On “Community”

Wasn’t planning on doing any writing today… however, this morning I found I had a Direct Message on Instagram, of all places. I very seldom do any “gramming”, as — well, it’s just not really for me. It’s one of those places where comic book fans seem to fall over one another in order to be the “first” to spoil anything and everything that happens in comics. If you’re a comic book fan who doesn’t wanna have the thing you just spent $5 on ruined for you… well, you’ve been warned.

Anyway, this message was in regards to one of my recent navel-gazing “think-pieces” — and, funnily enough — although I usually second and third guess most everything I type… this message took issue with a paragraph I didn’t even give a second thought! It went a li’l somethin’ like this (underlined part for emphasis):

I think my main deduction here… if I can even call it that — is that, creativity needs to be intrinsic. Not that there isn’t a place for everybody — but, speaking for me personally — I need to get back to what’s “real”. I’m not a comics news guy… I don’t kiss near enough ass for that, nor am I interested. I can’t depend on any of the “communities” to help me out — for the better part of a decade, most pretend this site doesn’t exist anyway. For me, I’ve guess I’ve gotta stop making “content” and start actually writing again.

Like I said, I didn’t even give it a second thought. Because, to me — at the time — it wasn’t even something I’d think to question. This speaks to the “bubble”. The bubble, isn’t a good place to be — as the name suggests, it’s a literal echo chamber… with very little air to breathe. Worst of all, when you’re in it… you’re usually all by yourself.

Back when I worked a “real job” (as in, had to physically leave my home and engage with other people every day), part of my gig was routing and dispatching long-haul truck drivers. There was a phenomenon we referred to as “trucker brain”… which, isn’t an indictment on truckers, more a commentary on the human condition. Truckers spend countless hours by themselves… with very little to distract them. Trucking, like any skill, becomes rote… leaving one’s mind to wander. Oftentimes, this can lead to feelings of persecution… or, paranoia. The feeling that everybody’s out to get you… and/or, anything someone says to you is somehow a “slight”… or is something that should be taken personally.

Does that make sense? Hopefully.

Similarly, when you prioritize something like… ya know, blogging… which in and of itself can be a very lonely and solitary endeavor. Think of it as just jotting notes in a diary… nobody’s going to read it — and hell, nobody’s going to even want to, unless they already know you. It’s easy to succumb to a sensation/phenomenon like “trucker brain” when you spend every free moment of your day — writing.

It’s easy to feel left out of things — it’s also quite easy to convince yourself that your being left out is somehow meant to be personal… or malicious. We fool ourselves into feeling these feelings. Maybe it’s our old friend The Imposter speaking — maybe it’s a defense mechanism… wherein you can blame other people for being jerks… instead of coming to terms with the fact that you’re just not good enough? Or — Or — Maybe it’s a way to soften the realization that… you’re just not very personable… and while your work might be solid, you just don’t have it in you to “fit in”.

It could be many different reasons… or, none at all. Maybe people in your niche just haven’t the foggiest idea you exist? That’s… one’a dem double-edged swords, innit? I feel like even the nobodiest among internet nobodies still tells themself that they “matter”… but, truth of it is, the internet’s a big place. Lotsa voices… lotsa similar-sounding voices, sayin’ a lot of the same stuff. It’s hard to stand out. So, often times, we don’t.

Now, to the Instagram message.

Not going to “name names”, but this message was from a very kind member of the X-Men Content Creation Community — and they took issue with the fact that I said I “couldn’t count on” any communities — and also that “they’d spent yadda-yadda time pretending I don’t exist”.

First – Hey, thanks for reading! I honestly didn’t think anybody from that niche did — especially since I’ve stopped sharing these on social media.

Second – Allow me to try and ‘splain. Because, no matter how “trucker brainy” I can be (and, lemme tell ya, I can be), this bit is rooted in an actual experience. I briefly spoke of this on the air in a somewhat recent episode of X-Lapsed — but, haven’t yet written about it.

Several months into X-Lapsed, I was — well, “discovered” probably isn’t the right word for it. I’m not sure there even is a term for it. Lemme paintcha a pictcha. Every so often on social media, comic book pros will “slum it” with the fans, and ask a question like: “Hey comic people, what podcasts are you listening to?” This often results in the same 3-4 “networks” being glad-handed… it’s often just an exercise in frustration for a nobody such as myself. Well, this time, a pro asked specifically for “X-Men podcasts”. Naturally, the same handful of shows were touted over and over again — nothing new to see here.

Then, a listener — or, someone who’d just seen my profile — mentioned X-Lapsed! There was no “hey, you need to check out X-Lapsed!” or anything — they just included my Twitter tag in a cluster of like two dozen of em. I thanked them for the “signal boost”, and went on with the rest of my day — fully realizing that this would get me zero new listeners.

Then, I got a Direct Message.

I’m not sure who this person was — I tried digging up the DM to share here (anonymized, of course) — but, it looks like, whoever it was, deleted their account. I never delete a DM — I only wish I screenshotted it.

Anyway — this message was, if ya can believe it, a warning. I was advised that I was “never gonna get in”. The X-Men content community wasn’t looking for “new voices”, and basically that I should just quit.

Again, haven’t the foggiest idea who this is/was. Were they X-Men podcasters? Were they a fan of a certain X-Men podcast trying to get a pat on the head from their favorite show? I dunno.

I thanked them for reaching out… and didn’t think much more of it. All this told me was that — if certain folks in the community were unaware that I existed — well, now they knew. Maybe. My main takeaway here is, I didn’t think much of it. I’ve received some pretty nasty Direct Messages over the years. A couple of especially evil ones after Reggie passed in 2020. When compared to those — this one was nothin’.

Then — I started to notice things. Things I may not have even noticed before this DM.

I noticed the X-Men Podcasting community… acting like a community. One that, well — wouldja lookit that — I’m not a part of. No invite in Chris’ DMs… just that weird passive-aggressive “warning”. Normally — I wouldn’t give this a second thought. I mean, at this point, it’d been a half-decade of me failing to to make connections.

If only I hadn’t gotten that “warning”. It stuck with me… which, was probably the intention. What can I say, I’m a pretty weak and precious fella. It stuck… and, when push came to shove, it completely soured me… because I let it. At this point, I’ve pretty much given up on ever being part of any “community”. Which, lemme tell ya — is a crummy place to be.

We’ve been talking a bit about being “rational”. But, that often runs counter to our emotions. Add to that “trucker brain”, and you’ve got a recipe for some pretty unpleasant thought-soup. Rationally, I know that — I’m not all that personable. I envy the hell out of people who are. Rationally, I know that — not everything I write is great (which everybody can say), but, there are things that I’ve written that have been solid (which, again, everybody can say). It’s not an indictment on my “talent” or ability that the networks and/or “communities aren’t tripping over each other to come for me — truth of the matter is, nobody’s “coming for you”. You have to be willing and able to put in as much as you hope to get back — and, honestly — I’m just not outgoing enough for that. It’s a harsh lesson — but, one that I think I need to make peace with. Hopefully one day I can.

Apologies for the continued naval-gazing here at the site. I probably should’ve just sent this as a reply rather than dedicating a whole post to it — buuuut, we’re like 1500 words in already, so — ehh, what the hell, right? Hopefully, if you’re dealing with some of these same questions/worries — you can get something out of this. As a cautionary tale… or a simple reminder that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Thanks for reading.

One thought on “On “Community”

  • I’m going to paraphrase Groucho Marx here when I say, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
    I have never been much of a joiner. Where I work there are little cliques of people. If you are not in the right clique people look down on you. So I have always stayed away from all the cliques. Better to be a lone wolf and be able to stay true to myself than change who I am to fit in with a group that I really don’t want to belong to anyway. So that being said, I reccomend looking more to the community of readers that you have gained here at CIOIE, and not worrying about those who dont want you. We appreciate you and all your hard work.


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