Here's the thing about social media - it's wildly inaccurate.
1) The friendship paradox ensures your friends are more popular than you. They experience the same effect. It's maths.
2) The ingroup bias ensures we overestimate the value of our immediate group at the expense of unknown outsiders.
3) There is also a natural tendency to FB share and TWTR retweet items only at the extreme good or extreme bad ends of the spectrum.
This all leads to what I'll dub the "sidelines" effect. You're in a group, and the awesomeness of it is happening all around you, and you're contributing... yet somehow you're not quite a part of it.
I posted this up the other day:
At the time, I quantified myself back in a wishy-washy 140 character kind of way, but I think more needs to be said. Because I'm often an outlier not just in the "Math Twitter Blogosphere", but in a more general sense. More to the point, I suspect I'm not alone.
For instance, when someone in the last days of teaching says to me "Solidarity!" my knee jerk response trends to "Liquidarity!" or even "Sewing Machine!". Which means you, as the other party, are perfectly within your rights to nod slowly and go talk to someone else.
After all, it's the sort of thing that probably works better in person, when you can hear the tone of my voice and see the expression on my face. (Assuming it works at all.) That's hard to convey in text, and is impossible for you to picture if you only KNOW me through Twitter or Facebook. So, more often than not, I'll hold my tongue.
HOW I WILL CHANGE
See, I like provoking that sort of reaction. When I was young, it kept the bullies off balance. Now that I'm older, I use it more for entertainment purposes (and because I can't always turn it off). It also cushions me from the occasional harsh realities of life. For instance, the bleakness of how alone I so often feel because, oh God, I'm so ignored and people don't GET me!!
Kleenex! Sewing machine.
But yes, in all seriousness, I am changing. So are you. We all do, we all MUST change and adapt, otherwise we're not learning from our mistakes. But it's not always on a conscious level, and it tends to happen because of one of two things:
1) You're changing for yourself, not for other people.
2) You're changing in small bite-size pieces. Otherwise you implode.
My blog is one example of this. Back at the end of March I posted up "Why Do You Blog?", essentially a rebuttal to Michael Pershan's "Do it for others, not yourself". And I got comments, both on that post, and through Twitter, which forced me to re-evaluate, and re-design how I post. I DID want to help others, so change happened.
Naturally, within a week, the world went silent again.
MEDIOCRACY IS THE NORM
As per my point 3 above, when something is really BAD, you tend to hear about it. (For instance, whatever common core is, it needs to be stopped.) Or when something is really GOOD, you tend to hear about it. (Nguyening.) Everything else is just... out there. Maybe garnering a 'like' or 'favourite'. Until it either finds a megaphone, or gets a following, or receives enough feedback to morph into one of those extremes. Before that, you're participating, but off on the sidelines.
IF I WAS A FEMALE PARABOLA BUNNY
And that's another reason why I get random sometimes. I know I'm more than mediocre. I'm more than just one guy in the group!
Yet I AM just one person, and all the good social media things REQUIRE the group. There's feedback, there's collegiality, and you become more than the sum of your parts. But I just said that's NOT me. I am NOT good in groups, and I'm certainly not a leader. Hence, the "sidelines" effect. Hence why I say I'm an outlier.
I also grant that I don't have the feedback knack... randomness aside, I generally only speak up when I have something to say that's particularly (a) profound, or (b) inane. (See, even I only do extremes.)
In conclusion then, this post must fit into one of those two categories.
I'll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide. Have I been able to convey how someone can feel perfectly alone in a crowded room, merely standing by on the sidelines as the group dynamic awesomeness continually happens around them? Or does this post come across more as a pretentious hack whining about how nobody truly "understands" them?
For something more profound: My Choose Your Own Exam
For something more inane: Seeking New Personifications
For something with more violin: Lindsey Stirling Music Video
Because Transcendence. The violin there also works as a pretty good instrumental background while you're reading this post. Damn, that probably should have been my thesis...