When Anthony and I launched the site almost a year ago we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had a business plan, a site design layout (we’ve since updated to the platform you are viewing now), various Culture-ist social media accounts and an editorial calendar — we had it all figured out.
Well, not completely.
Over the course of the year, we learned that the amount of work we had to do couldn’t possibly fit into 18 hours days. We also realized that people don’t just come to your site, and that you actually have to sign your life away to social media platforms so that you can entice them with pretty photos and intriguing headlines in the hope that they will click on a story or two (family members included). But the most interesting aspect of launching a startup is the bragging component.
When we first began networking with other folks in our industry, we were floored by the level of bragging that went on. There was the endless lists of “Best Blogs,” and the slew of elite partnerships, ad network circles, seed funding opportunities and of course the promise of becoming a TV personality, expert and resident guest on CNN, The Travel Channel and who knows what else. It was exhausting just listening to all the gloating as it tap danced around the room.
We began to feel inadequate and defeated before we even really started. Each day, I would scroll through my Facebook timeline and Twitter feed only to see other colleagues posting about their success. They were essentially creating their own buzz, and it was working. Lines of positive comments would follow and then the rounds of social sharing would commence.
I began to “research,” if you will, these cases of success and for almost every one, there was a high level of self-created buzz. I realized that what all the hype, hooplas and hurrahs really came down to was competition: the never-ending race to always be on top.
It’s no secret that our society has become neurotically competitive over the past 10 years. And it could be attributed to the economic crisis, which may have put many of us in survival mode, but I do think it goes even further than that.
Elizabeth Bernstein wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, which explores the braggart phenomenon. In the piece she writes:
“Clearly, the Internet has given us a global audience for our bombast, and social media sites encourage it. We’re all expected to be perfect all the time. The result is more people carefully stage-managing their online image.
Boasting isn’t just a problem on the Internet. In a society of unrelenting competition””where reality-show contestants duke it out for the approval of aging celebrities and pastors have publicists””is it any wonder we market ourselves relentlessly?’
The article goes on to talk about how competition rules our culture from the New York mom who is willing to go through an intensive application process and spend $50,000 a year on tuition so that her three-year-old can receive a “well rounded” education; to the 45-year-old postal-service worker who brags to a member of her congregation about the interviews she does with celebrities for her freelance gig at a local online entertainment magazine.
So how exactly does one tread in humble waters when we live in a society that is flooded with notions of perfection and apparently people that live up to this notion? It’s a tricky balance. One that may require dishing it out (in a humble, sometimes humorous manner that shows appreciation for one’s audience) in the business world and toning it down on a personal level.
Anthony and I have learned that sharing the site’s successes via our social network’s is almost a necessity. The industry has become so competitive that if we chose to sit back, we might lose the opportunity to gain new eyes on the site. For some reason, many people need to hear that other larger, reputable organizations also value our work; it’s just the way things are in this business.
As for our personal interactions, well, we’ve certainly become more aware of this odd neurosis that is tainting our culture and have made a conscious effort to be mindful of what constitutes healthy conversations.
“Unfortunately, some people can’t seem to tell the difference between sharing positive information that others might actually want to know and flat-out crowing. Let me help: Bragging involves comparison, whether stated or implied,” Bernstein points out in the article.
Hopefully we as a society will realize what we’re headed towards and stop all this ridiculous egoism in its tracks. Otherwise, we may become so knee-deep in our own stuff that eventually there will be too much to plow through and no one around willing to help shovel.