Monday's In The Capital article about me and The LittleBigFund, along with everyone's reaction to it, got me thinking. As I continued to wonder it means to be myself and my "viral self" at the same time, I questioned where my real worth is granted to me. Surpassing a million followers was a ceremonial passing through the threshold into thought leadership that garnered most of the attention to be written about in the first place. It's automatically assumed that I'm automatically worth more with that number than without it. It's a mysterious accomplishment that means...something. But there's the catch. In continually trying to challenge myself to be better, my viral self can be a handicap just as easily as it can enable and empower me to do things I otherwise couldn't. It feels incredible intimate, yet it ultimately boils down to choosing whether to rest on my laurels or keep improving.
What yesterday's article showed is that I may need outside affirmation to expand and improve my efforts. Which isn't exactly novel, but extremely personal nonetheless. The LittleBigFund is not easy. I am not an expert fundraiser and it's (admittedly) frustrating to get zero to little interaction on infographics about how much we gave to charity, nonprofit stories, or our donation goals for the month. I was beginning to wonder what I needed to do to advance The LittleBigFund until yesterday's article helped answer that for me. By highlighting me, In The Capital - a thought leader itself - advanced my viral self and, in doing so, gave me more recognition from my friends for The LittleBigFund than The LittleBigFund's actual accomplishments have.
That's not a bad thing though. Recognition, especially when it's earned (not paid for, ego stroking PR), is incredibly important in broadening an audience's perspective to increase appreciation everywhere. I have to remember that recognition of my viral self is really just a validation of what I'm actually doing since everything I do here is an expression of what I've already done or felt. Having started blogging to truly express my thoughts online, I earned the confidence I have to do what I do by challenging myself to represent my truest, most complex self through limited keystrokes and a few photos. In doing so I was able to change the world around me which circled back into enhancing my newly minted viral self. It's like that recycling graphic. I used to not be sure if my viral self informs my physical actions more or vice versa. With the impossibility of meeting expectations on both sides, I've reaffirmed that I've freed myself from much of the pressure of the masses to be a certain way. My only demands of myself are my own and I navigate through life finding systems with responsibilities that fit within my values.
Before the article was released, an old family friend contacted me with a long message. Part of it read, "you're so young and have already done so much. so proud of all you have accomplished and all that i know you will accomplish in the future. i had my doubts when you were younger (seriously, you were such a bad little kid!) LOL" (I included that last line because I thought it was funny.) Within minutes I was affirmed both by an individual who knew me intimately and a news publication that stumbled across what I was doing thanks to some mutual connections. That showed me that my mission to unite my viral presence with my real life thoughts, ambitions, and actions had achieved a major victory. A major battle was won yesterday as I learned about the power of outside appreciation on people's willingness to act.
I view these particular moments of recognition as a sort of stepping stone. Maybe it's because I've been playing a ton of Zelda lately, but I imagine myself standing on a column that just raised high enough to reach the next floor. In order for that column to rise again to bring me to the next one, I must accomplish a set of goals before earning that "ba da ba boop" sound of recognition and moving up again. If you stop moving, you stay where you are forever until you die. That's probably an obtuse analogy, but it works for me.
In realizing how closely merged my viral and physical selves are, I've recognized that concerning myself over which is more authentic is futile. Without what I've done, In The Capital would have never written that fantastic article. It was what I did with a number that mattered most, not how many +1's I had. I wasn't expecting to learn so much from an article or have it matter to me as much as it did. I've rambled here to try and put my reactions into comprehensible sentences in order to learn something and am happy I did it without ever using the word "ponder."
All of it has put a spring in a step and a renewed faith in LBF's longterm success. I could concern myself with my online identity being more awesome than my physical identity, but hell - authenticity in my "no-bullshit" approach (thanks for pointing that out In The Capital!) is terrifyingly vulnerable, but so powerfully liberating. I must remember that while the mediums have changed, everyone always looks different on paper. The best way to earn respect is through your actions and not by asking for it.
Long 2:30am diary entry short - The internet mannnn....
Now in the present... The LittleBigFund failed anyways despite my desire to keep it alive. I love the idea of my old organization, but I can't commit myself to its success. That bums me out and makes me wonder what made me qualified to be in that position in the first place. What's comforting is that no one is really, truly qualified for anything new. I just had a decent hand of cards.