I am regularly criticised by readers like Betty and Louisa being overly critical or confrontational in my attitude and opinions. Some readers don’t like my ideas, though usually they have not bothered to read the discussion or fail to comprehend the real issue before they launch into an incoherent response. Some of my topics are arcane and my point of view is not shared by many people. So be it.
A number of my friends have expressed concern and discomfort about the mismatch between my real personality and the persona I project as the author and publisher of Fitzroyalty. They don’t understand why I do this, why I would want to do it, or what purpose it serves.
I initially thought that my openness to conflict was disliked by people based on their own comfort levels with it; now I’m not so sure. I think it is more about what readers expect from media, and how confronted they feel by the unpredictability of social media.
Traditional commercial media wants its audience to like it; I’m not trying to cultivate affection. You don’t need to like me to find what I write relevant, compelling and engaging. Fundamentally, you don’t have to like me to trust me. You may pay me more attention if you are confronted by me and are not sure whether you like me.
The reason why I allow and even encourage conflict while insisting on rational debate is that it increases responses and interaction. A good post that many people agree with may generate a lot of views but very few comments; it’s less motivating for many commenters to agree with a post than it is to offer a different point of view. This does not necessarily have to be direct conflict, but I do not mind if it is.
Recently Matthew Hurst, author of the Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media blog, made what I thought was a hugely insightful comment about hyperlocal social media:
I suspect that hyperlocal content requires a strong personality to help lead discussion about the community, and provide the dedication to both the community and the notion of hyperlocal required to maintain a high rate of quality relevant content.
To stand out amongst thousands of social media voices, citizen journalists and hyperlocal content creators need to do something unique. However, no one yet knows what works. There are no rules. There’s very little analysis of how audiences respond to social media; it’s all too new.
I’m openly and deliberately experimenting on my audience to see how they respond. One day I will poke you, dear reader, with a stick. The next day I will tickle you with a feather. I’m watching you and learning a lot about how you respond to me. Are you enjoying it as much as I am?