I started watching YouTube on a regular basis about a year ago. The thing that got me hooked was the content of a fellow named Gopher, who reviewed custom content for a game that I enjoyed playing. His treatments are always well-organized and thorough, which is probably why I enjoy his videos so much.
Gopher also runs a few series called Let’s Plays, where the video maker records himself playing a certain game and comments about what is going on while he plays. Recently, one of Gopher’s most popular Let’s Play series suffered a huge setback that required him to retire the character he had been playing due to a corrupted save file. He put out a video explaining the situation. In honor of that character I made a humorous haiku and posted it in the comments. Then I headed off to work.
When I got to work I fired up my laptop and lo and behold my little haiku had gotten a whole bunch of likes. When all was said and done it ended up with 54 likes before something else took over the top comments section – more likes than any comment I’ve ever made. I was surprised at the attention and flattered by the accolades, especially since I’m not a poet. But something else crept into the scene, something ugly.
I noticed that I was constantly refreshing the page to see whether the likes had gone up. I was fixated on the reaction to my silly haiku. Granted, my job is boring so I often do whatever I can to pass the time, but my fascination with the likes just felt dirty.
You see, I despise vanity. I hate it in others and I especially hate it in myself. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like rap music. All they seem capable of doing is bragging about how much money they have, how many hoes they’ve banged, or how many caps they’ve put in other people’s asses. I really don’t care for bragging. It doesn’t impress me. I get it; you’re a badass. Now kindly shut up.
I try to avoid vanity, often to a fault. I could probably benefit from some of the swagger of the rap artist, but I sure don’t want to flash my bling around in everyone’s face. It’s distasteful to me, and anything that even remotely resembles bragging or seeking attention repulses me. This is especially true of my writing. I write what I write because it means something to me, not to show off. If I publish what I write it is simply on the off chance that others might be interested in it as well. If they aren’t, I don’t mind. I got what I needed out of it.
So my fascination with Internet adulation worries me just a little bit. I fear the corrupting influence it could have on me and my writing. I don’t want to write to become popular. I want to write to express my thoughts and feelings. It’s a need, something that is ingrained in me like a rung in the ladder of my DNA. If that becomes corrupted my very being will become corrupted along with it.
I am not decrying likes and comments. I welcome all positive gestures, and I sincerely thank everyone who has praised my writing. I also welcome criticism, assuming it is honest and not out of spite. Praise for my writing makes me feel good, and it increases my confidence as a writer. That’s a good thing. This recent fascination with the likes my haiku received is undoubtedly no big deal, but it still makes me worry about crossing that fine line between confidence-building praise and attention whoring.
One of my favorite bloggers, Mike Smith, just recently posted an article about the rude behavior exhibited by some celebrities due to their arrogance and sense of entitlement. That article made me think about how those celebrities were before they became famous. I would imagine that they treated people better than they do now, and probably would never have imagined themselves behaving as they presently do.
I myself have sometimes thought that if I were to gain a significant amount of fame it wouldn’t go to my head. I know better, right? Well, judging by my giddy reaction to accolades over my haiku, I’m not so sure. Vanity and self importance may be things that can creep up on a person without them realizing it. Sure, they always possessed the potential for that behavior, but before they gained the fame or riches they probably wouldn’t have dreamed of doing the awful things they now do, and probably would have looked down on those who did such things.
I am not perfect, and any ideals I have cannot protect me from the onslaught of vanity without a certain amount of vigilance, I think. Where I most worry about it is in my writing. I want it to remain honest. I want it to quietly bare my soul, not shout “Look at me! I have something important to say.” If my perspective gets skewed – if my writing gets inflated by any desires I might have for attention – I will fail as a writer. I may get a lot of fame and fortune, but it won’t be me. I can’t live with that.
So to anybody who reads this and likes it, go ahead and click on that Like button. I may be vulnerable to occasional bouts of vanity, but I promise I won’t let it go to my head.