A reflection of a reflection.

‘Mirrored Room’ by Lucas Samaras.

Oh buddies… I’m probably in greater need for meds than usual, because have I got a serving of digital vomit for you… As always, I encourage engagement, but in this instance, I’m actually requesting it, because in recent days I’ve become genuinely curious about a thing.

So with that preface, let’s begin.

A concept has developed in my brain the last three days and I’m gonna see if I can somehow describe it to some degree or another. So the other night a buddy of mine had posted a photo of his campsite. The photo presented an outfitted truck parked in a wooded area, a cooler, a camp chair… You know the scene. Totally idyllic. You could almost hear the birds and the creek and the trees in the breeze. Along with it was the caption, “am I doing this right?” Snarkily, I replied with something along the lines of that if he were doing it right, he would probably keep it to himself.

This simple exchange was the lynchpin to a torrid array of thoughts which then came flooding into the forefront of my consciousness in terms of how much we know about one another’s lives at all times, rain or shine, day or night. Before the advent of social media, digital cameras, and so on, when one wanted to document an event or occurrence in one’s life, one carried a camera, thoughtfully selected that which they would document, took a photo, and carried on with their wayward son-ness. Eventually, once the event in question had occured, and upon the retrieval of the shoebox in which the photos were stored, they and a few friends would then share looking at images of said experience. I contend that if we as a species still had to pay to get film developed, there would be no selfies, or hot dog legs, or (choke) the Kardashians.

The instant access to all and everything everyone is doing as it turns out is something of a double-edged sword.

And what is my place in all of this? When I initially got tapped to man the helm at Swobo’s ‘How To Avoid The Bummer Life’ web log, I had an email address that I’d occasionally use to check in with my parents, a Myspace page my friend Jason had set up for me as a ruse that I didn’t know how to access, and eventually a Flickr page because shooting slides and maintaining a physical portfolio is a monumental pain in the ass. That was the extent of it, and my life was really very simple.

Then the whirlwind of blogging came along and with it, Flickr, and Facebook, and Tumblr, and Twitter, and Instagram, and so on and so on, and I have to wonder, if I wasn’t doing what I do for a living, would I have any of it? To that, I genuinely believe the answer would be no, I would not.

Where does the promotion of my business end, and the promotion of what I want people to believe of my life begin?

For instance, to scroll through any random person’s Instagram feed is a glimpse into their daily existence, but for whom is it really presented? And is it a true glimpse into a thing they genuinely want the world to see, or a carefully crafted lie? Or perhaps it’s a bit of both. But it’s really the array that is the most mind boggling. Anything from the bag of fresh vegetables they picked up at that day’s farmers market to an image of them sitting at their beloved grandmother’s death bed. Unless a person emails/snail mails me specifically, I know for certain that I wasn’t the target audience for any of it, yet there I was taking part in this mundane/monumental occurrence just the same.

Yet the other side of the coin is that without all of these wonders of technology, I wouldn’t have eventually come to know so many truly great people. It’s opened doors to friendships that will remain until I die, while at the same time filling my brain with absolute banality.

Furthermore, to look through the Instagram feed I have set up in association with All Hail The Black Market, one would see photos of bikes, my cat, an occasional painting, and so on, but how much of that is an effort to promote my business, and how much of it is an effort to promote myself? Considering the fact that as I said perviously, if I didn’t have a business, I wouldn’t have any of the digital tentacles attached to it, I’d say it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 80%/20%. Of course, I’m a human animal. I have an ego that likes to be fed. Like any of us, I’ll occasionally take the Narcissusian risk of falling into the water to look at my own reflection, but for my own mental well-being I also desperately need to keep that compulsion in check.

Some people promote their business, and some people promote their lives, and strangely, in AHTBM’s case, I just now realize that they both are kinda the same thing. That same Jason who so many years put jokingly put together a Myspace page for me once said when trying to wrap his mind around what AHTBM is, “so you basically get paid to be yourself?” As off putting as that sounds, to a degree I suppose this is true.

With all of this said, I wonder what your role is any of it is. (You there- the person reading this). If you do, why do you engage in social media? Is it to keep in touch with friends, and family? Is it to promote your business/life/cat sweater collection? Can you genuinely say what you present to the world is an honest representation of your life? And because the written word carries no subtitles, or inflection, I say all of this earnestly, and I hope not to offend. I’m up to my neck in self promotion, because my livelihood depends on it. My challenge is how much of my actual self I dare allow in the process.

And since it was my dickish comment on his photo that spurred all of this on to begin with, if the aforementioned friend whose photo of his campsite ever emerges from the woods, I’ll ask him his thoughts on it as well.

What’s my point, anyway? Does anyone know what I’m trying to say? Can anyone direct me to an article that articulates this vague notion better than I did? If you can, hit me up on the Intantwitbookblr, or whatever. Some facsimile of me is probably there right now anyway.

Spread this like it's sick

Leave a Reply to Badbeard Click here to cancel reply.

35 Responses to “A reflection of a reflection.”

  1. Jan! April 4, 2016 at 6:39 am #

    I think you’ve succeeded at expressing the feeling quite well, and I’ve often wondered the same things myself. Not that I have anything to promote, but I fear the very moment I start a profile on one of them socialist mediums, I will start living differently, as if guided by the unseen hand of public approval ratings. That’s also one of the reasons I quit the Facialbooks and LinkedThings: everything had to be “just right”. Now all that’s left, is my Twittering account — at least for now.

  2. doubt April 4, 2016 at 7:15 am #

    I have actually never met you before, so I am still not sure this whole AHTBM thing isn’t a super clever marketing thing from Vans or Budweiser.

    Fingers crossed

  3. Mom/Sue April 4, 2016 at 7:21 am #

    This is a huge topic and I look forward to reading all the responses. I wonder why people use social media at all (if they don’t have to). My five minute foray into Facebook creeped me out thoroughly in terms of instantly listed people with whom I have had no contact in years. Perhaps those of us who don’t use it live under the illusion (delusion?) that our privacies are intact……..

  4. MM April 4, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    There are times to share…when the stoke level is high, for instance.
    There are definitely times NOT to share. As I get older, I find myself sharing less and less.
    Not because I don’t want people to share my level of stoke, but because I’m growing selfish with the stoke. Keeping it to myself has helped my outlook, and daily mental stability.
    If I go out solo, whether it be on the bike, boat, truck…whatever…there’s a reason I went out solo.
    My wife asks, “Isn’t that lonely?”.
    To paraphrase the old saying, being lonely, and being alone are totally different beasts.
    Doing things alone allows you to see things that you might not otherwise see, and experience things differently.
    It’s not a bad thing.
    And no, you weren’t wrong for making your comment.

  5. Crashy McWreckface April 4, 2016 at 8:03 am #

    For research’s sake, I’m a millennial type: I tried to use social media and such, but it seemed too much like a chore. I go to facebook once every couple months. The infrequent facebutt updating is probably a type of indirect statement about myself. I have stuff to post, I guess, but I can’t be assed to do anything about it. I also find it annoying how many people seem to have Munchausen by internet syndrome.

    Folks do use social media to portray a skewed version of their lives, but people have always done this. For reference, find the Calvin & Hobbes strip about the lying camera.

  6. Grr April 4, 2016 at 8:08 am #

    If I hadn’t chosen a life as a professional communicator which, by the way, was far less complicated when I chose it, I wouldn’t be involved in any of this shit. I’d probably be a bike-riding hermit disconnected from technology at every possible moment. Instead, I have to master it on a level that is exhausting. I even paid a university to give me a master’s degree that said, yeah, I can master it. Does it mean I *actually* care? Not really. I’m just good at it, is all. Because I have to be. But I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care. I hunch over a computer for 8-10 g*ddamn hours a day and at 30 already have carpel-tunnel issues and my shoulders always ache and my eyesight/posture sucks. Give me a fire pit and a grill and my friends, or a trail and a bike and my friends, or tent and a freeze-dried meal and my dog. I do like Instagram, but that’s just because I’ve loved taking photos since my dad put a camera in my 5-year-old hands and my memory is terrible, so it serves as my slide tray and my memory and forces me to look around and see what I can see, and to see if I can see those things in new ways, and to see how other people see things.

  7. Morgan Fletcher April 4, 2016 at 8:23 am #

    I am only on instagram to keep in touch with the kids on my high school mtb team. I’m mostly on facebook to promote the team, and recruit riders and coaches. I’m only on twitter to follow people related to my paying job. I’d gladly leave all of it, get in my van and go ride bikes in Sedona, but for responsibilities and connections and community. Still might.

    • Travis April 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

      Morgan, how do you like leading the high school mtn bike team? What is the time commitment like?

  8. JP April 4, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    It’s a great thing to ponder. Partly we are reflecting our ego, or who we want to be. I think – know – some people have a different persona on Instagag than Twitter, sometimes they blend. The more we move around in this world though we leave more parts of us in different places so without some social/email/whatever I’d be bummed to lose those bums.

  9. Benitosbro April 4, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    I use social media to like posts, share posts, and spank it to pictures of your wife. (Not just your wife, everyone’s in general).

  10. spokejunky April 4, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    One of the best ways to figure out where you are or where you’re going is to look back. A great article here: http://www.digitaltrends.com/features/the-history-of-social-networking/ . I was used to using BBS or AOL as a place to connect and talk to people. Once Geospaces came into play, then it became more of a scrapbook of your life. AOL then transformed more into marketing your information and a glut of crap. MySpace took over for more scrapbooking and Friendster was the first real foray into today’s social media. The thought behind Facebook was good in that you would use it as a place to connect with friends and update everyone, but that has turned into a privacy nightmare with user data now being utilized to shape interests delivered to you. You can tell the blogs/posts from users who started back in BBS or just before FB in that it’s used to communicate things. More stuff on the internets today is to coerce a thought or serve a narcissistic need of fulfillment. There’s a distinct difference I see in what you do at AHTBM in that you seem to do it to serve as an outlet for your art. It’s cool to get affirmation, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t curl up into a ball of self loathing if your site didn’t get enough likes.

  11. Üma April 4, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    Yup. I wonder the same myself. Like you my livelihood sorta depends on it. But unlike you, I’m not able to make a living being me. Almost, but…it turns out feisty, energetic, humorous, crass women aren’t all that marketable…even in the bike industry. I’ve tried toning it down. I’ve tried blowing it up. And I ended up feeling totally fucking neurotic because I can’t seem to get it right. Be authentic! No, LIE THROUGH YOUR TEETH AND BE ÜBER POSI AT ALL TIMES! Gah! I’ll continue to use social media as a marketing agent, to promote the brands and companies who hire me to do so, and I do so anonymously. You’d never know it’s me behind the curtain most of the time. But personally, I’m conflicted. I use social media to keep in touch with friends across the country, especially when I’m far from home, to feel “connected”. Ironically, not being able to be real, to be 3-D or 4-D or any “D” beyond D-igital, makes me feel less connected. I crave the real. Real people. Real interactions. I remember producing the artist salons in Oakland in the 90s—painters, writers, musicians, dancers, sculptors—all sharing their stuff with creative people in real time. Instagram is a sad substitute, but living in the middle of BFE (temporarily) it’s all I’ve got for the time being. I love it. I hate it. I contain multitudes.

  12. Gecko April 4, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    Goofing off on a BMX makes me happier than sitting inside fuming about some jerk on the internet, and I need to remind myself of that every so often. Winter is never good for my peace of mind, but luckily it’s getting warmer around here lately, so it’s easier to leave the computer off and just go for a ride instead.

  13. fairbanks fred April 4, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    who cares, really? this digital age is just the next evolution of mankind and you are a part of it, as are we all. it seems to me that instagram, fb, and the others are just the new “shoebox” in which we store our photos and thoughts. if people want to look at them, great. if not, great. it’s also great when we get to post off-handed comments because we can do so without fear of reprisal (unless it’s family). keep up the good work, and rest assured that no one will probably give a flying fuck about any of this in less than a generation…unless of course the internet dies tomorrow, and then it will be less than 24 hours.

  14. MoThra April 4, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    I have used my wife’s facebook account to look up people whom I used to know but lost touch with and wonder what they’re doing but don’t really wanna talk to them. Of course there are some cool uses for these things, like grandparents seeing their little ones.
    But the thought that always enters my mind is Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, paraphrased, “I don’t believe that someone should devote themselves to morbid self-attention, they should become a person, like other people.”
    I also have an issue with so many people having a GoPro camera. Everything does not need to be documented on video. If I saw video of myself riding, I know I would look round and weak, so I hope none exists.
    I’m also almost 50, cynical and have never taken a selfie. To quote a sage dirtbag blogger “I guess I was punk once.” Also I don’t give two shits how much someone loves chocolate or if they just had their nails done, so I don’t have social media accounts.

  15. Joe Morley April 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    I prefer not to use social media. Personally interacting with another person allows you to see and feel so much more. Consider how one sided and unimpressive an online chort report seems when compared to finding an actual bag trail-side.

  16. Kyle April 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

    Instagram is fine with me, it gets to the point without all of the Facebook bs. Quality over quantity of course. I guess if your job is blogging about your hobbies/ interests then it is of course going to be 80% or higher real life. And the other 20% is talking/ social messagingizing about cool, free shit!

  17. JoshRVA April 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

    First of all, great opening image.
    That out of the way, it seems like your engagement with social media (and I fully include the AHTBM blog in this, though you might not see that as exactly “social media”) has led to a fair amount of self reflection. Probably you do that anyway, but in my own case I find that being confronted with opinions very different from my own, or even mostly the same but with a significant twist is a good thing.
    You seem like a fellow that I could get along with quite well in meatspace, should the opportunity ever arise. And I mostly know that because of this sort of thing…

  18. BOSAHFOW April 4, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

    I blogs and instagrams for myself, if others take an interest then that’s fine too. There are times of crippling self doubt in my life. I look back on the pages of my blog and in my instagram to see that I do make progress (in small increments) in my life and not all that I do is futile. Besides one day my memory will be shit and I’ll have it all in one place to look at and possibly share with someone. I don’t participate in twatter and book face and could give a rats ass about either. That’s why I do what I do with social media and a blog. Keep up the good work for the cause, Thanks.

  19. steve April 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    the social media backlash is coming, it’ll be broadcast on the internet…..

    I stopped writing a blog two years ago when it occurred to me that it was extremely boring to read, extremely boring to write and my motives for doing it were questionable at best, who the fuck wants to know what I’ve been doing ?

    and then came instatwittface, no thought required, no real effort other than to take a snap or two, black and white em, press the hero button on snapseed and bingo I’m all epic and outdoor rad again

    still just as fucking dull but so much easier

    on a positive note, the internet is amazing in allowing me to have friends from all over the world, some of whom I have actually met in real life (and they are without exception great people) so thats good

    • Jim cassa April 4, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

      I’m a retired guy and do my best to understand the direction the modern world is going. I don’t know why anyone would try to cover the world in selfies, or want to live in the 1800s. But I do see advantages to modern communications. I joined Facebook to see pictures of my new granddaughter. I worked at a printing co for 30 years as the customer service manager so everything that went wrong was my problem. If I could have been riding my bike and blogging i’d have jumped at the chance. The sign of human intelligence is questioning not answering. Go easy on yourself. Answers just happen and you don’t notice because you’re already pondering the next question.

      • JoshRVA April 4, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

        “The sign of human intelligence is questioning not answering. Go easy on yourself. Answers just happen and you don’t notice because you’re already pondering the next question.”
        You good sir have my highest regards.

  20. Big Jay April 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    Ahhh introspection…….Your’s is string of questions that are wrapped around the technology parts but there are 2 bigger questions you need to answer to guide you. The questions are “are you your brand? and “are you OK with that”. I believe the draw to this site is your authenticity which is now core to your brand. So, let’s assume your answer to question 1 is yes, stevil, you are your brand. Frankly it is the 21st century way of putting your name on the sign outside your door (back when people went to shops and such).

    Sadly, I think you can’t put the poop back in the horse on question 1 at least without some time passing and you unplug (please don’t do that). So, then we move to question 2. Are you OK with it? For most people who are saying that they do not participate in social media they are in fact not OK with that so they just don’t do it. I think that is nice since they are probably pretty self aware. But many others unwillingly say yes to this all the time and just go forward and social it up with no recognition of their relationship to their brand / reputation. They just do it. I am in a job where I have the luxury where I can segregate my work virtual world (Twitter, LinkedIn) from my personal virtual world (Facebook). This is how I attempt to control my brand but that is stupid since that boundary is overcome with a google search. Therefore, it’s a simple superficial means for me to control something uncontrollable. Because, I have seen that once it’s out there well it’s out there.

    The key is then twofold. Key 1) You must decide how much you want to put out there. For example, I like to share stupid videos and put up family pictures. I don’t share points of view or emotional stuff (except a recent posting of the notion that Axl Rose may front AC/DC- that was both upsetting and quite traumatizing) . Key 2) How you use the platform to sculpt this brand (i.e your 80/20 thesis)

    NET NET AMIGO – Once it’s out there it’s out there. Only you can balance how you sculpt what goes and how real you need it to be. FWIW – I love the authenticity, the feel and the scope of what you cover so from my end keep it up.

    Last thing – that wizards staff shit is about the greatest idea in the history of partying. I sincerely am grateful to you for showing this to me.

  21. Loki April 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    “the lynchpin to a torrid of thoughts ” – perfect accidental turn of phrase, made my day!
    That’s why ?

  22. JS April 4, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

    Oh FFS… (I made that text acronym up. [A long time ago.] For Fuck Sake! Can I say that on here?!?) If you’re half as confused as you sound, I feel for you. Ride a bike. Ride a skateboard. Drink a beer. Write about it. Show us some pics of your friends who make beautiful bikes. Tell us about it and share some pics. Really, that’s all some of us are looking for. Someone to keep us from getting to freaking serious and ordering a power meter or carbon wheels. Someone to have a beer with, all virtual-like, and not give a shit that we aren’t in “race-shape”. And please, just help us keep forgetting we have real lives to maintain. I’ll wish you well in finding your way out of this virtual maze you built for yourself. And if you do, I’ll be there with a donut and a beer, and no freaking Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Google analytics to decide if we enjoyed the time.

  23. Crank April 4, 2016 at 7:28 pm #

    I came for the witty reparte , but stayed for the tennis balls. Introspection goes only as far as one’s own navel.

  24. Ammut April 4, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

    Wow, this is such a larger discussion to be had, not even sure how to tackle this one.

    Just want to preface this comment with the fact that I have been working for an IT “giant” for about 10 years, now. Prior to that, I was in the bicycle industry (mechanic/framebuilder/inside sales, etc. for (15+ years).

    Using social media is the newest and now (unfortunately) preferred way of controlling identity. Who we are is controlled by internal and external factors, and social media conveniently combine those for us.

    We are a conduit for marketers, who care only for one thing, “the message”. Where someone like me, who’s born in ’70 would value communication via letters, phone or in person conversations, the marketer values the result of the communication; not the vehicle of such. So, twitter, FB, Insta, whatfuckingever; if it gets their message to the mass, it’s a-ok-and-why-the-fuck-mess-with-it, according to them.

    W/r/t your friend in the van, tell him he’s DOING IT WRONG.

  25. M April 4, 2016 at 10:34 pm #

    It’s all fucking retarded bullshit.

    I just dumped my Insta account because FB’s dumb algorithm, and I’m sure the 24+ followers I had could give a fuck less. I’ll miss some of their posts, but we’ll both move on, I’m sure.
    I keep FB around as a dynamic phonebook, to keep track of framebuilders/friends/products I give a shit about. And sometimes to post photos I took, which I think are cool.

    Self-identity is such a huge conversation, and spans the world in terms of the why’s/how’s I’d have to be bought a few beers to get all deep n shit about this sore subject.

  26. Resty April 4, 2016 at 11:45 pm #

    The internet is a smorgasbord for the mind. Were it not for it, we’d be left with boxing, tennis, wrestling and other mainstream sports instead of cycling here in the Philippines.

  27. Steve April 5, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    Heavy night?

  28. Doug April 5, 2016 at 9:34 am #

    I quit FB because I saw my family and friends portraying completely different lives than what I knew to be true. Now, I don’t get to see their posts, and I’m sure I miss some connection to them, which sucks. FB owns that part of life now. Which also sucks.

  29. Ben April 5, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    I’ve been thinking about similar things recently. I guess I’m involved in the bicycle touring ‘scene’ in as much as such a thing exists and I find it’s hard as people are required to market brand ‘me’ to sell their wares (book, film, blog etc.) but often feel that them doing this then devalues that item because it strips away any authenticity or realism.

    I feel like I really struggle to do it, which essentially means I have to make money by other means (which is fine by me). It’s just odd to identify as ‘someone who writes’ because I enjoy the process of writing but then feel hesitant about the publishing/promoting something.

    Oddly I like your blog (I don’t really read many others and not on a regular basis) because it doesn’t feel like it is just a promotional tool but covers a variety of topics, thoughts and events which I find interesting and amusing.

  30. Badbeard April 5, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    I met you on the internet Stevil and my life is better for it. The social medias are extensions of our personalities but not the be all and end all. Plenty of folk lie about their lives face to face, plenty do it online, that’s one of the human conditions we have to deal with.
    Before Twitter I used to read 30-40 blogs regularly and now it’s only AHTBM and Bike Snob that I never miss. Your social media activity isn’t the reason, your writing is, your art is, the ridiculous ways you find for me to part with my cash is and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Keep on keeping on and do what the hell you want. I’ll still be reading.

  31. Doug April 6, 2016 at 8:05 am #

    “What if” questions are basically impossible to answer. Ever hung out with a 7 year old.

    What if an elephant were being transported by plane from one zoo to another and you were biking on your favorite trail and the elephant was dropped by accident and fell on you?

    About as easy to answer as “what if I had never started a blog”

    Keep on keeping on………….. and I like the Comment on whether this is just a marketing scheme from budwiser or vans 🙂

    • Reverend Dick April 6, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

      Seems like mostly it’s a FANTASTIC opportunity for some back and forth heckling. And I like that.

      I DO NOT love the marketing slogans to which people voluntarily yoke themselves. It’s juvenile at best, but I reckon some folks need some/any framework upon which to hang their idea of self. There are plenty of people who enjoy being part of a herd and told what they think. It’s easy. It’s gross. It is part of human nature.

      I like looking at pictures of rad bikes, and campsites, and talking shit. It’s way more opportunities on the internet than in boring old real life.

      I’ve enjoyed internetting on your sites since HTATBL (so; THANK YOU), and no small part of it is the clowns in the comments section, for sure.