Advertising ‘Failure’

No doubt you’ve heard about that study that says Facebook can cause depression. The short, short version: the perceived joy/success of others can cause a two-way street of envy and/or loneliness. My take: social networking is the modern-day equivalent of high-school. Except without any possibility of graduation.

Fine, I’ll just drop out for a little bit. Unplug. Easy peasy. I can get to work on that shiny new idea. Why are they always shiny? No, this one’s dark and awesome and original. But is it? Better check out Goodreads. Fish around, get distracted by reviews of that bestseller I despised to figure out why people liked it so much. Do I even understand today’s teens? Do I even know my audience? Man, can I even write anymore?

Screw it, I’m heading to Facebook because maybe somebody posted a video of a panda cub sneezing or will hit me up with some Buzzfeed nonsense. And sure, it’s useless, but it’s funny and the world could use more funny. Except on my way to hilarity, I see that she just posted a smiley face in isolation, which can only mean one thing and he just mentioned how he wrote 10k words in a day. And yeah, I’m happy for their squee moments, but it’s been awhile since my own squee moment and I’m not gonna call them squee moments, because the word twists me wrong. Dad had a story once I really liked. Confetti Moments. Yeah, I need my own confetti moments, not to see somebody else’s.

Maybe I should work on my sequel… contracted, tyvm… but damn this thing’s kicking my ass into my throat, slogging along at 500 words a day if I’m lucky, but hell, it’s got dragons in it and I actually think it’s kind of good when I’m away from it, so there’s that. I’ll go tweet something clever to remind others that I’m supposed to be relevant, or at least should be soon. Dammit, somebody’s squeeing with way too many exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pantry time. Chocolate doesn’t squee….

So, as you can unclearly see, I’m still trying to figure out the whole social media networking marketing thing. Not doing a good job of it. Tend to get distracted, sometimes even bummed. But then I thought of something that has nothing to do with marketing but everything to do with social media.

If perceived joy can lead to reciprocating bummagery (ness?), what could perceived failure lead to…

Sure, maybe somebody out there’s got the golden ticket and boarded that happy train that never broke down once, but most of us have been through the suck a time or twenty. We just don’t advertise. We smile in our beautiful pictures, announce our confetti moments, but hide the bad ones. Don’t get me wrong, we should hoist up those celebration balloons whenever we can. Celebrate the victories, small and large (I am horrible at this).

It’s those bad moments that need more visibility. Not necessarily the ones that currently swallow us, because those often carry too much emotional reflux. But what about those past mistakes or slip-ups, the ones we can still see on the horizon when we squint in the right direction?

After all, we create our bonds through common struggle, not through disparate joy (side note: this is as important a reason as any for conflict in books; if MC can make it through all that turmoil, we can. At least that’s the theory. I couldn’t hang with Job.) The internet’s fairly superficial, but with so much power to affect, why limit ourselves to the sunshine models we too often try to project for the outside world?

The internet gives us the power to (theoretically) speak to millions. Yes, those misery vultures might feast in the shadows of our discontent, but if we can make a connection with one person stuck in the suck, perhaps make them feel a little less alone in the void, remind them that we all make mistakes (and have gotten through them), perhaps even brighten their day a precipitous smidge by exposing ourselves, isn’t that worth it?

In that vein, I will share a very significant failure in my life. I could discuss the 250 or so rejections I’ve had or the college writing professor who surely thought I was a hack, but I’m going to recount something more personal, which has a silver lining*, but does not have a happy ending. Until now, the only person who knew this story was my wife.

In tenth grade, I met this girl. She was one of those rare people who could fit in with any crowd. I was one of those rare people who couldn’t fit in anywhere (sports, band, drama, not even the Magic the Gathering crowd). Yet somehow she overlooked my strange sartorial choices and my strange persona and we became friends. After-school friends, not meet-on-the-weekend sort of friends. I was way too awkward for that (my opinion, not hers).

For the entire year, our friendship grew. She was pretty and super smart and incredibly funny, and I think I may have loved her. But yeah right, no way was I gonna make a move because she was way out of my league. On that last day of school, we were out in the lawn in front, beneath a tree, and I guess she just got tired of waiting. She leaned in, pulled me to her, and kissed me.

Oh man, the scariest most wonderful moment of my life up until then. She got on her bus, I got on mine and we went home for the summer.

I didn’t talk to her. Didn’t call, didn’t write. Nothing.

For 3 months.

I can’t remember why. Fear, ignorance? I’m not sure.

When school started back up, I thought we’d be buddy-buddy again (and maybe hoped for more, or maybe I feared it. Can’t recall. A very uncomfortable time in my life) Ha! Stupid, stupid, boy. Long, painful story short: she acted like I didn’t exist. Never talked to me again.

I was ashamed, depressed. Hated myself. Became even more of an outcast. But it got better. Never felt like it would, but it did. Wish it hadn’t taken so long. Social media didn’t exist at the time. I truly believe it would have helped.The distance and relative anonymity it affords us, I think, could have shortened my hangover. I certainly wasn’t the only idiot boy out there who’d royally screwed up a relationship. Hell, maybe I’d have even made some friends along the way. 

If this FUBAR event in my life didn’t brighten your day a hair by confirming/reinforcing the emotional ineptitude of many a high-school boy (particularly this one) or perhaps by making you feel slightly less bad about a pothole in your own road, there’s always this timeless classic:

*Eventually I did find my silver lining. When I met the next girl, I’d figured things out a little better. Called her. Kept calling her. Never stopped.

__________________________________________________________________________

JM AP Close_Straight

Joshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops in early 2014.

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “Advertising ‘Failure’

  1. I try to remind myself that people only share like 1% of their lives on FB and Twitter, but yeah…it can be rough when you’re struggling and other people are celebrating. I always think about that when I post something good, but I do it anyway. Somehow posting the bad feels like whining, but maybe others would see it as encouraging?

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    • Joshua McCune

      Yeah, Anna, it’s a slippery slope. I mean, sometimes we all need a pat on the back, but it can easily cross into that gray area of melodrama. I think that’s why I’m more inclined toward discussing past issues that we’ve overcome. A sort of – “see, I’m human, too”. A bit of Yin for that Yang.

      Like

  2. annbedichek

    I really hear you. I think Facebook needs a “I feel your pain” button to go next to the “like” button. Then, when you post something sucky (and no one “likes” it — because they’re not supposed to, right?) then you don’t feel even suckier.

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    • It’s like on Ugliest Tattoos. No one’s ever really sure whether to upvote or downvote the super ugly ones.

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      • Joshua McCune

        The cliche ‘misery loves company’ has negative connotations, but I think it’s important to know that others are there at your side. Conversely, if we out our past foibles (or FUBARs, as in my case), we let others know it’s okay to be human, it’s okay to fail and to suffer.

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  3. Oh wow, this totally brings back memories from college. A guy and I were buddy-buddy. Very close. Best friends, even. He never made a move. So I made the move instead. And got rejected–hard. He was “in love” with a girl from HS who never gave him the time of day. Then, to add insult to injury, when he finally realized it was never going to happen with Miss HS, he started dating my roommate. They stayed together for 3 years.

    Anyway, Facebook does have a way of making you feel good. That same guy looks about 20 years older than he should. Facebook revenge can be sweet! LOL.

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    • Joshua McCune

      And, yes, then there’s the revenge aspect. I cannot tell you how much this speaks to me for fear of exposing my highly vindictive nature 🙂

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  4. I know I paint my FB life as sunshine and rainbows when it’s usually more like bill collectors and cat vomit. There’s such pressure in our industry to have an Online Presence — a “positive” online presence — yet the cumulative effect of all our friends’ “squee moments” can be overwhelming.

    Maybe there should be the anti-EMU blog . . . SUME Debuts . . . we can all share high school horror stories, rejection letters, stuff we’ve written that just plain sucks, how long it’s been since we’ve showered (no? just me?) . . .

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    • “Maybe there should be the anti-EMU blog . . . SUME Debuts . . . we can all share high school horror stories, rejection letters, stuff we’ve written that just plain sucks, how long it’s been since we’ve showered (no? just me?) . .”

      Yes! I love this! It’d probably have to be anonymous, though. The world may not be ready for that kind of truth from actual authors. 🙂
      .

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  5. What a touching story–and how astonishing to me, because if we had been in high school in the same decade (which we weren’t!), I’d have thought you were one of the obviously cute and obviously cool guys! I guess everybody can be insecure. I should know this by now but it always surprises me!

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    • Joshua McCune

      Susan, thank you for saying such a nice thing, but, oh man, I was anything but cool. Too-long hair, too-short pants (khakis, not denim, mind you), tortoise-shell glasses (if I come across a picture the next time at home, I will scan it in and post it). College allowed me to reinvent myself and my wife helped rehabilitate me.

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      • You know, I think the kids who felt like misfits when they were in high school are the most interesting people when they’re adults. When you’re up, there’s no place to go but down, and some of those old high school heroes fall pretty far.

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  6. I think that a little humor is the key to making honest/negative posts on FB, etc. not sound like whining. And Josh, you’ve done a great job of that here in this post. 🙂

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    • Joshua McCune

      Thanks, Tara… It is tricky ground to walk because you don’t want to seem like your sympathy-fishing, but you still want to maintain that honesty.

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  7. Yeah, it’s hard to deal with all that happy sometimes. Especially, when most of us are raised to confide the bad stuff with only our closest confidantes. Maybe we should institute a bare your soul day on Facebook. Think of how many people we could cheer up, not to mention all the story fodder.

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    • Joshua McCune

      I love it. I mean, we’ve all got skeletons, right? Skeletons that are long dead and buried and can’t really haunt us anymore, but could allow others to benefit… or at least give them a good laugh, which some contend is the best medicine anyway.

      Like

  8. First, I think this post proves that Josh totally understands today’s teens and can still write. No worries there! Which makes me feel lowly and not worthy in comparison. Thanks a lot, Josh! 😉

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  9. Mike Jung

    It is tricky, right? There’s so much pressure to be positive, positive, positive, and not at ALL negative. (I realize I’m a good example of a rainbow-farting enthusiast, but still.) It’s one of the many ways in which social media, for all its virtues, is one hell of a strange and messed-up way to communicate about stuff in a professional role.

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    • Joshua McCune

      Mike, your rainbow-farting enthusiasm is one of my fave things about Facebook. The joie de vivre you effuse has such a 3 Musketeers vibe (all4one, one4all!) that I can’t help but smile. It feels honest and true. And I think that’s fantabulous.

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  10. Oh, how I needed this right now. I would be an enthusiastic follower of the SUME’s!

    This reminds me of a FB story that I cherish. I reconnected with a guy I knew through middle school (we called it “junior high” back then) and high school. I admired and envied him because he was so “cool”: athletic, handsome, popular, so together all the time. Then, a couple of years ago, when I was sharing my fears about my daughter’s starting middle school, he shared a story about his first day of junior high: a bunch of kids accosted him in the lunchroom and threw french fries at him, and he spent the rest of the day with ketchup on his shirt. Even someone as popular and cool as him had that ghost in his past.

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    • Joshua McCune

      I love these sort of stories.It’s so very natural to compartmentalize people into certain categories, and then when we discover that they don’t fit in the puzzle where we put them, it’s completely mind-blowing (and often in a good way).

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  11. I did something REALLY STUPID last fall that caused a major problem for me beginning last week. It involves lawyers and contracts and could possibly affect my career. I keep looking for someone else to blame but it’s my own danged fault. Feel better?

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    • Oh, Carol, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I live in dread of something like that happening. The legal stuff makes me want to run away and crawl into a hole! If there’s anything we can do privately to help, even just listen, you know where to find us. Don’t hesitate to lean on your family of emus. {{{hugs}}}

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    • Joshua McCune

      Arghh, not at all. My freshmen year of college, I was in NROTC and made a stupid comment about something rather political. Big no no. Do not talk politics, religion, etc. while in uniform. Was already not the best midshipman (not very good at ironing my uni, figuring out marching, taking orders :)). Add this to the list and almost got me kicked out.

      Obviously, your situation is more dire, but I still remember how I felt at the time. There is nothing worse than being stuck in that middle not knowing whether the path ends in more darkness. I can only hope that you’ve got somebody who’s been down a similar road as yours and can offer guidance and a supportive shoulder. Either way, I’ll always offer my shoulder.

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    • Carol, I’m sorry to hear this, too. I hope it clears up soon and with a minimum of difficulty.

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  12. Hugs, Carol. It’ll be easier to look at this and judge its effects when you’ve got some distance behind you. Whatever the mistake was, you’re not the first and you won’t be the last to make it. I’m crossing fingers it ends up being a smaller mistake than you fear.

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    • Yes, my situation already seems to be smoothing out a bit. My point is, I guess, that it never quite ends. Making idiotic mistakes, I mean. The best we can hope for is to roll with the punches, be glad we’re not in the tabloids, and to come out the other side of it alive and with a little self respect intact, right? Josh, you turned out seemingly normal–interesting even–and you will soon be a published author. That can never be taken away once it happens. How many rotsees can say that?

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      • Joshua McCune

        Yep, I’m could fill a stadium with mine. Silver lining for us authors, we can sometimes incorporate elements of those mistakes into our books.

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      • Exactly. In our house, we like to quote Nora Ephron’s mother, who she says told her, whenever something bad happened, “It’s all copy!”

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  13. And Carol, that sounds awful. I’m hoping it can all get resolved quickly and with as little pain as possible. Argh.

    Like

  14. Pingback: The Upward Spiral | EMU's Debuts

  15. Love this post. And I hear you on the Facebook “Life is Shiny” attitude. Thanks for your courage and vulnerability.

    Like

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