Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Five Ways To Make Yourself Interesting Online.

Who is inherently interesting?  Who is worth following online?  This is something that has been on my mind lately.

In 2008, during my days of The Great Interview Experiment of 2008, my mantra was, “Everyone is Interesting.”

Did you ever notice that whenever some expert is being interviewed on Oprah or the Today show, the person just happens to have a book coming out the following week? It’s as if it wasn’t important to tell us the cure for cancer until the guy’s book comes out, and then they don’t even tell you the cure so you have to buy the book.

Last month, after reading this comment by Karen Maezen Miller, I flirted with the idea that it doesn’t matter who is interesting, since everyone is mostly just talking about themselves.

Once you realize that everyone is simply talking to themselves about themselves you can learn a lot about yourself and nothing about anyone else.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to reach a compromise between my interest in others and fixating on my own needs.  I started to filter my online experience. I downloaded “Social Fixer” to hide content on Facebook. I discovered that by filtering the terms “http” and “RT” in Tweetdeck, I could eliminate excessive links and retweets.

I feel bad hiding content from my friends, but I’m accepting the fact that my relationship with you cannot be based solely on your social media output.   Just because you are a dear friend doesn’t mean I am required to listen your sales pitch about baby strollers.  We can develop our friendship offline.   In real life, I go to the movies with my friends.  I don’t sit around listening to their work-related pitches.

This was my last status update on Facebook —

I authentically believe that everyone is interesting. And I love to hear about your passions. But at some point in your life you have to stand up and ask yourself, “Forget the others. What is truly interesting to me?”

Response by V-Grrrl:

“I don’t think everyone is interesting.  That said, you don’t have to be “interesting” (to me) to have value and worth.”

The idea that everyone is interesting is ingrained into my psyche. To speak the words “not everyone is interesting” sounds like heresy, like the Pope refuting the Virgin Birth.  We are all human beings.   We HAVE TO BE INTERESTING.

Yes, more and more I understand that there are only so many hours in a day.   And time is passing.   We all have needs that must be met.   And our different needs require us to focus on differently.


artwork by Erica Glasier

Some of us struggle to make ends meet. Others seek love. A financially secure SAHM might be seeking self-actualization through a career in art.  A divorced woman might be battling depression.  Our interests change depending on the current chapter of our lives.  This doesn’t refute the idea that everyone is interesting.  If you sat down with a stranger and learned his “story,” I guarantee that you would eventually find him interesting.  Most of us just don’t have the time, or are too focused on our own needs.

So what do you do as a content provider, knowing that there are millions of readers out there, each with a different agenda?  How do you make yourself interesting to others online? How do you become “influential?”  Isn’t that what so many of you crave online? (self-esteem issues.  see above)

I sat in McDonald’s this morning with my free cup of coffee for National Coffee Day, and came up with — The Five Ways To Make Yourself Interesting Online. Ha Ha. I’m going to use that crass, attention-grabbing statement as this post’s title, just to prove my point.

And I’m writing this somewhat seriously.

The Five Ways To Make Yourself Interesting Online.

1) Say something interesting.

Content is King. Write Well. Blah Blah Blah.   My blog crushes are almost ALWAYS solely based on an individual’s writing or photography.

2) Do something interesting.

We like people who do interesting things. Sell a book. Finance a movie. Climb a mountain. Become a CEO.  Have twenty children.   Successful people and risk-takers are interesting. We even excuse your lack of talent if you grab life and live it well.

3) Have something interesting happen to you.

It is the oldest story in the book (hello, Joseph Campbell!). A Regular Joe is confronted by Fate, and is forced to become a hero. We instantly root for anyone who confronts death, health issues, or a tornado sending their home into the next township.  But beware — the mob turns on you if you remain a victim too long. We like our narratives with happy endings, and our heroes overcoming their tragedies, turning them into successes.

4) Look interesting.

I hate to bring this up, but there must be a psychological reason that 99.9% of all spokespeople, actors, and models are youthful and attractive-looking, from those sexist  American Apparel ads to the most angry feminist blog.   And now that Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook have made the visual more important than writing, the Golden Age of text-based internet is over.  Pretty people get an advantage in the media world. For the rest of us, we need to show off our cool haircuts and tattoos.

5) Become friends with interesting people.

Most of us are insecure, weak, and confused. We do not know our own true interests. We looks for authority figures to guide us. That is why there are so many lists of the “Best Writers” or “Top Bloggers,” and we follow them like sheep.  We crave to know who is interesting. And if someone is deemed interesting, then by definition, everyone they know must also be interesting. This is how #FF works on Twitter. You assume that someone of interest would only recommend someone worth following. Unfortunately, in a world where a mention means a personal validation of interest, a system is created where friendship become a commodity.   But maybe it has always been that way.

So, there you go — the five ways to become interesting online.

Say something interesting.

Do something interesting.

Have something interesting happen to you.

Look interesting.

Become friends with interesting people.

Of course, only an idiot would truly follow my advice.

20 Comments

  1. I feel more interesting just because I read this 🙂

  2. Did you ever read the Dale Carnegie book, “How to Make Friends and Influence People”? It’s still used today in business training. I also read an article this week on how to have charisma. Both the Carnegie book and the charisma article had the same message: Listen don’t talk, make eye contact, focus on the other person, assume they have something valuable to tell you and wait for it. Don’t talk about yourself.

    That’s pretty much the opposite of the way social media works for most people. There are so many “broadcasters.”

    “I am too busy talking about what’s important to me to listen to you.”

    But, back to the comment of mine you quoted in this piece. “You don’t have to be interesting to have value and worth.” Why do we feel we have to have a “story” to tell to be worthy of attention? Isn’t that the screenwriter and literature major in you talking? Just because your life couldn’t be turned into a commercially successful novel, article, or movie, does that make it less important and valuable? The whole concept of people being “interesting” is interesting in itself.

    My mother wasn’t “interesting,” but she was warm, welcoming, kind and attracted and kept friends for decades.

    Let’s face it, in the age of social media, we have read/heard thousands of personal stories before: the recovered alcoholic, the victim of sexual abuse, the tribulations of weary parents, the exhausted caretakers, the grief of those who have lost children, the addicts, the bipolar coping stories, the single parents, the unemployed, the lonely singles, the people who had shitty parents, those who struggled with gender identity, etc. All those stories have been told over and over and over again, not just online but through reality shows etc. Why do we keep reading or friending those folks? Not usually because they’re “unique” but because we like the way they handle themselves, because they engage with people in a positive way, because it’s not always all about them, because they meet some need of yours on Maslow’s Pyramid.

  3. I feel like an old fogie saying it but I miss the days of social media being just about talking smack, writing cool shit, and having fun. Now everyone’s going on and on about developing your personal “brand”. Meh.

  4. I would agree that every person is interesting to someone, just not to everyone.
    Maybe that is the role of social media, to find the people that interest you and the people that are interested by you. For example, I don’t give a flaming fart about the craft someone made or the recipe they created for dinner last night, but I am interested in the good book that person read, his perspective on an issue, or the place that she traveled. That doesn’t make my interests any better or worse than anyone else’s, just different.
    I suppose that there are common denominators that most people find interesting – a compelling, well written story or a beautiful, strange, or telling image.
    Maybe there is room for everyone to have a place in social media (except for assholes). Some people’s places are just bigger than others.

  5. I feel that the real point of any communication is in seeking a connection. You don’t have to be interested in everything about a person, but if you connect with them, they have value to you. That’s why the stories, while heard before, keep being told. It’s why they kept being listened to. It’s about connection, something we all really need.

  6. Interesting. Just today, in my latest post, I wrote . . .

    “I believe that true friendship doesn’t lie in the content of our interactions but in the quality of them.”

    I guess I want friendship to be the way it used to be. Face to face. Blood to bones. And yet, you are my friend. I call you that with zero reluctance or sadness.

    What you want from social media dictates how you use it . . .

  7. You, sir, are always interesting. (And how much do I love that you are so very willing to insult anyone who takes your advice, calling them/us idiots?)

    Also how very interesting that you discover this hidden visual talent of yours – amazing (instagram) photography – just as you declare traditional text-based internet dead?

    You’re deep in the groove of the zeitgeist, my friend, even though you may stumble through it unawares, looking down at your iPhone.

  8. I appreciate how meta you are.
    Social media gets me down approximately every other week. In fact, just this morning I was lamenting the fact that I took a whole bunch of pictures at a tiny agricultural fair yesterday, and I think they tell a really cool story, but I don’t want to post them, because I don’t use instagram, and is it even legal for somebody to post a series of pictures that are not on instagram anymore?

  9. Neil,

    Such a timely post for me. I shut down my other blogs and reinvented my online presence — maybe just trying to be more interesting?

    <a href="http://beeguile.blogspot.com/"beeguile

    Cheers & peace,
    Deborah

  10. Karengreeners is already making me interested or at least charming me with her comment “I appreciate how meta you are.”

    It’s funny because sometimes I feel like I’m saving my interestingness for something big–some big moment when I’m called on to be SUPER interesting.

  11. I actually really like the last one. And, since I’m “friends” with YOU I inherently am interesting. Right? RIGHT?!

  12. I’m printing these tips out and taping this next to my hootsuite window!

  13. I think YOU are interesting. Because no matter who was on the panel with you at BlogHer, I remember YOU.

    I may have panelists a little jumbled up in my head, but I know who I heard and I know who I liked. You were one of them.

    So there.

  14. In the updated Maslow’s you included, I feel like Twitter and Blogging (represented by WordPress) should be switched.

    There’s so much more spontaneity and crowdsourcing on Twitter rather than on a blog. But what do I know? I find that, more and more, I’m sharing the feelings of los angelista, above.

    And, as usual, V-grrrl, whose thoughtful explanation/comments echo my internal monologue.

  15. My father, a mechanical engineer/sometime inventor/computer programmer, is one of the most interesting people I know. He heats his house with corn. He invented a radar detector before they were available on the market, then took it apart because it was illegal. He’s teaching himself to make art by welding. And this very interesting person, my father, has told me all my life that EVERYTHING is interesting once you look at the details. How to grow cranberries. The rings of a tree. The life cycle of a sloth. And then my writing professor in grad school said the same thing: It’s the details of things that are interesting, not the broad strokes. If you want to see the interesting in the world, focus on the tiniest details. Thanks for reminding us about that.

    I’ve adopted young adult author John Green’s maxim for teens: Don’t forget to be awesome. I actually say that to myself when I’m feeling low. And you know what? It totally works.

  16. Truly. Everyone does have a story. It’s just harder to get out of some than others.

    Also, most days I really hope nothing blog worthy happens to me, but when it does I’m always more than willing to write about it.

  17. I dont think I am particularly interesting but people think I am. I dont talk much I observe more. The only thing loud about me is my laugh. I am awkward in social situations so I try to avoid them but have no problems on the web. I do this to be less alone but not for popularity.
    You are one of the most memorable and interesting people I have read. What makes you “interesting”…wit, clever, humor, honesty come across perfectly in a masterpiece of writing that makes me want more and floors me every time.
    At the end of the day I dont care what you look like or if you skydive.
    But I do like your friends…

  18. I may respond to the things you’ve listed in this Path to Interestingness, but what keeps me around is if I get a sense that people aren’t trying so hard. (Or that they don’t have to.) Genuineness is a much stronger draw for me. And that results in a smaller pool of people, it’s true, and of course no one is genuine all the time, especially online where we can manipulate our truth so easily. Sincerity feels remarkable, when you come across it.

    I’m kind of comfortable being un-influential. I don’t want to have to think too hard about what I’m doing online, outside of being kind and trying not to swear so often. When I had a shared blog and a two-post-plus-a-photo schedule every week, the pressure felt like homework. I have enough homework in my life; I want my SM stuff to feel fun.

  19. You seem to write for others as I write for myself. There’s a big difference. I’ve been blogging for myself since 2003 … You and so many others feel that they need to please their audience whereas I do not give a fuck.

  20. Engaging yourself to social media helps you find people get interested on you. Being friendly is also your key to acquaint more interesting individual. These 5 tips are really great! Thanks,anyway..

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