Life, the Universe and Everything: Popularity

As my age is now equal to the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, I decided that 2017 needed a new blog series on Rarely Wears Lipstick. One that covers some of the weird and wonderful things I’ve learned in my 42 years on this planet. This is the first post of many. I hope you find at least one of them interesting.

I’ve never been popular. Don’t get me wrong, I am well liked, but I’ve never been one of the ‘cool kids’ in the high school movie we call life. At my actual high school, when we were voting for prefects, I was on the shortlist that the teachers had put together but didn’t get a look in once the students had voted. The only time I’ve ever won an election* was when there was no one standing against me. I’m friendly and reliable, but rarely outstanding enough to get noticed.

When I first started blogging, it felt like my community because none of us were the really popular kids. Publishing words on the internet, and sometimes meeting people via it, was considered rather peculiar in the late 90s and early 2000s. We all loved getting comments on our posts, but it was never really all that many compared to today’s influencers. Something dramatic has happened since then which means that blogging, and most forms of social media, are now all about popularity in a way that perhaps only Charlie Brooker has fully grasped.

Image from magicatwork's Flickr photostreamBut it’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that popularity is everything. After all, those who have it often appear to lead the perfect life. At first, I wanted more followers, more likes and more favourites. I tried upping hashtag usage in my first few Instagram posts this year to see if it would get me more followers, but it didn’t. Then I questioned why I wanted that? What benefit would I get out of being more popular online? Who do I actually use social media for?

Well, you know what? The answer is me. I maintain this blog because I enjoy writing. I use Instagram because I love making photographs and recording interesting things about my day. I use Twitter because it’s a great place for interacting with like-minded people. In fact, I get more enjoyment out of the Twitter account that has a smaller number of more engaged followers than I do from my main one. Being vastly popular will not make me as happy as pressing ‘publish’ on a blog post or image that I’m particularly pleased with.

So, I’m not going to expand my reach, grow my followers or even extend my friendship group – I don’t have enough time and energy to spend time with all the lovely folk I know now! Instead, I’m just going to continue to create content that makes me happy. After all, desperately trying to be popular can lead to writing about things ‘for the exposure‘, in order to get more attention or followers, but… it’s not like I want to do this for a living. I make my money elsewhere and this is a hobby. An act of self care. I only really need to be popular with myself.

*The position I was elected to was Newsletter Editor, Weston Hall Residents’ Association, 1996/7 (which was my final year at uni and so probably one of the reasons why I only got a 2:2, but I do love a bit of extra-curricular writing!). Images via gdsteam and magicatwork‘s Flickr photostream.

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