Thursday, March 6, 2014

Judging, Social Media, and You (and me, and everyone else)

GP Richmond! OMG! Travel! All the airports!

If you are even relatively tied into the US judge network on Facebook, it's hard to miss the fact that there is a record-breaking event going on this weekend in Richmond. Given the singularity that this event is becoming, and the amount of characters that have been devoted to it on social media, I thought I might share my thoughts on it. Keep in mind that this blog is just the opinion of one man.

The Facebook hype for this event actually started months in advance, as it always does among judges, with the string of "Accepted!" posts. These typically have anywhere from 1 to 5 exclamation points and tag other judges who are also on staff with "see you there" remarks. Here's the thing about your Facebook posts. They go out to everyone on your Friends list (or whatever sub lists you may use). If you've been around, there are probably quite a few judges on your Friends list, including very likely some of the 40+ judges who were declined for GP Richmond. Think about that the next time you decide to post about how happy you are to be selected. They say that judging isn't a competition--wait, who says that--of course it is a competition. It may not be popular or political to call it a competition, but what else do you call something where 150 people wanted something and a third of them didn't get it?

Thinking about it in terms of a competition really changes the frame of reference on all of these "Accepted to Event X" posts. You should also think about your growing list of Judge Friends in several other terms. How many Friends do you have in common? Imagine if every single judge who was selected for GP Richmond posted about it on Facebook? 100 of the same damn message. Now how does the declined judge feel?

As soon as I saw the first Richmond-related post, I posted something along the lines of "Exalt not about being selected for GP Richmond. Instead contemplate how you will make this event a success for the organizer and what you will learn from it." Hopefully as a result of this, there were fewer pure exaltation posts for this event. Is it a sustainable trend? Probably not, because excitement is more prevalent and easier than thoughtfulness.

Judge culture is full of travelers. I know because I'm one of them. And while I didn't invent the culture of frequent flying/judging (Adam Shaw and Nick Fang were my progenitors in this), I've certainly spawned a generation of miles-hounds. I've spoken to many people about this recently, but this culture isn't very healthy. Back when I first started to conquer the globe, I went to "every event," meaning every GP in the US, a few outside, and every PT. That was less than 1 event a month. Nowadays, going to every US GP is a multi-event-per-month slog. Add to that any reasonably close SCG Opens (whatever that means to you), and you have a growing number of judges who might not see their own bed on any weekends. I hope to do some statistical research that shows that jamming so many events in a row is harmful to judge development, the idea being that if you just do events over and over, you aren't spending enough time feedbacking, reflecting, and growing.

The social media aspect of all of these events is that there are more posts than ever about them all. Accepted to GP X, judging SCG Y, and on and on. If you are Friends with a modest number of judges, you know this feeling. I guess it is the whole point of social media to post about stuff you are doing, but just like that era where people were posting a little too much about every meal they were eating, perhaps we as a community are reaching a critical mass of this kind of thing. Singularity events like GP Richmond highlight this issue in the worst possible way, where every other post is GP Richmond this and GP Richmond that.

Yes, we get it. You are a unique flower and the center of your universe. It's just that there are 100 other unique flowers also going to this event who are also posting about it. And it's not even just about the 40 declined judges. For every Judge Friend who is going to GP Richmond, you probably 2-10 times as many Judge Friends who are going to Richmond. And to them, your posts are not unique; they are just a cacophony of noise. Less and less these days, I post my event travel updates on Twitter. At least those people have opted in to getting my unique flower messages by following me. And if they don't like my unique flower messages, they can opt out easily. Facebook is more complicated because of their marketing of this idea of "Friends." It's such a loaded word, and I've participated in plenty of drama over the act of defriending.

Earlier today Bryan Prillaman posted "I don't care how you are getting to Richmond." And he's actually on this event! Several other people have been posting messages about not going to GP Richmond (and being happy/content with that). It's a general shift away from GP Las Vegas last year, when people not on the event were generally jealous of those there and wishing they were there. As with many things, this is just the beginning and it's only going to get worse. Let's end with some traditional bullet points:
1) consider getting a Twitter account and using that more for event postings. It's a better "buy in" medium for this kind of thing.
2) if you must post to Facebook, think about your audience of Friends. What do you want to say to them? What will they think of what you are posting?
3) ultimately, it's your Wall. Do what you want with it. If posting pictures of airports and planes makes you happy, do it. If posting your travel itinerary makes you happy, do it. I'm just a grump, sitting here being grumpy, telling you what a growing number of grumps are thinking but not saying. But that shouldn't impinge on your happiness.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Riki! I remember the first GP I was decline to and all the Facebook status updates of "Yup, Got there! GP X!!!!!" Were very demoralizing. I worked hard but I wasn't selected so I must not be good. Right? No. Not at all but this can lead you down that path.

    Suggestion for a topic, Facebook ethics and status updates. I feel like not enough Judges take the time to think about what they are posting or how they are posting it. The things you say can be very detrimental