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A story about follower counts, circles, and so so much more....or....Numbers...we don't need no stinkin numbers....

The following is my response to a blog post written by +RC Concepcion which has created a bit of a stir. Being responsible for inspiring several people now to hide their follower numbers I felt it important to say a few bunch of words...if you were personally sent a notification about this post , it is because I value your opinion on it, and it is a rarity that I send posts in such a manner...

We, as human beings have certain undeniable needs... the need for love and
the need for significance are intrinsic parts of being human.
This is what brings us together, what drives us to do the things we do, and what gives us reason to live,
and consequently what, can often times drive us apart.
I have given considerable amount of thought to the post that you are hopefully about to ingest, and Ive decided not to address many of the truly wonderful topics that are touched upon in the paragraphs to follow. Rather...I'd like to discus emotion, motivation, and ego.

While up late one evening talking with +RC Concepcion we stumbled upon the topic of ego. It had become incredibly apparent to me in the very short time since I've been here ( since Christmas week 2011) that this is an incredibly beautiful place. It's allowed me to connect with some amazing people from all walks of life, and all corners of the globe. Connect in a way that is truly spectacular. Google Hangouts, have given us back....what technology has taken away, the ability to communicate the way that we were meant to... face to face. We were designed to communicate this way. We make many calculations a second as we view each others faces while engaged in conversation. So much can be ascertained by absorbing a persons body language, tone, volume, and meter in which they communicate. Most of which gets lost... has been lost, in our ever growing standard of communication... email and text messaging. So to have this back... to have technology take a turn to right its wrongs, to me... is beautiful, and long over due.

Its also borne witness to an incredible display of the human condition in direct relationship to how technology has changed or perhaps merely amplified certain aspects of society. Ego, and the ever growing clamoring for self importance, value and significance.
This is what concerns me. We have become numbers, we no longer look at each other and simply see the possibility to learn share and laugh with someone. We see all this.. and we begin to gauge the person on an analytical scale and in turn waiver our decision of how much we interact with this... this human being.....based on a myriad of potential situations derived from a formula... how many people follow them.. how many do they follow. Hmmm they already follow 5k people.. they not follow me back,.....
We are losing touch with what is important as HUMANS.

I came here like many of you... because I like people! I truly do.. I love them. In fact I fall in love with ever singel one of my subjects as a photographer. Its my job to find something, about everyone to fall in love with. However momentarily... it is a sincere love.
So I came because I heard its a great place... and ya know what... man oh man where they right! It IS a great place. Id have to write a post that would dwarf this in comparison to express the amazing experiences, people and opportunities that my few short weeks here have afforded me. ( and I probably will )

I began to "Hangout" with some folks... met amazing people.. they showed me around.. introduced me.. it felt more like being at a cocktail party... than sitting at my desk. Cool! I'm in.. lets turn up the music.. have some laughs! Really began to feel at home.. here. I was amongst friends. And happy to share. Wasn't concerned with anything but the laughs. Its sort of like moving into a new home. Literally. I now had awesome neighbors who liked to laugh and share their day with me. And I had new wall space to hang my photos... and of people noticed them and dug them.. cool.. if not.. no worries.. party still continues! This is what's important to me.. being social. Laughter. I made friends.. and people started talking about numbers..follower counts… this person has x amount of people following.. This one is someone you should know….. So n so has power. ( Needle scratch on the record.. As the music stops…) WAIT.. Huh??? Haaaa come on...Fu&k off! HAHAH Seriously.. Did you just say that to me?
Wow...Hmmm Time to take a deeper look into this… peel back a few layers.
So I stuck around some more...listened some more...started to look at the numbers for the first time.. Realized what I already knew… it meant even less to me than ever. I also realized… how much it means to some people...a nd how very little it meant to others… both those who had big following sand those who didn’t. But man oh man.. I wasn't about to get caught up in this ….this… this…egocentric...game. What to do!!???
I went to look at my numbers. They were now several thousand (for those of you counting).. or for those of you who wont circle someone with out a certain number of people following them. Don’t bother.. Please don’t circle me. You'll be doing me a favor. I stared at these meaningless numbers, and I shook my head and smiled. The moment I found out I could hide this atrocity of the human condition… I did. With a few clicks it was a memory. A clean space leaving place for something more important to stand out.. Two buttons to directly get in touch with me. I'm here. Hi! Come say hello...All I could think about was what my father might have said about this all. "Wow… you’re a big-shot huh? Who are these people..? Does it matter? Is this what give you a sense of accomplishment? I thought it was making images.. Making people smile...making something lasting.. Wow.. You're losing sight of things that easily.. Are you mad? How many of these people buy prints? How many would you invite into your home… into my home? Do you need to show off...You KNOW there is always someone bigger right?" I could hear his logic…. The warmth of the truth of it all wash over me like the first wave of summer on a hot day. I smiled even bigger! And went about my day.
The night that RC and I were waxing poetic about the beauty of G+ and our new homes here, we were inundated earlier that night during a Hangout with a showboat of egoistic grandeur the likes of which is perplexing in its ability to walk upright and not topple over from having a head so large. Comedic at best…a buzz kill and a surefire party goer to dodge…Time to go grab another drink.. I'll be back. Well we couldn’t ignore the tawdry elephant in the room, so it came up… and it brought me to express to RC how I've seen so much incredible beauty in the human condition brought to light here, and I've also seen the train wreck of what ego can do to us as people. Hence the fodder for what's come to light in this post.

Now I feel the need to say this. While I am quick to point out that I do most certainly feel that there are things wrong with the motivations behind the way this platform gets used… I'm also so very very much of the live and let live mindset. I'm tremendously grateful for how it has enriched my life. I'm still that photographer that has to find something about everyone to fall in love with. Regardless of their stance on circles, numbers, aliens, religion, politics, or Armageddon theories….Period.
I get that to some people, huge numbers may help them if they are applying for a job, especially in media, social marketing, etc. etc…. That said, those numbers can be revealed TO the potential employer. Try to find the exact number of books sold by an author, they don’t show numbers… the publisher knows, and you best believe the literary agent knows. Don’t believe me, ask my friend +Anthony Bozza I think he has enough experience on the topic to back me up on this. Those numbers are important because they gauge value… So is this what we need now on a person by person level??? Are you kidding me? We've managed to create a social caste system.. That we are all condoning.. Daily! Even book publishers don’t play this game at this level.

Where does it end???
I've simply made the decision to hide my numbers.. Because, as I've said to RC, I only want to garner the attention of those who a) like my work or b) hung out with me and like me as a person or all of the above. I simply do not want to be circled just because.. Nor do I want to be not circled because I don’t have enough followers ( which… the people with whom that is a criteria.. I will now be thankfully unappealing to ) I want to laugh with you, share with you, take part in your lives which I find infinitely interesting, see what inspires you… makes you laugh.. Grow with you..and heck sometimes even sing a song with you...I just don’t want to play your Reindeer numbers( Hangout joke ) games!

Namaste!!
jj

If you received a personal notification about this, it is because I value your opinion.

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THE POST I HELPED TO INSPIRE......THAT SPARKED MY POST:
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_RC's post:
....You can also read it by scrolling down and clicking the word POST right abouve the grey photo.._

Thinking About Social Noise
After some comments from a friend on frictionless sharing, watching Press Pause Play (http://www.presspauseplay.com/) , & some SNL stuff, I got to writing a really long blog post about things i'm thinking about re: Social Noise. Blog (w/ pictures is here: http://bit.ly/AeE0pO)

Wanna read the post w/o pics or links you can just check it out here below.. no worries. I still kinda wish we could thread images into a post here a little better.. or I may still be missing something.


A couple of weeks ago, I reconnected with my friend J back in NY over a couple of text messages. J was this person who I loved having late night chats with about all sorts of things – from Middle Eastern studies to future technologies – the conversations were always wonderful. Life gets in the way and these conversations slowed to a drip. It was great to hear from her. Immediately I had asked her if she was online somewhere – perhaps Google+ so we could keep better touch. Her response was that she had stopped using these channels. When I asked her why, her response was what left me thinking..

“..Felt like this seamless sharing crap is just throwing users under the bus for bigger valuation.”

Interesting indeed.

Press Pause Play

I thought about what J said over the next few days, then stumbled onto a great documentary on the new digital age called Press Pause Play. This documentary, filmed last year, talked about how the advances that we are seeing right now have taken us to a point where being an artist that produces music and film is entirely reachable – creating this huge crush of artists on the internet space. With everyone clamoring to be the best artist, the field is full of noise – leaving the best in the field, swimming in a sea of mediocrity. Add to this Saturday Night Live’s skit “You Can Do Anything” and you have an amazing portrait of where we are at this point. After watching both of these, I started looking at the sea of tweets, posts, and comments in my space of digital imaging and technology, and wondered how much of this held any merit. To be honest – I still don’t quite know how I feel about it just yet. But, I do know that there were some things that I wanted to change for myself.



Making More Signal, Less Noise: The Follower Race

I love the creative environment that Google+ has brought to the table. I feel like there is an incredible community of artist there sharing and talking, and I believe that this is great for inspiration and growth. What I did notice on there as well was a reshuffling of the Social deck – so to speak. People who I long followed on things like Facebook and Twitter held fractions of an audience in this new space, while entirely new players started gaining incredible mass – faster than any other platform had given them before. In the middle of all of this I started noticing that the currency of all of this was in followers – just as it was in Facebook and Twitter. As the legions of people were added to the coffers of the new social circles, I started noticing that the attention on the platform started getting more associated who was recommending you more than what you were actually saying. It became less and less on what you were sharing, teaching, or giving, and more what “list” you appeared in. Little by little, I felt that the message was inexorably tied to the mass that a person had rather than the masses flocking because of the message. Earlier in Google+, there was this talk about whether Google+ was suffering from a “Gatekeeper” syndrome. I still don’t think that’s the case – but I could totally see where a person would think that, if they came upon the site. This entire process gets endlessly complicated as we start using our “Good Job” and “Great Stuff” or “Let me tell you what I think” as food to attract more followers.



A few days later, I was sitting around talking to +Jason Joseph on Google+, who had noticed this as well. In a Google+ hangout, he relayed to me the story of his father, and how well he was respected in his community. He noted that his father never really mentioned this- and only came to hear of this after his fathers passing. Finally he stated that his father, were he here now, would look at him and ask him what importance would there really be to the amount of people that followed him. Why would he really care about the people that are watching.. that’s not why you do what you do.

His solution: He went into his profile, and hid the number of people that were following him. In doing this – you could not use how many people follow him as a metric as to whether or not you wanted to listen to him. You could only make that decision based on what he actually said.

I went into my Google+ profile and did just that. Now, it’s not really relevant who is following me. What I say is the only relevant part. This, I feel, can help de-clutter a little bit of the noise I may have been contributing.

Sharing Me: Inspiration and Pride

The second thing I started thinking about is what about the things that I am sharing socially. For the most part, there are three types of things that I try to share in my blog and on social networks.


Things that tell you a little bit more about me:
Obviously I can’t have everyone over for coffee, but I take an interest in being able to share the fact that I am just like everyone else out there. I am absolutely in love with being a dad, and I spend a lot of time showing the cool little daddy things that I get to work on for fun. I put my pants on the same way everyone else does, and “how I roll” is prey to the same things that everyone else faces out here. I appreciate any attention that someone may give me, but I would never want it to be inspired by my lifestyle.. I want it to be inspired by what I can teach. What I can share. Thats the measure I want to be remembered by.

Singular Things That Inspire Me:
I keep very very weird hours, and work on 1000 things at once. That said – I can find it almost impossible to be able to tell you “These are the following 500 people that I draw inspiration from. Here.. have at it”. I think it’s ludicrous to believe that you can do that, and be completely sincere on that. Again.. I fall back on my being a teacher. I would find it a big disservice to anyone who would want to learn from me to say “Ok.. stand there and open wide” and open a fire hydrant and aim it at them. I dont learn like that.. and you probably dont either.

Instead of telling you about 500 people that you’ll almost certainly not follow, let me tell you about one thing that I found that was great. One thing that I found funny. If I am going to recommend a person for you to check out, let me not bury that person in a list of 300. Let me tell you what that one person is worth looking at for me. If you agree with that analysis, you can follow them. If not, you’ve at least learned something about that person.

Tips and Tricks I stumble On

I have the privilege to spend my days working on developing cool ways to teach on things in the digital imaging and web space. This means that we get to hear all sorts of little problems, and work on solutions for them. Sometimes, they are just things that dont really need to be involved in an entire class - they’re just tips that would make peoples lives easier. In that, I can’t wait to just fire up the computer, and record the little tip to share for everyone.

What I Do For A Living

Going back to privilege - I feel so lucky to be able to work with someone who epitomizes all of this -Scott Kelby and Kelby Media Group. Not only do we spend an incredible amount of time solving problems and providing free stuff, we also spend a great amount of time designing training for you that is quick, to the point, and focused on exactly what you want to learn. Because of this – I am completely unabashed in telling you “Go to Kelby Training and sign up. It’s the best money you will spend on training”. I won’t obscure this message as this is what allows me to do what I do . I’m extremely proud of it, and feel completely happy to espouse it to anyone who listens.

What This Means For You

So now that i’ve gotten off my chest what can you gleam from all of this?

On your Website or Social Media circles – do you talk about stuff that interests you or do you just talk about things for the sake of drawing attention. The people you want to reach will appreciate sincerity. Theyre going to want to know as much about you as the quality of work you can produce. Think of this as a job interview- so long as you’re cool.. it’s cool.

Do you find yourself following, friending, and circling hoping for an exchange? Leave that behind. All of the time you spend chasing that tail, you could spend focusing on creating something that you can put onto the world that will bring people to you. Rather than hope for sharing power, make power.

Dance like no one’s watching.. but if you’re Dancing the salsa – make sure its the salsa. The best way for you to put your best foot forward as a person who shares great things is to stop sharing everything, and share selectively. If you dont believe 100 percent in your picture, believe me, people can smell that. Trust me, Ive learned this the hard way. That said – want an instant pass? Any experimentation you do with your iPhone (or other mobile phone) is never really counted against you.

Forget about the numbers – focus on your message. Keep in mind that any large amounts of numbers may just be spam and you’ll be cool. Also understanding that a large amount of followers does not mean a large amount of engagement. A large amount of +1s does not mean engagement. I once saw someone with 100 thousand followers make a call to arms to help with donations and generate less money than i’ve sold a print on. It’s not about money – but the moment you throw financials into this.. these numbers comes with very big asteriks. So focus on engagement.


Remember when you had to call someone to tell them Happy Birthday? A long time ago, when you got a call from someone, it totally made you feel good. Now on Facebook, you click a button, you see how many peoples birthdays happen today. Type “Happy Birthday”, press Copy/Paste several times.. done. Frictionless. What did that do to the concept of someone wishing you Happy Birthday. Now, everyone wakes up to a bevy of Happy Birthdays on Facebook – and for the most part – they have a much lesser meaning than when someone took the effort to do it in an email or a phone call. Thats exactly what it’s like with a “like” a “+1″ or a RT. If you think about how easy it was to do the happy birthday, you’ll sober yourself into realizing just how valuable your +1 can actually be. If they come, great. If not, that’s fine too. You’ve got bigger things to think about.
Thinking About Social Noise After some comments from a friend on frictionless sharing, watching Press Pause Play (http://www.presspauseplay.com/) , & some…
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22 comments
 
This was a great read Jason! Thank you
 
Great read Jason, I've hidden my follower count as a result! :)
 
So cool! Refreshing feeling .. freeing even! Enjoy!
 
•*¨) ¸.•´¸´ ¸.•` ¸.•´ .•*´¨Kudos, I was delighted reading your heartfelt post! I applaud your superior wit, integrity, and noble G+ motives. *¨ ¸.•´¸´ ¸.•`

you are so Brilliant!! !•*¨) ¸.•´¸´ ¸.•` ¸.•´ .•*´¨)
 
For me nobody is just a number. Hangouts and google+ are a way to connect with people, know them, yeah laugh with them as you said, but not just that. Laugh with them, cry with them, worry about them. Maybe it's because I've always been more inside the screen than outside, and it's the only medium where I can be myself, but I truly NEED them. To express myself. Well, I guess you know what I think about that...
Btw, this post made my eyes wet (and be late for work...feel guilty:p).
 
My behavior is a reaction to a scale perception. Am I speaking to one other person? Two? A small room (3-10)? Or more. Each level demands a different approach. But anything 10+ is pretty much the same voice. So the numbers are meaningless. This platform makes it easy for someone to choose the voice they use.
Are you having intimate and meaningful conversations? Or are you shouting at crowds?
 
I just finished reading your post. I found it insightful, honest and food for thought. Until this past October, I have never participated in social media in any way. I found myself on G+ by researching +RC Concepcion after finding his work on 500px. Little did I know what a turn it would be in my life. Now 4 months later, I'm not sure if I found the Holy Grail or if I opened Pandora's Box (I imagine somewhere in between). I came to G+ in search of knowledge. Knowledge of photography as I am a novice, and found a community of artists that has been mind blowing!

In the beginning, it was all about the art and gleaning what I could about the process. But, then I went on a photowalk and met some really great photographers. It was then I started following in a social manner. +Lotus Carroll, +David Bowden, +Chris Sader, and +Joshua David Curtis I met on the walk and through them and their interactions , I had been introduced to a beautiful little community. That first month was nirvana! I was getting to know great photographers with passion for their craft.

Then it started to blow up like a mushroom cloud. The number game began as the adds started to increase. I resisted the "shared circles", as some of the authenticity seemed suspect (plus I didn't know quite what do with them). Even now, as the adds continue to increase exponentially, in most cases I just move their notifications to a "Google+ adds" file until I can figure out what to do with them later.

It was then I noticed I was losing touch with the very people I had first started following. The stream was moving too fast. Poor stream management on my part I presume, but remember, I had never "done" social media before. I was becoming overwhelmed!

But as the stream became a river, I noticed trends, too. Follower counts, circles, and the popularity trend all connected. I won't go any further into that "rabbit hole", but I am glad +David Bowden shared your post. It rang like a bell in the night. I have made some great friends in the short time I have been here. There have been conversations of substance and emotion. It's a safe place where I can be honest about my art and my lack of technical knowledge yet ever increasing thirst to learn. I have found teachers and mentors and friends giving of their time and sharing.

So now, I will follow your lead and remove the circle count (I didn't even know it was possible) and get back to making connections for all the right reasons and stay away from the numbers game. Thank you for your insight and I hope you don't mind if I add you to my circles... no one will ever know.
 
Follower count doesn't mean anything. Friends, people and authentic connections are why I'm here, and why I'll stay. I applaud your honesty. We're all the same, all human, and getting over ourselves is the best thing we can ever do for ourselves.
 
+Samantha Villenave I wish I simply could have typed just that last sentence.. and had conveyed it all... sigh. I had a blast hanging with ya. Happy to have contributed to the soundtrack of your new life in Paris! Coincidentally... Im in a hang atm with a composer from Brooklyn +Kevin MacLeod ... he did some of the music in the movie Hugo. Love... this..... place....
 
+John Fanavans ... this is why I dig you mang.. your solid. Nothing but true grit. A pleasure to know you. Numbers.. we dont need no stinkin numbers...
 
I enjoyed your scribe for it's wit and humour, I don't really give a crap about the numbers and I have seen so many posts about numbers but none were as good to read as yours, made me belly laugh :-)
 
I have fallen in and out of the numbers trap too. I actually feel dumb not knowing before reading this that you can hide it. I actually had a person contact me and tell me they were removing me from their circles for not being in a certain group of shared photographer circles. Next stop - hide the numbers and carry on.
 
Hmm..notifications are running about 22 hrs behind…..these are the numbers I rely on and they don't effing work mostly…aaargh…pulls hair out
 
+Eddy Rademaker Somethings been up with notifications this past week. Somebody dropped a monkey wrench in the sorter.
 
+Jason Joseph I am speachless you expressed all of our thoughts ! Wonderful text and also very sensitive, I now truly see the artist behind the camera ( and web cam hihihi) Thank you !
 
Thanks +Mélanie Albert . You know me ... tell it like it is. There are many more insightful comments on my oter version of this post located below this one.. and also on +RC Concepcion's original posting which is linked to in the text above.Be sure to show +Stephane Menard as I know he will enjoy the read!
 
Thanks, +Jason Joseph for this thought-provoking post!!! You obviously put a lot of time and thought into this, but I regret that I don't want to hide my numbers. I have been thinking about it, though, because you did that - got me thinking about it :)
 
Thank you, Jason. Reading this (huge) post made me remember why I love the Woods. It's not about marking something as "favorite", or getting the "mod's choice" (although it's nice every once and awhile). It's about the people, who love the same things you do.
Non of that probably made any sense to you, but I just wanted to say thank you.
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