Celebrity is a funny thing. Wanted or unwanted, it changes the life of the person who has it. And it often changes the person as well.
Internet celebrity is fairly new to our culture … I think many of us are still unsure how to approach it. This seems to be true whether it's our own celebrity, or someone else's.
Just like you
When I was younger, it was easy to put people I looked up to on a pedestal. Bosses at work, pastors at church, my favourite bands. That is easy to do from afar, but the closer you get to people, the more you see the real person; the flaws, the hurting, and the mess as much as the good things.
As you age (I'd say mature, but the two do not always come hand in hand), you learn from these past experiences with people. But even though you learn that people are not always what the appear from the distance, it's still very easy to put them on that pedestal.
But if there's anything my career on the web has taught, it's that we're all regular Joe's. Man or woman, 150, 1,500, or 150,000 followers — we're all regular people. We have strengths, but we have weaknesses. We're all working our backsides off to pay bills, support our families, and create good things.
I had a chance to spend a day with Justin Jackson this week. Over lunch, we talked about this new type of celebrity. And Justin is the perfect example of this: he has thousands of followers, a reading list even bigger, has sold successful books, and regularly chats with the bigger names in the Saas world. And yet, he's a humble, down-to-earth dude who seems just as happy talking to local tech minded folks about the blog they should start …
He's real people.
The first conference I went to where I could meet some of the celebrities I look up to, I was nervous. Thankfully, once I met a couple, what I already knew was confirmed … we work in an industry of good, solid, and (mostly) humble people.
And we're all on a level playing field.
Getting past the persona
I remember my first company wide get together at Campaign Monitor. I was really looking forward to seeing my North American teammates for the first time. And despite working side by side five days a week, that first face-to-face meeting is always a little bit of a shock.
It's because the avatar we look at every day is only a two dimensional, shallow representation of the fully fleshed human being it represents.
And although we all tend to present only one side of our lives online, the attractive bits and bobs, I prefer the real person. Truth is, we're all annoying and unattractive at times, but I'll take real over polish any day.
When our team gets together, the conversations and fun times that happen are what carry me through the chat room for the rest of the year.
I've really enjoyed getting a glimpse of the lives of so many people in the past 6 years. But as good as the persona can be, I much prefer to get to know the person. That's why nonferencing is so popular now — the conversations trump the content. They are the content.
I'll be at the last Brooklyn Beta this year. Please come and say, “Hi!”