(a.k.a. The Search For Notoriety (And A Job) On The Internet)
How many times is too many when it comes to checking your e-mail and the web traffic to your blog in one given day?
10 times? 100 times? 687,373 times?
And once you've seen that you have no messages and your traffic has plateaued for the gazillionth time in that one day, is the sadness any less? Not really. You still hope, each time you log in, that maybe someone said something to you, commented on your blog, responded to your job application or, for christ's sake, sent you a picture of a cat using the toilet. Anything.
We want to be recognized, preferably electronically, and to know that someone, somewhere, is thinking about us. My god, how did we know that we were important before the internet?
Since applying to jobs and starting this site, I've become even more obsessed with checking my e-mail. It's of course the first place I go in the morning, and the last place I go before bed. Don't ask me to tell you how many times I check it throughout the day.
I'm like that frumpy middle-aged woman who goes on one amazing date, gives the guy my phone number, and then sits by the phone religiously for three days whispering ring, ring, ring! Of course, with e-mail you can extend your passive-aggressiveness a smidge more by logging in and logging out and refreshing the page incessantly, which at least gives you some sense of control. It's akin to that frumpy middle-aged woman neurotically picking up her phone every 11 minutes, just to make sure there's a dial tone. Hello?
There are other ways to achieve validation on the internet. You can post a comment to someone else's blog saying something obscene and/or controversial. A horrible insult to the blogger or one of the other commenters on the blog will at least get someone to insult you back or point out how inappropriate you are, but this isn't exactly positive validation.
Free music or movies usually work too. Send a message out to everyone in your contact list, your social networking friends, and any relevant message board that you've uploaded the latest album from the latest band, or you just created a torrent for the leaked version of a yet to be released summer blockbuster movie. Someone will surely let you know how much "you rock" and someone will probably say "Thanks, dude!"
But this isn't enough either.
We want to be replied to in a way that validates the essence of us, that is, who we really are and what we've created, not someone else's product or some manufactured comment we've made just for the sake of leaving a comment.
We want to be replied to.
That sounds pretty creepy, but it's true. Consider the butterflies in your stomach when you see that you have 14 new messages or 12 new comments. Who could they be from?! What could they say!? It's instant gratification, so long as it isn't all spam or chain mail warning you not to use your cell phone while it's plugged in to its charger.
We want to be replied to.
It's not like having a face-to-face conversation with an actual human being. That's boring. It would be impolite if someone you were talking to in person, or even over the phone, just stopped responding to you. But on the internet, you don't know what people are doing. Maybe they never got your e-mail, maybe they're on vacation...you don't know. Maybe they just don't want to talk to you.
It is completely acceptable for someone to say, "Huh? I never got your e-mail," or, "Oh, I haven't been online all week" when you confront them in person or over the phone. Of course, at this point the discussion becomes not about what it is you originally sought a response to, but only about the fact that you didn't get a response in the first place. Even if the person you're confronting does finally respond to you electronically and it's after the fact, it's so anti-climactic that it doesn't feel validating at all.
Oh, now she writes back.
But if and when they do respond to you before you've had a chance to confront them in person, hold on to your hat. It means that this person respects you enough to string together a series of words and to actually think about whatever it is you said or did.
Congratulations, you've just been validated.
The fix for all this, this roller coaster ride of self-esteem and self-worth on the internet, is to obviously get off of the internet. You're setting yourself up for disappointment by putting yourself "out there" on the web, but it's so easy to do! Start a blog, open an e-mail account, join Facebook.
In short, if you're not on the internet, you don't have to worry about being ignored. Then again, if you're not on the internet being ignored, how would you ever be able to gauge how worthless or wonderful you are? People in real life are obligated out of social norms to at least acknowledge your existence, but the anonymity of the internet proves once and for all if anything you ever say or do is remotely interesting.
I'm going to keep taking my chances.
Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring!