I’m going to excerpt a longish bit from the linked piece:
Here’s one example: earlier this week I was reading a book and it quoted a chap who linked to a blog post which linked back to…my blog! Wha—? And also: wot? It was that rare sort of ~Publishing Feeling~ I get when I can see my own hyperlinks make their return trip home. There’s this punch-to-the-gut when someone links to my work or points back at a note somewhere in the ol’ archives and it’s nothing short of exhilarating. There’s no higher honor, no kind of thanks giving better.
But is that feeling…good? That feeling I get when someone links to my work? Is it desperate? Isn’t it just a selfish hunger for fame and attention? Sure, probably, deep down that’s likely the case (my dad once asked what I wanted to be when I grow up and when I was 8 I turned to him very seriously and exclaimed that “I want to be a great man of history!” At the time I didn’t quite understand that you have to do certain things to be great, I just wanted to see my own face printed in books and etched on stone).
ANYWAY—I see this ~Publishing Feeling~ as somewhat more wholesome than the one I get when someone retweets me or faves a post on Instagram. There most certainly is an unhealthy yes when I check those kinds of stats and see the numbers are up. It’s a short lived yes, too. Because on the rare occasion that a tweet takes off and I get a whole bunch of attention on twitter, I always end up feeling hollow inside.
Yet! When someone writes a blog post about my work, or sends me a kind email, or—on the rarest of occasions—when someone riffs on my work and remixes those ideas then, THEN, I feel as if my work matters. That it was all worthwhile. Even when someone is disagreeing with me, I get this warm, cuddly feeling that all of my work is connected into a bigger thing, an enormous hyperlinked tapestry that we’re (sorry in advance) weaving together.
A couple of quick juxtapositions, then.
On Instagram – look, it’s not like I know, I’ve got a pretty small number of followers – but the attention if something hits on a tag or something – it’s so anonymous. It’s a little signal of nothing clear. Some number of people saw your thing, and some smaller number tapped their thumbs. Does it all come to anything? It can only simulate a fragment of asymmetrical fame.
Does the internet have neighborhoods? There’s no locality to the thing natively, though we’d tried to introduce it. When I lived in St. John’s in Portland, you learned people’s faces just going about doing your business. But when do you encounter others on the Internet? Your neighborhood is your social graph, whether it feels social or not, whether you can see more than your bit of it. Ideas jump along X-follows-Y relationships. The power of all the algorithmic ordering and search ranking was always that it could traverse and squeeze value from these emergent structures that we ourselves find too nebulous to name, too invisible to attend to.
Those structures are what’s being built up when someone links to you, which is maybe one reason why it feels like Something in a disproportionate way – you’re not just being acknowledged with an incremented ❤️-counter, you’re being drawn closer into a mesh-neighborhood in the only way that anyone ever is.
On Tumblr we used to talk about what a shitshow some tags were. Ah, here we go, #witchcraft drama again. These were places you entered, tossed your posts into. You might get a warm reception from the locals who’d come to peruse, or you might not – but the relation was anything but organic. The goths wandered away from #goth to #gothgoth to avoid ads and outsiders’ misclassified content, and on again to the only ever semi-ironic #gothgothgoth. Hard to have a community around that mechanism.
I know via Austin Kleon from Robin himself:
Blogging is pointing at things and falling in love.
I tell people about this quote a lot.
There’s a thing that happens in Catholic churches at certain sacraments. They have everyone in the place stretch out their hand, open palm, bless whoever it is being baptized or married or whatever. A single moment of prayer, not enough time for a Quaker to get settled. It’s an inconsequential amount of personal connection, in big parishes it’s not even for sure someone you know, not a real emotional thing – but it does mean something. The people there are the right people. In that instant, all aligned, every reaching arm.
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