Steve Garfield gave me some really great advice in late 2006, when I sat at his kitchen table (also known as a major set piece of the Carol and Steve Show). He said, “People are people. Just treat them that way.” You might think that’s simple advice, but it was exactly what I needed, and it has shaped and guided the way I interact with people in this space. I want to pass the same advice on to you. When meeting the Internet “famous,” or anyone you think might be “someone,” please realize that people are just people, and that you matter.
Interactions Are The Same
At CES2009, I met many people, including Kirsten Wright. Kirsten is a creative copywriter from the Orange County area of California, and very engaging. Her best trait, in my opinion, is how she learned to become bold. I enjoyed breakfast with her at the Bellagio Cafe, and imagine we’ll be working with each other in some way in 2009, given her talent and energy.
I also had opportunity to talk with Robert Scoble about the innovation and immediacy of manufacturing in China while at Jeff Pulver‘s Social Media Jungle. Robert had a few moments to talk with me in between talking with other folks at the event, as we both enjoy meeting new (to us) faces and learning about people. The interactions between Robert and Kirsten were the same. We both talked. We both had something to say. We both were excited for a moment together.
I spent time with people like Ria Sharon and Ted Murphy and even waved hi to MC Hammer. (Yes, THAT MC Hammer). I spent time with everyone from superblogger from ReadWrite Web, Sarah Perez to handsome Ben Grossman to Tim, my cab driver who had a future in stand-up, if ever his wife lets him.
The Point Is: People Are People
I had the opportunity to speak for an hour at Las Vegas WordCamp, and I think the number one thing I heard back from people was, “Wow, I didn’t realize you were funny.” This poses two problems: one, my wife tries to disabuse me of the notion that I’m actually funny (to keep my ego level) and second, I really am funny and personable and comments like that make me worry that you think I’m fancy or something. (You know who you are, “fancy” caller.)
Is it Numbers?
I think people get confused by numbers. I am followed by 33,000 folks on Twitter. I had 245,000 unique visitors last month. I’m #6 in Advertising Age’s Power 150, #68 in the Technorati Top 100. Numbers, numbers, numbers. I think that’s part of the problem.
Because, even though I use those numbers as a gauge of what I’m doing here, what I spend my time and attention on is making connections. Many hours out of every day go into making relationships with you. Look at any given page of my twitter traffic. Realize that I’m my own #1 commenter on this blog. I spend hours every day answering email and phone calls from folks who often times want nothing more than to connect.
Scale is One Issue
One way that people might mistake someone for being worthy of a pedestal is when that person gets so busy that simple contact isn’t as simple. It’s hard to keep up with everyone in Twitter ( I’ve written about how I do it here). I can’t answer every email, etc, etc. But that doesn’t make us any difference in importance, or either of us any more or less worthy of respect or human treatment. It just means that sometimes someone is very busy and can’t manage all the different requests made.
I look at people like Peter Shankman (who I finally met in Las Vegas) and Guy Kawasaki and Jeff Jarvis and oh so many others, and I know that they struggle with managing scale, too, and yet, they all try. Everyone tries.
The Confidence Game
Perhaps the only difference that seems palpable is that, because I’ve had a lot of positive social proof, you might perceive a certain confidence in me that would make you worry that I’m not just like you. There’s some truth to the fact that the way the world responds to my work makes me feel better, but know also that I’ve worked long and hard on making my internal opinion, my self-opinion, the most important voice in my confidence. It’s probably in this area that the potential for accidental pedestals comes up.
But ask anyone who’s spent any amount of time with me how they were treated. Ask them whether I bragged about myself or if I snubbed them the moment someone more ‘famous’ showed up. It’s just not in my game (or in anyone worthwhile that I’ve met who qualifies as famous, Internet or otherwise) to treat someone badly based on some kind of perceived status.
With that said, know that you are valuable. You are important. And never intimate or believe that you are somehow lesser or not worthy, or whatever words spring to mind. Not to me, not to anyone worthwhile.
Want more thoughts on this? I wrote about this in a post entitled Be Sexier in Person.
I value your opinion.
Photo credit, Klearchos Kapoutsis