Who Are You?

I’ve had some really interesting experiences as of late, which all revolve around the question “Who Are You?”. Not the absolutely unknowing question, as in “Who IS that over there?”, but the arrogant question “Who are YOU?”.

Let’s get it straight off the bat. “Who you are” is relative and completely subjective.

Am I an Emmy Award-Winning video editor? Yes I am. Have I been a National *and* International Emmy Awards Judge for several years? Yes I have. Does that have *ANYTHING* to do with how I interact with people? No, it does not.

2007 International Emmy Award JudgingBill Cammack & Elizabeth Hummer 1999-2000 New York Emmy Award WinnersDave & Bill @ NYNATAS - Emmy Judging

This is because what I’ve accomplished is NOT “who I am”. Similarly, what other people have NOT accomplished is NOT “who they are”, either. To take that one level further… Not knowing that someone’s accomplished something does not make them NOBODY or INFERIOR. Learning that someone HAS accomplished something doesn’t automatically make them SOMEBODY or SUPERIOR, either.

I touched on this topic peripherally in “HowÒ€ℒs your logo working for you?” when I mentioned meeting Nathan Freitas. To expand… We had just come from a great frisbee game, and a bunch of us headed out to celebrate and socialize afterwards. I had played against Nate, and I thought he did well, and I hadn’t met him before, so I introduced myself to him. He didn’t recognize my name, and I didn’t recognize his, but he knew of ReelSolid.TV, and he and I had actually had text-based interaction way before meeting IRL because he had commented on a video I did about men’s suits. Interestingly enough, even though I knew NOTHING about Cruxy.com at the time, I knew I had a picture with Mike Hudack while he was wearing a Cruxy shirt. Nate immediately and adamantly informed me that I was mistaken, at which time I turned on my camera and produced said picture:

Bill & Mike

The point that’s relevant to this particular post is that I didn’t go from “nobody” to “somebody” when Nate figured out “who I was”. I went from “a person” to “a person that Nate had heard of, and whose work he had seen”. Same thing with me. For me, Nate went from “a frisbee opponent” to “someone I’ve met who runs a site where artists can upload their work and get paid for it”.

Most people who meet me have no idea “who I am”, and I like it that way. They have no idea that I’m an MIT graduate. They have no idea that I’m DatingGenius.

Limor, Phil & Bill
Brass Rats: Phil, Limor, Bill

I like it that way, because people are REAL when they don’t have a reason to sweat you. I love being “judged” by what people see when they look at me. πŸ˜€ I love it when people play themselves, because there’s no returning from that. It’s like “Before you knew who you were talking to, you acted totally differently towards me”.

Anyway… I’ve had several interesting interactions over the last three weeks, revolving around the question “Who are YOU?”

I ended up at this party, and I saw this random chick hanging out with three of my homegirls. Out of the goodness of my heart, I decided to introduce myself to her. What I intended to do was say hello to her and move on to hanging out with my actual friends. So I say “Hi. I’m Bill”, and her response is “You sent me a friends request on Facebook, and I declined it”. HAHAHA So I’m like ?????? because this is a totally new situation for me. Usually, when chicks don’t accept you on Facebook, that’s because they don’t want to talk to you AT ALL, so when they’re around you, they don’t say jack to you. So I’m like “Wait a minute… Let me get this straight. You just informed me that I friended you on Facebook so you could tell me that you didn’t accept it? :D” and she’s like “Yeah… Who the hell are YOU?”

So, this was really funny, considering that I have over 500 Facebook contacts and over 280 Linkedin contacts and over 650 Twitter contacts and over 600 MySpace contacts, not to mention people that know “who I am” all over the planet, from Hawaii to the U.K. to Tokyo to The Netherlands to California to NYC. Meanwhile, I introduced myself to this chick “cold”, not recognizing her face or body from anywhere, and not recognizing her as someone that I sent a Facebook friends invite to. In the future, when I figured out “who she was”, I realized that I had friended her because I saw that we had 17 mutual friends. There was nothing interesting or appealing about her. Similar to what happened IRL, I was extending the hand of friendship to someone who was friends with friends of mine.

So I found the question “Who the hell are YOU?” to be ridiculous, because it was as if she was requesting for me to audition to be her Facebook friend when I didn’t give a damn about her in the first place. It was like *I* had something to gain from it. Meanwhile, I could have ignored her completely and interacted with my actual friends and my day would have been exactly the same, except for a funny story to tell about how people get souped up and think they’re worth knowing for some odd reason. πŸ™‚

Another interesting reaction I got recently was at a party. At some point, I took a picture with some chick that I had met that night. About 22 hours after I posted the picture to my flickr stream, I got an email from her with some sob story about the reason why she was asking me to take it down. I didn’t believe a word she said, but I gladly made it private, because every picture I take and post is with people that want to take pictures with me. Just the fact that she was asking me to remove it was grounds for removal. The question here is… Why the hell are you taking pictures with people and not expecting those pictures to arrive on the net? The only uneducated guess I can come up with is that because she had never seen me before, she didn’t figure that a picture she took with me would end up anywhere of note. According to her sob story, she didn’t want certain people to see her partying. The question becomes a) Why were you partying in the first place, and b) Why were you taking pictures with people if you didn’t want to be spotted partying?

Last week, I approached this chick who’s active in social media and is always asking her ‘fans’ for things. When she sends out mass emails, she’s all friendly and acting like she knows who it is that she’s interacting with and cares about them. However, when I arrived, not only was she completely disinterested in who I might be, but she failed to even state what her name was. I didn’t bother asking her because I already knew her name and what she does. I found it funny how someone could be such a beggar in social media, yet totally didn’t promote herself IRL. What sense does it make to make contacts with people via computer and then alienate them in person?

OTOH… There are lots of people that I met during PodCampNYC or at various Twitter Meetups or Meetup Meetups that are either AS GENUINE as they appear online or even MORE SO. πŸ˜€ A lot of what we experience of people on the net is merely the characters they’re portraying in their “shows”. When the cameras aren’t rolling, and it’s down to one-on-one communication and interaction, that’s where people really shine or they don’t. That’s where you get to see how people act when there’s nothing in it for them. No audience. No revenue-sharing. No business deals. Just you and them. Person to Person. Face to Face. What’s it like for you to be around them? What’s it like for them to be around you?

Bill & PhilAnnie, Patty, Joe, Roxanne & ChristineKathryn, Christian & Bill

Ultimately, the question “Who are you?” is unimportant. What’s important is how you carry yourself and interact with others. On the spur of the moment, when you meet someone, how do you react to them? How do you interact with them? Do you act differently based on their accomplishments or who they know? Can you have a good time with people that are willing to have a good time with you? What’s the threshold above which you’re willing to interact with someone standing next to you? Someone that sends you a social media ‘friends request’? Someone that’s a friend of a friend of yours, but you haven’t had personal contact with yet?

Is social media merely a networking tool for you, or are you looking to enrich your life by meeting interesting and intelligent people and cultivating relationships with them?

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  1. I absolutely treat people the same online as I would offline. The only judgement I give folks is based on how they treat me so I really don’t care what they have or haven’t accomplished or who they are so long as they treat me with the same respect I would treat them.

    With regard to photos, some people are much more comfortable than others having their photos on the net. That girls excuse did sound lame and I certainly wouldn’t have made one up if I didn’t want my pics online but I also wouldn’t want people to post pictures of me without my permission, regardless of if they were in them too. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to the net.

  2. @Dayngr: I feel the same way, that people indicate to me how they should be treated by the way they carry themselves.

    Photo-wise, Yes, I agree with you. Some people are much more comfortable than others at having photos on the net. As I said, whatever her lame, unbelievable story was, I made it private, because that’s not my ‘steez’. I take pictures with people because we shared good times together and I’d like to document that and give them props. If she felt like we didn’t have a good time together or that she didn’t want other people to know that she was partying or hanging out with me, that’s fine with me. πŸ™‚

    At the same time… We live in an age where film cameras are obsolete. YouTube, Flickr and Facebook are the most likely the locations where you’re going to find videos or photos that you pose for with people. I know you didn’t see the picture, because I took it down. My point in bringing that situation up is that it’s 2008, and if you don’t want to be seen partying… Don’t Party. If you don’t want to be in pictures with people… Don’t POSE for pictures with people.

    Technology’s moving ahead faster than people think it is. With Qik and Ustream and Blogtv and Mogulus etc, etc, etc, it’s very likely that you could be live on the internet if someone’s pointing a cell phone at you, with only a ten second delay.

    People need to be made aware of this and carry themselves accordingly.

  3. Amen! You are not what you do-you’re just You! You’re lucky that people just show themselves clearly to you so you don’t have to wait for later mishaps.

    I didn’t have a clue what you do or have accomplished in your life-just liked you because you were so transparent and ‘real’.:)

  4. @Myrna: Ultimately, that’s the best deal, when people click without ulterior motives. Personally, I like to play “lowest common denominator”, because people that are up to no good play themselves when they think you can’t do anything for them.

    Having said that, there have been VERY FEW instances in the last couple of years that I’ve been doing this online video thing where people have tried to act “more internet famous than thou” towards me. VERY few. I find the community as a whole to be friendly, and because of that, I tend to accept people that my friends have already accepted. It’s the checks and balances of our Echo Chamber that you can ask a number of people about their experiences with someone who’s attempting to make contact with you.

    Dina Kaplan and I currently share 120 mutual Facebook contacts. If I didn’t know Dina already, I’d ‘friend her’ on the strength that so many people that I’ve accepted have accepted her. In the case I mentioned in the post, I ‘only’ had 17 friends in common with that chick, but when I looked at who the 17 were, I figured she was cool….

    I was wrong. πŸ˜€

  5. That was a sad event the girl who turned down your facebook deal. Just like you, so many emotions would have raced thru my body and made me stammer: who the hell are you? hope that made your WHOLE day ’cause it was two seconds out of my life. etc.

    If I were “internet famous”, I would have to grin and bear a lot of crap like that – but – keep moving. I can only imagine the crap the female podcasters have to deal with.

    Now, I think if we met IRL, everyone would think I am the same as online. Being “online” give me only a couple of advantages: a delay to think of something “not stupid”, a way of fact-checking before putting my foot in my mouth, and a way of surveying the surroundings before saying anything. I think I would clam-up and stammer – just like you did (previous post) – if someone stuck a camera in my face. Because I don’t do the camera stuff, I could not “perform” as easily and roll with the punches. I’ve watched Leo LaPorte – a consummate radio guy – take ALL the stumbling around he does, add his two-cents, stumble around being wrong or right, and EASILY make it to the other side – no sweat! But, I am sure it took LOTS of practice.

    Being a professional and being personable can be two sides of a coin. A job gets you paid – you do what is required. Friends are to chill and party with. I hate it when people mix the two up.

  6. @Derek: Really, it was more of a funny event than a sad one. πŸ™‚

    I’ve gone up to several people that are Facebook contacts of mine and introduced myself because they had no idea that the person standing in front of them was the same guy from Facebook. I’ve never had someone happily announce to me that they declined my friends invite. πŸ™‚ I’ve shaken hands with people who have declined my friends invites, but they either didn’t know that they had declined my invite or didn’t care to talk about it.

    Either way, this particular situation was fascinating. I wasn’t aware that anyone would pride themselves on not accepting someone, yet when they meet them IRL, make sure that they make that person aware that they know exactly who they are. πŸ™‚

  7. I meant “sad” as in Phylicia Rashād “sad” from “The Cosby Show”. And it was for HER, not you.

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