Tag Archives: Blogging

Companionship Online Versus Company IRL

I was a lonely child. I think we all are and we stay that way for most of our lives. It is difficult to find the exact kind of affection, support and loyalty that we are looking for. So most of us do what the wisdom of the ages tell us and compromise. We settle for company since we can’t have companionship.

I’ve had a light week. I took a break after several weeks of stress, tension, ill health and nose-to-grindstone work. Immediately I fell into bad sleep habits and the corresponding poor moods. I’ve also desperately yearned for someone to have coffee with, someone to go to a movie with, someone to snuggle up with and talk to, someone to be with. It’s not something we get to acknowledge a lot these days, it is? Need is often confused with neediness.

This time though I noticed something else. My old instincts were to reach out to the not-so-goods, the people who never have time for me, people who don’t treat me that nice because they are well, people. I’ve always regretted doing this but loneliness is like hunger and you tend to reach for food, no matter how poisonous it is. For a change, I didn’t do that. And it passed. This is not so new. After all, with every year of thirty, the lonely pangs are getting to seem more like fleeting annoyances.

I’ve been reading. Late in the week I installed a few new apps, Buzzfeed, Wikipedia and TED among them. A part of me thought, well TED is just one of those pretentious things that looks good to have. But I’ve spent the last hour switching between these three apps and you know what? I’ve been having fun!

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Image via Unsplash/Gilles Lambert

It makes me think, I’m not really lonely. I already have access to a world of companionship. It just doesn’t correspond to the traditional ways of finding and enjoying companionship. It probably means different things to different people but for me, companionship is feeling constantly inspired, understood, accepted, cherished and entertained. With the people that I have this with, I feel every moment being lived, rather than just passing. I have a handful of them (with enough leeway to hold a teacup) and I don’t get this from most other people around me.

Normally, I’d have to make do with this and feel grateful for the handful that I do feel myself, my life with. But I am a digital native and a blogger to boot. My blog completed 12 years a couple of days ago. And the tribe I found is nearly the same age. Almost the very minute I opened a window into my life on the internet, connection flowed in. And yes, it is enough, it’s more than enough.

I have never subscribed to the thought that the digital universe cannot replace the real. My most meaningful relationships have been with people that I know online. I met my two closest friends through Twitter. The profound kind of sharing (of everything — hobbies, silly jokes, uninformed opinions, fears, bad moods, advice) that happens online, I don’t see its equivalent in the solely offline world. So how does it matter that companionship is coming my way in bits and bytes instead of sound waves and light beams? Who cares that a lot of them are continents away and on different timezones? I am really a creature of ideas, of the mind. Loneliness for me means being around someone whose mind doesn’t connect with mine. I feel a far deeper connection with the minds that create witty articles and brilliant TED talks, than I do with most people that study and work with me.

I’d rather have that than spend my life ‘in quiet desperation’ (as Pink Floyd puts it) exchanging social banalities with people just because they are around. I’m great company for myself so I deserve more than that from the world. If it comes to me online, so be it. Here’s a talk that made me feel like I was listening to myself speak of my own journey.

 

I once got involved in the life of a premature baby in a country that I had never been to. I’ve been a part of coming out stories and healed together with other survivors of abuse and rape. I’ve shared the story of falling in love, navigating a relationship, getting engaged, getting dumped and dealing with the grief of an ex who won’t give me the dignity of closure. Being a blogger is more than just a hobby or a profession or even a lifestyle. It is a life and it is mine. I am so lucky.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

B For Blogger

I had a packed day yesterday and didn’t get home till after midnight so B didn’t get done. But today’s thoughts all came together for a post I’ve been wanting to write and magically it fit the letter of the day for April A to Z Challenge.

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People often ask me what it is like to be me. ‘Blogger’ is both a description of what I do for a living as well as who I am. Last month, one of my clients asked me to bring myself into the stories that I had been writing for them. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, personally or professionally. What I wrote for them allowed me to dip into my own deep well of personal sentiment and express it openly. I’ve spoken often about the many wonderful things that blogging has brought to my life. But like every other profession, passion and lifestyle choice, it has its share of things that I have to force myself to not focus on, or I’d just stop.

1. People form non-existent relationships with you:

The sharing I’ve done has brought up sharing from readers and other bloggers. Over 11 years, I’ve collected hundreds of emails, chats, comments and texts. It is personal, yes. But sometimes people tend to forget that you are not their best friend, not their personal mentor, not their spouse/partner, not their parent.

Many years ago, one young man decided that the poetry I that wrote, was about him. His girlfriend contacted me (I was anonymous back then and an email address is all readers had to go by) angrily demanding to know why I was chasing her boyfriend. The man in question, continued to stalk me months after that, under different identities and finally wanted me to attend his wedding. That episode gets laughs now but at that time it was extremely unpleasant.

There was another man who had been following my blog for several years but had never said a word. When we finally chatted, it transpired that he had studied with my ex. He got upset because he didn’t like the guy or the fact that I had been in a relationship with him. Our conversations became tinged with judgement, sniping and condescension, after that. It was not easy for me to articulate the fact that he had no claims over me, let alone who I dated.

2. People are disrespectful:

In the early days of this field, I was involved in several conversations on the ‘ethics’ of being compensated for blogging. I remember a time when bloggers like me were barraged with sudden demands from PR people (usually rude and dismissive). Simultaneously we were also subjected to condescension and ridicule by popular media and journalists. I know now that the second had to do with professional insecurity as traditional media feared the loss of its absolute control over people’s minds.

The first tends to continue, now in the form of usually very young social media professionals. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been summoned to a press conference or brand event and ordered to write or tweet about it. One such person even told me that he was looking for people who ‘did not have anything much to do with their time so they would be able to tweet every hour on the hour’. Someone I had known for years ran into me somewhere and said, “Oh, you’ve got some grand ideas now, haven’t you? Wanting to get paid so much and all!”

And then there are others who don’t think that what you do is a valid profession. I am still besieged by messages and calls from friends who open conversations with “Have you gotten a job yet?” Last year someone badgered me to join him at a pub. When I told him I was busy with a deliverable, he said I could bring it to the pub and he’d tell me what to write, over a beer. That was our last conversation. It seems like the fitting end, but really, it’s not nice having to cut people out of your life because they refuse to take you seriously.

3. People see your blog as a free outlet for their personal agendas:

There are two types of people who do this. The first is the kind mentioned on top. Some of them believe that if there is money involved, they own your thinking and your blog. It has taken many years, several conversations and much negotiation to establish that a personal blog is not an advertising platform, it’s a conversation starter for brands.

The second kind is friends, family and even random acquaintances. When people know you have a moderately popular blog, they sometimes believe that they need to tell you what to write. Strangers and familiars impose their ideas on you and tell you you’re a bad person if you don’t write as they say. These include their personal dramas, causes that they believe in and their opinions of films, TV shows, food, travel and the like (never mind the fact that your blog is not based on any of these).

4. People don’t know how to deal with being written about:

Right from the start, my policy has been to be very careful when I write about other people. Given that I write freely about my life, my emotions and my relationships, other people feature frequently. ,I take care to not mention locations, employment, age etc. Sometimes I twist facts very slightly and make an uncle into an aunt, a friend into a colleague, morning into evening – that kind of thing. If I’m going to mention them often or in a very important way, I usually let them know that I’m going to write about them (how important is my discretion). And if they feature often, I give them running nicknames on my blog (my ex was Mr.Everyday).

I have never broken a confidence online. Yet, I find that people are simultaneously flattered and paranoid about what I do. Men I date ask if I’m going to write about them immediately, which makes me laugh and say, “Yes, my life is not ALL about you.” But when I do write something, even if it reasonably complimentary (as well as respectful of their privacy), they tend to get upset.

One friend accused me of sounding ‘weird and gross’. This was regarding a post where the only mention of him, was where I quoted him verbatim. It was all of two sentences, one where I introduced him as a friend and the second, his exact words. I know he is uncomfortable with what he said, which is why he tried to make it sound like my fault. That happens more often that you might think.

I’ve rarely ranted about an individual on my blog and when I have, I have kept their identities secret. The instances where names have been mentioned, have been cases of specific wrongdoing such as someone copying my content or a brand behaving badly. Yet, people tend to worry and fluctuate in how they feel. It makes every single relationship in my life tricky.

5. People mistake you for your blog:

Yes, this is a personal blog and yes, it’s all true (except for where I say it’s fiction). But it’s not ALL of me. Let me reiterate some of the things people have said to me:

“You sound quite cheerful. Not at all depressed.”
“I thought you were this strong, powerful feminist. But you’re not.”
“You are supposed to be all sorted out and wise. How can you be confused?”
“Why did your engagement end? Did you lie when you blogged about your relationship?”
“How can you make spelling mistakes/garble speech? Aren’t you supposed to be this hotshot blogger?”
“You look nothing like your blog.” *disappointed frown* (from when I didn’t have pictures of myself on the blog)
“Your blog is much cooler than you are.”

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Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I’m Not A Real (Something Something)…

Do you know the number of times this sentence trips us up?

I was watching ‘Julie and Julia’ last night. It reminds me of the beginnings of Write Click. And it takes me back to why I do what I do, how much I love it and why I’m so blessed, privileged to have stumbled upon something that makes me feel that way.

This scene, like so many other resonates with me. I don’t know if other beginning bloggers feel this way. And if you do, let me say, I’ve been blogging for 9 years now and I still feel this way. We cripple our own flights of fancy, injure our fantasies and maim our desires with that sentence that starts with ‘I’m not a real (something something)..’.

I was lucky, so lucky, that I chanced upon blogs when blogging wasn’t a ‘thing’, when nobody was talking about it and feeding me their impressions of what it should or should not be, imposing their quality expectations on me. Blogging happened to me the way love happens – unexpectedly, suddenly and forcefully. And just like love, I don’t know how I lived without it before. Well, that’s probably more writing than blogging. But blogging took me down that adventure which led to the treasure chest of a love of writing. I am glad I had the opportunity to discover something without ‘I’m not a real (something something)’ standing in my way.

Then there are fulfilled dreams that get in the way of new dreams. Steve Jobs in his famous Stanford graduation address said,

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.”

Every now and then I wonder if the chance that I took in the last 4 years has been a stupid one. Then, when I hear or read the above sentence, it makes me remember why I took it – I wanted an adventure. And I got one. The lightness of starting again gave me wings.

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BATRetreat-63 (Photo credit: MammaLoves)

And finally, there’s thwarted expectations. The movie Julie & Julia, is based on two real stories – the better known life of Julia Child, chef & cookbook writer and the lesser known Julie Powell. Julie Powell is a real person with an ordinary life and regular wishes. She wrote a blog, it turned into a book (how ironic that the movie starts with her lamenting about her not being a ‘real writer’ because no one wants to publish her), which turned into the movie. Along the way, the real Julia Child was asked to comment and her indifferent response disheartened Julie Powell (at least in the movie).

I find getting started on a new pursuit relatively easy but when people whose opinions matter, seem less than moved, where does that leave me? Passion but also validation and appreciation fuel my drive. I guess that’s when it’s time to remember another line from the movie.

“The Julia Child in your head is perfect.
The Julia Child who doesn’t understand what you’re doing, is not perfect.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is, ‘something something’ and everything else is just that. You are as real as your dreams.

Ideamarked 1-7Apr13: Long Stories

I’m test-running the Ideamarked posts as a weekly feature instead of a monthly one through April. Drop me your comments or Tweet to @ideasmithy, letting me know what you think. Also, if you see something you think should be Ideamarked, let me know and I’ll post it with due credit to you. You can also post a link to The Idea-smithy’s Facebook Page.

Here’s what I saw this week:

“Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy”

The BarCamp Mumbai 8 Round-Up

I spent yesterday at Barcamp Mumbai 8. This has been my first unconference in nearly 2 years. My last Barcamp was over 4years ago, overrun by techie discussions and only drew me because it had a teensy segment for bloggers. BlogCamp evolved as an offshoot of that.

Yesterday was a pleasant return. For one, the event that usually struggles on time, breezed through the multiple sessions, speakers and classrooms easily. There were 4 classrooms in the ultra-posh Mukesh Patel ….. The wiki was flowing with colourful post-its even at 10:15 a.m., which is when I got there. And most delightfully, the subjects spanned a diverse range of intellectual tools, hobbies & interests & scientific applications in fun real life ways. One had to be truly ruthless to pick sessions to attend since there were so many good ones, several happening simultaneously.

Off the top of my head, these are the ones I attended:

Interesting titbits from the day:

I entered Rehab’s session late, having misread the wiki schedule. It was interesting and fun, though occasionally highjacked by someone who claimed that genocide made him happy. Quick tip – if you’re demonstrating or talking without a powerpoint, avoid the big conference room. The larger crowd is harder to maintain & engage. Rehab did a great job though and showed off a mind technique that will help anyone from an artist to an executive stuck in a business dilemma.

Harrish is always entertaining and touching in equal parts. His first talk was about the film AMEN being denied a certificate by the censor board and he did a superb job of bringing out the inconsistencies in their policies. His second talk though, was the one that really had people talking. He was speaking of how gay people are treated in India, when partway through, he was interrupted by a very fervent member of the audience who insisted that,

“According to Hinduism, you can only have sex with your wife, inside a closed room. Only after marriage and only for procreation, not for fun.”

The uproar that followed had to be taken out into the corridor to make way for the next speaker. The episode illustrated one of the reasons that unconferences are a great way to seed ideas, bring out thoughts and get people talking, sometimes about controversial and difficult topics.

My session on ‘Social Content’ happened on the fly. It’s been years since I spoke completely extempore, as I did yesterday and it was a great experience. I was actually hoping to create interest for my upcoming series of blogging workshops, beginning with ‘Unboggle The Blog‘. But instead, I found myself naturally touching on several related but disjointed thoughts about this space. My 20 minute, stream-of-consciousness ramble imitated the way we consume and add to social content, on our Facebook Walls, our Twitter timelines and all out other channels of social media. I touched on the artificiality of traditional media, social media as an extension of normal, human behaviour, how trolls are mirror daily social miscreants experimenting in their own ways and that we’re all creators & consumers of social content. Here’s the talk:

I missed the #TWSS talk by Aditya Sengupta since the room was so packed that even the door couldn’t be opened. From what I hear, it was a tongue-in-geek demonstration of an algorithm used to generate and viral #TWSS (That’s what she said). But the geek in me found a corner in Anubha Bhat’s talk on diagnosing bipolar disorders using algorithms.

I’m not going to dwell on how great it was to catch up with old friends again, since that’s a given in any gathering. Yesterday was more than just friends catching up and people networking. It really was a meeting of minds, a true sharing of ideas. A big thank you to the Barcamp team for pulling off such a great day!

What Not To Do

I’m starting a new section on The Idea-smithy titled ‘What Not To Do‘. As the title suggests, it will relate to things, people and experiences that you’re advised to steer clear of.

WNTD will not be a rantfest. It will, however, draw from my own experiences with brands, service providers and other such commercial entities. The social mediaverse recognizes my voice as a blogger and hopes to leverage it to promote vested commercial interests. When it makes sense to, I’m happy to recommend a promising or good experience. By the same token, I should also pass on information on bad experiences, as warning to my fellow citizens in this space.

I will include a breakdown of what went wrong and when possible, solutions or alternate actions/attitudes that would have prevented/curbed it. I expect I’m going to be ruffling a few feathers and losing a few ‘friends’ off my Twitter following and Facebook ‘likes’ but I’ll risk it.

Themeefy: Curation, Plagiarism & Good Responses

I periodically ego-surf. For the uninitiated, that’s doing Google searches of your name. I’m not ashamed of it. I check myself in the mirror before I go out, after all. What’s wrong with checking on your image online, periodically too?

On just such an exercise, I came across a website that had all my 55-word story posts. I rolled my eyes and looked for a way to contact the owners to tell them they couldn’t plagiarize my content.

The website was Themeefy, a content curation app (itself a premise, I’d find very interesting). One of their users had ‘curated’ this section of my blog. My guess is that a link would normally show an excerpt. But since the content was very brief, the entire posts showed up, one per page.

I tweeted to Themeefy:

Why are entire posts from my blog appearing on @themeefy here- http://bit.ly/xzl8M8 This isn’t sharing, it’s plagiarism. What do you think?

Less than an hour later, I received a response:

We are linking back to your blog, so it’s not plagiarism. However if you object strongly, we can delete this Themeefy Mag.

I replied,

Yes, please do. The entire post has been reproduced. It hurts the SEO of my blog to have it reappear elsewhere.

I received this message a bare five minutes later:

It’s done! 🙂 Please accept sincere apologies on behalf of the user.

I think this situation happened in a grey area. Curation involves the collection, tidying up, organizing and showcasing of content. Online, it’s a little tricky. Mirroring a website’s content hurts its SEO and seems to actually do the opposite act of devaluing the original. On the other hand, the internet and indeed, blogs work on the premise of link-love.

I’ve spoken often about things that don’t work, services that don’t deliver and people who disappoint on the social media. So I wanted to make a special note of this as a case where this did NOT happen. The situation was resolved well because Themeefy was:

  • Prompt with response: An angry person gets frustrated with inaction and angrier over time. By replying immediately, Themeefy saved the situation from turning sour.
  • Polite without being servile: All of Themeefy’s communication was polite. They also pointed out that they were not doing anything wrong but would take the Mag down, if I asked.
  • Flexible: By taking my concerns into consideration, even though I am not a user, they ensured that I would actually be interested in becoming a user.

Social Networking-The Creation & Consumption Of Content

Earlier in the month, I began writing for Social Samosa. My brief was to recap the major events in social networking over the past few years in India. Given how vast this is, I broke it up into two parts. I started with an article titled, ‘Social Networking: How Communities Were Built’. In that post, I looked at the connections aspect of social networking.

Image via Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot,

The second part of that story is now online in a piece titled, ‘Social Networking: The Creation & Consumption Of Content‘ where I discuss the other harbingers of the social media revolution – blogs, commenting systems, bulletin boards, discussion groups and everyone’s favorite birdie – Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Online content creation began with a few individuals putting out text & images that could be consumed by other users of the internet. In the recent years, though, we’ve seen content creation get closer & closer to the space that we call social networking.  A content creator is not an artist working in isolation but the initiator & propagator of conversations.  The social networks are but channels to drive conversations, which need content.  Thus it was inevitable that social connectors and content holders should find themselves merging in a borderless space.

‘Content creation’ is a misnomer since, increasingly, we are all becoming both producers & consumers of content.  One person feeds into the network a piece of information or an insight or a personal account (a phenomenon now called ‘seeding’ if done with the intent to propagate).  Others read it and share it on their networks (the phenomenon now called ‘going viral’).  Along the way, comments are added and other bits of content spring up in response to the first piece.  These could take several forms – blog posts, tweets, comments, status updates, pictures and videos, to name a few.  The conversation now spans multiple users, data points, media and web locations. Every user in this process has now become both a consumer and a creator of content.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Troll In The Smithy

Trolls rush in where intelligent readers fear to tread.

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