We all like to be liked but not too much – right? A pat on the back, a kiss on the cheek, any kind of compliment requires some kind of positive response in return, if you want more of the same, but take care not to go over the top. Respond with only a subdued smile, or a terse nod of the head, and then get straight back to business, a hero used to being admired, a man of the world familiar with reality, because all that glitters is not gold, and girls don’t go for insecure guys who care too much for people’s good opinions.
We all like to be liked but not too much – right? If someone is too fulsome about how good we are, how clever, how handsome, how perfectly in sync with sartorial elegance, let’s not get sucked in by mere flattery. “What is this person really after?” is the smart response. Popularity is all very nice, if you can get it, but it has never been an indication of true merit. True merit stands out from the crowd of ordinary virtues like a shining star, and those of you who possess it, can’t possibly hope to be liked by everyone. Not everyone is above envy or even downright malice.
This website got its first Like yesterday. WordPress, the outfit that hosts this post, actually sent me a notice congratulating me on the milestone: the beginning of a great future as a blogger! Naturally I took it with a grain of salt. I responded with a subdued smile and a terse nod of the head, and then I went straight back to business, like the man of the world I am, the serious author invested in his own talent – right? Not a bit of it! I was so excited, I have been thinking about it ever since, and now I can’t help writing about it. So who was it? Back to that in a moment.
Authors are unusual people. I mean, who but a seriously good or deranged person would spend days, months and long, fruitless years cooped up in a dark room with a word processor, curtains drawn to keep the outside out and the inside in, always feeling for just the right words to express the soul of our times! Or maybe an author does it simply to entertain, in the hope of getting something back, such as love, recognition and money – as if there aren’t better ways to get all that stuff! Not surprisingly, authors tend to stick together. Who else understands them?
Lately I have been spending some time in social media, promoting my pet project, Mirrored Sword: an epic story of romance and adventure, as tragicomic as its historic setting, the Wars of the Roses (one of the tag lines I keep fiddling with). I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Tumblr, all of which helps me connect with various groups of authors, or would-be authors: people I can learn from and who can learn from me (even if it’s only from one another’s mistakes). Now, there is something strange going on in these communities, I think. It comes of self-publishing. I am one of many thousands of Indies – the industry term for independent writers who publish their own stuff, rather than mortgage their talent to publishing houses – and all these rugged or desperate individuals must find their own readers, because nobody else is going to do it for them. No wonder then that they are turning to each other for sympathy and support! But is this healthy? There is a difference between mutual curiosity (“show me yours and I’ll show you mine“) and mutual pandering (“buy mine and I’ll buy yours.”) Have any of these incestuous Indies stopped to think what this kind of behaviour does to the buyer/seller ratio? Adding 1 to the top, for every 1 added to the bottom, drives the ratio towards 1. It’s a future for amateurs, not professionals. Money comes in only if we lure more readers than writers to the market, or if competition drives out some of our comrades. Comrades? I can hardly call them foes. A better word for it might be siblings. Writers are like a long string of ducklings waddling through the open field. Day by day, one more disappears, and one more has a better chance of survival.
Getting Liked is a big thing if you are a duckling, so long as it is not a cat or a hawk that does the liking. So, I return to what I was saying about how a man of the world reacts to praise, because a duckling too has to be careful: all that glitters is not gold. Still, it’s a step in the right direction. That’s why, when WordPress notified me of this signal event, I opened the engine door of my website and had a look at my instruments to see who had liked me. It was surprising.
I had always expected my audience to be people somewhat resembling me, with a background in the Arts and a yen for popular entertainment: common but with a touch of class, or classy but with the common touch. I wasn’t expecting statisticians or DIY guys. The guy who Liked me wasn’t referred by Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin. He was referred by WordPress. He has his own website, explaining all kinds of practical things, from statistical functions to making your own mechanical repairs, and he is doing exceedingly well, with nearly two thousand followers: https://simplifytasks.com.
So now I am thinking: does he really and truly like me, or has WordPress put some good oil my way merely to keep me engaged in their business empire, or does my liker like bloggers just as a way of gathering more followers to his own website: a variation on the show me yours and I’ll show you mine routine?
And so the duckling survives another day, excited to be Liked but keeping an eye out just the same.