Earlier this year I set out to build for myself a community of people I could get together with after work, and wanted to leverage the amazing array of Meetups, events and ad-hoc gathering spots in Portland where interesting geeks and nerds gather to talk shop, get to know one another and advance their personal and professional interests. I’d started pulling in people I like and that express an interest in the UX & tech scene in Portland, then created a personal mailing, and kept adding more effort to the weekly emails I was sending (like I was trying to impress myself with just how “good” I could make it).
Then I decided to give up sending that email out a month ago, when I realised that the whole point of sending it was to encourage folks I liked to come out to the events I’m attending, and that (I can say pretty confidently) I saw few if any people come to any event because of those emails. I don’t remember ever getting a response on email that was anything but “keep sending the emails”, but notably never any encouragement of my goal like “I’m sorry I can’t make it, I’ll see you at the next one”.
It became a job, a weekly duty that consumed so much of my time that I started to devote Sunday afternoons to the research, the picture selections and the prose to wrap around the selected meetups. And yet for all that labour, the self-satisfaction of “building a community”, the net effect since stopping the emails has been the same: no more or fewer people I like attending these events and reaching out to me there than before I even started.
It was a disappointing result, because I really like connecting with a community (not just showing up alone and never getting to know people past the small talk), so I’m still trying to figure out if there’s any way to encourage the folks I like to come out to these events (that *doesn’t* cost me hours every week without visible payoff). At the moment, the next-best tools I’ve got are Twitter, txt and IFTTT. I’m pretty much stumped, so I’ve been sitting on my heels.
Which doesn’t feel good, and I’d like to make something work.
Ruminating on this all day, I couldn’t decide if there was any reason to continue – except one: for low cost of personal effort, the effort of posting word to the world that I’m going out somewhere public gives me incentive to follow through beyond my anxieties, fears and self-doubt.
So tonight, in my darkest moment, I prayed to the gods of google, and the pantheon of stackexchange answered:
Create a mailing list, that gets sent whenever I post something to my Design blog?
Sure, why the hell not? If I can make this work, it’ll make my life easier, reduce the mental burden of getting this stuff “out there”, and open the door for others to contribute on their own. This’ll be an experiment with a different direction: it’s for me, at my whim, and everyone else is welcome to participate or not at their whim.
I’m going to commit to *not* making it a weekly, regular, grinding responsibility for myself. If this is truly for me, and to encourage myself to post when *I* want, and not when I feel I must post to meet some arbitrary self-imposed obligation, then it doesn’t really matter what frequency it happens.
And so, dear reader, while I’m on the subject, I pose the questions that I keep asking myself: why haven’t you come out to the events I’ve invited you to? Did I not make you feel welcome? Do you not have the time, but haven’t gotten around to admitting it to yourself? Do you, like me, have serious social anxiety and have a hard time making the effort to go out to an event where 95% of the people don’t know you and pose a threat? Do you, like me, like to feel included in something personal, but just aren’t interested in participating in the events I’ve mentioned? Do you like to have others do the work for you, and once it’s done, you realise how uninteresting it all is? Do you like to know about the world outside work, and feel comforted that it exists, so that someday in the future you might decide to engage in it all? Or are you like me a people-pleaser, not wanting to say no to my face when asked if you’d like to join this list, and don’t have the heart to let me know that you’re not really into it?
These questions come from my own personal curiosity, and my earnest desire to understand why I’ve failed to draw you out and what I can meaningfully do to make this change (if anything). I don’t expect an answer – it’s entirely unlikely I’ll ever really know – but these are the questions that have been rattling around in my head for the weeks since I put my efforts on hiatus.
I know that when I used to mention an individual event to people in person, I was actually rewarded with real participation. I know it wasn’t about me, and that there were probably many other motivators; heck, it’s entirely possible that once they got out to those events, they decided that such events just weren’t for them and just didn’t bother to let themselves know that they’re not really committed to going anymore.
I sincerely hope it’s not that, that the timing was bad, and that there is genuine interest in communing with folks like myself at after-work meetups where we can relax a little, learn a little and grow our circle of people we can call friends. Hope to see you there.
P.S. I’ll be at Portland UX Book Club on Tuesday night.