in Teaching

Collect friends not avatars

One thing I’ve always tried to do — this is a thing I read along the way somewhere — is pick out one person when I’m writing (or filming or podcasting) and write as if I’m writing to that person.

Write jokes that would make that person laugh and write things that would make that person think. Unless your person is the most obscure human on the planet, there are likely a ton of other people like her that will enjoy your work as well.

Two places I read this recently:

1. John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) in Fast Company on a YouTube channel he started in 2007: “It grew very slowly. When we’d made 120 videos, we had fewer than 200 subscribers. If our goal was to have a wildly successful career on the Internet, we would have quit. But we really liked the people who were watching. That was enough.”

2. Austin Kleon in Show Your Work in a chapter dubbed You Want Hearts Not Eyeballs: “Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. Don’t talk to people you don’t want to talk to, and don’t talk about stuff you don’t want to talk about…”Follow me back?” is the saddest question on the Internet.[1. This is so, so true.]

They’re both right, of course, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the girl you’re chasing has 10x more followers than you.

Try to remember, though, collect friends, not avatars.