I’m regular old towns people in my social circle on Facebook, spending time with friends in my gated little community. Within the media circle of Flickr, I’m a Crown Prince in a modestly sized province. But in Miami’s Social Media circle, I’m the troll that lives under the bridge on the abandoned back road just outside of the village. The townsfolk warn their children of the creature who lurks there.
Given that, I naturally attended Social Media Day Miami 2012. While it may seem odd, my reasoning was sound: I went because, 1) free alcohol and 2) I don’t drink much. What better way to fulfill my role than to walk into the village, drink booze I’d never buy myself, and schmooze with not a soul?
Social Media Day started like any other. I woke up, brewed coffee, logged into Flickr, lit a cigarette. Blissfully unaware of the real world beyond drawn curtains, outside my cave. Checked Facebook. Then the newsfeeds for wit, spotlights on social/viral trends, currents of thought and news. Then celebrity news. Checked South Florida Daily Blog and began working on erotica.
I drank more coffee, smoked more cigarettes, processed photos and published them.
“Good work, Scott,” I tell myself as the morning comes to a close.
“You’re ahead of schedule.”
Time to change course. I begin to get ready for my day job. I leave my primary networks open and take my shower. I shave, find matching socks, and check the networks once more before I leave to put on a whole different set of faces. One last inner frown, knowing that the crappy internet connection on my phone for the next handful of hours will leave me disconnected, for the most part.
When I arrive at work, I’m asked why I’m there. Apparently, I had mixed up my days and wasn’t scheduled to work that day. Rather than breathing a sigh of relief (knowing that it meant I could get back to real work), I’m a little bit peeved with myself, realizing I just wasted a perfectly good shower.
I shower differently on days that I work from days that I don’t work. The days I work, the shower is timed and efficient. The days I don’t work, the shower is my time to stand underneath the shower head and let the water pelt me in the face. My time to let the water push my hair down in random strands across my forehead. To let water trickle off my finger tips in chaotic fluid patterns to the basin below. Adjust the temperature until it’s too hot. Sometimes, until it’s too cold. I get to enjoy the sensation of a shower. I can make shampoo mohawks on those days. (In theory, I could make shampoo mohawks on any day, but then I would have to extend my shower time which would mean a reduction in time elsewhere. And I’m on a tight schedule.)
Lest you be mistaken, that prior paragraph is very important to the story.*
So I leave my place of employment and drive home. After getting home, that’s when I remember that it’s Social Media Day. I toss and turn the notion of going to it over in my head. I go back to South Florida Daily Blog where I remembered seeing some reference to it. Click over to Maria’s post about it on Sex and the Beach.
Social Media. Yawn.
Last year’s scandal, that was funny.
Rea… wait, back up.
Free alcohol? And in their village square? During their annul festival paying homage to their patron saint, YouTwitFace? A devilish grin grew slowly from ear to ear.
Really, I had no ill intention. Free alcohol and the chance for anti-social me to mingle. And by mingle I mean have awkward conversations with people because we make eye contact and know each other.
I hope this point isn’t lost. Heaven forbid, I suffer the backlash of the local twitterverse the way Regalspri did for sharing his review of Social Media Day.
After committing myself to this affair, I click over to Miami Social Media’s site and check the schedule. Social Media lecture this, social media lecture that…. I don’t know these people. Ah. Maria’s planned talk about the past and present of the blogging community of South Florida. I could go take some pictures, I suppose. Because nothing makes for more exciting pictures than lectures and seminars and conferences. Hmmm.
“I could say I took part in it,” I thought to myself. “I could just march right in, get my free pass, drink my free drinks, and stand right there in the middle of them! Just like I was one of them! Blending in with the crowd. ‘Yes, yes, social media influence SEO customer retention network. Brave new world! Photography, yes. Twitter! My god, Twitter! I concur wholeheartedly with you my Social Media brother. Fo shizzle ma Smizzle! Social media, yes, yes! YES!'”
Maybe all the Whos down in Whoville would welcome me with open arms this time around. Maybe something magical would happen. Or maybe it would be as awkward as it always is. That’s probably the most likely scenario.”
“So yes, we go, Scott. We definitely go.”
I arrived just in time for Maria’s lecture. 2534 North Miami Avenue. Zadok Gallery. There was a mini-trailer parked outside selling cupcakes, a gaggle of people surrounding it. The cupcakes looked delicious. I survey the crowd. Damn dirty hipsters. Whoville, I am here.
Inside, I get my name tag. I have to fill in my @ handle. Let’s see… who do I say I am today? This crowd? Eh, it doesn’t matter. I see Maria as she is making her way to one of three designated lecture rooms. She informs me, in passing, of her lecture in a few minutes. I tell her I came to listen to her. Moments later, I go to the room, see the prior lecture is running over schedule so make my way upstairs to get a drink from the bar.
As I approach the stairs, Carlos Miller is standing on a landing in the middle of the stairwell, socializing with other attendees. He turns, we make eye contact. We say hello to each other. He turns back to his group as I approach and pass by. Those are the only words we exchange during my time at this social event.
Soul of Miami at the bar. Light conversation.
“What are you up to these days,” James asks.
“Not much, you know.”
I go back downstairs and have missed the beginning of Maria’s lecture. Hidden City fills the projection screen. The earliest of pioneers in the South Florida blogosphere. Godfather? Father? The slide lingers. Next up, or shortly thereafter, South Florida Daily Blog. The resurfacing of Critical Miami. A number of slides follow with screenshots of six blogs on each slide. Categorically related.
I was surprised to see that my old site appeared alongside other screen caps of the blogging scene in South Florida. Maria had nice things to say about me but I didn’t really hear them; the camera man was making me nervous, panning on the crowd around that time and I was too occupied with trying to hide my face.
Town mayor and one of the primary event organizers, Alex de Carvalho, was naturally there. @AlexDC. I have a great deal of respect for Alex. On many levels. Alex and I go back. He knew me before I worked my way under the bridge. As mayor, he tolerates me I think because I stay fairly well out of town. And he respects my work. I wish he could manage me socially, but truthfully, I think I need someone with the business acumen and ethics of a mob lawyer to be my social media manager.
Anyway, I wanted to get him alone to take photos of him in his moment. This was his time. Didn’t happen. Had I stayed longer, it may have. But I wasn’t there long. Maria’s was the only lecture I attended; I’m sure the rest were good.
From time to time, I would walk outside, smoke a cigarette. There was a short bus parked across the street from the gallery where the event was being held. I learned, as I’m looking at this short bus with a picture of Crank Yankers puppet Special Ed on the side and back, that Carlos Miller and crew were going to be boarding that bus at some point to go to his planned protest.
The smile slithered across my face once more.
I was invited on the spot by Nikon Miami to go with them. I was on drink number two when the invite came so I pondered for a moment riding along to document what would certainly be either a complete fiasco or worse, a complete non-event. Later, I went back outside to smoke a cigarette and the bus was gone. I missed the short bus. I’m sure it was for the best.
I wander back upstairs for another drink. As I’m in line, the couple behind me laugh about the free alcohol at yet another social event. I find a chair beside a table at the edge of the balcony covered with an assortment of pamphlets and business cards. I flipped one of them over in my hand. Read it. I gaze at a lecture going on in the room beneath. People to my left and right, some paying attention to the presentation. Others, socializing. The bar stayed busy behind me.
As I sat there, drinking my mixed drink (some special concoction featuring possibly a sponsor’s alcohol), I looked through the railing at the presenter below. At the slide. What am I doing here? Flashback to a business conference I attended in my early professional years. A 3-day event somewhere in Florida on Quality Assurance. The boss took me, her star employee, with her. Maybe it was Idaho. I remember Vegas night, eggs over easy, and vendors selling wares.
Why am I here? I can’t talk to these people. I can’t talk to MOST people. People terrify me. This is uncomfortable.
I evaluate whether it’s worth my time to stay for another two hours or not which would put me close to the time when I would need to make a follow-up decision as to whether to stay for a wrap-up party.
“You could watch them get drunk, Scott,” whispers the devil on my shoulder. “You KNOW that would be entertaining.”
This is not my social space. This is not my media place. Even if I were real world social, my chaotic fluid pattern through life trickles down from an entirely different finger on a wholly different hand. These people… we only meet at the basin on the way to the drain. But there is nothing else. I’ve seen Alex. I listened to Maria’s lecture. I’m not going to socialize here. I’ve given my card to people before only to have them look back at me in disgust when they realize my line of work. I’ll never forget the girl who, upon learning what I do, begrudgingly took my card and said, “Sure, why not. You never know.”
You never know, indeed.
Outside, more evaluation. My social media circles are different and outside of this place. I need people in THOSE circles. The problem with being a troll is that the closest troll I could socialize with lives under his own bridge next to his own village. And it’s a solid two days walk from here.
I’m nearly caught up on Breaking Bad. I need to clean. Exercise. Or at least feel guilty for not exercising. Photos. Video. There’s a lot I could be doing that would be more worthwhile.
Anti-social rationalization complete. I make for the exit and leave Whoville.
Back at my cave, I check my networks. All is sound. More followers, more praise, more emails. My heart grows back to normal size and a warm smile comes across my face. I really should’ve eaten a cupcake. They did look very delicious.
*No, it isn’t.