’m wiser, I think. But even though I admit that the bug still buzzes around my ears, and I still think about both podcasting and finishing my game design ideas all the time, the bottom line is, I doubt I’ll EVER be strong enough to jump back on the merry-go-round. If I did, I’m pretty sure I’d quit again, the moment someone pointed out I’d made a mistake and said, wrote, or did something problematic. And I would. I’m a straight, mostly-cis White dude in North America. Of course I’m going to write, or say, or do something problematic.
So yeah, among many other lesser reasons and lame excuses for not jumping back in and sharing my full potential – and I DO believe I have the ability and potential – I’m pretty much scared of screwing up – not on the idea or talent front, but on the problematic accidentally offensive socially progressive front.
So, here I stay. Watching the wheels, using social media to occasionally toss out a witty bon-mot or rant, or, on my better days, giving big, loud shouts of support and thumbs-ups to the folks on the merry-go-round who do stuff that I think is cool, or brave, or meaningful.
But I doubt I’ll ever step back on. I’m don’t think I’ve got the guts.