Like me, you’re probably sick to the back teeth of receiving requests from organisations asking permission to keep mailing you. If GDPR fatigue doesn’t exist I’m inventing it (I see that it does). In the end, it might well be apathy which decimates the size of mailing lists in Europes businesses rather than any deliberate choice on the part of the consumer.
I am drawn back to a realisation made some years ago about the vanity of a huge mailing list. When you start a business or open a Twitter or Instagram account everything seems to be about quantity. How do you grow your mailing list, get more followers, accrue more “likes”? All of this versus the definite and unquestionable value of curating a smaller tribe who are actually interested in what you want to say.
Modern society is more of a beauty contest than we would allow ourselves to believe. We are often so anxious to be accepted and liked, even by people who have no real value to us and add nothing of significance to our lives.
The meaningless numbers we achieve through our efforts to extend our reach make us feel better about ourselves but what is that good feeling really built upon?
What have personal relationships come to when we are willing to substitute depth for breadth? No wonder teenage anxiety and depression are on the increase.
Talking with my daughter recently she is asking me how we made arrangements to do things with our friends when we were kids. When I told her we had to go to their houses and knock on their doors she was aghast.
It made a difference to our friendships. We curated them with care. If I fell out with Dave Clark for more than a day or so I would have nobody to play “World Cup” with up on the back field, and that would make for a miserable week.
I carried this same attitude to friendship through my life. Partly fired by my own introversion and partly because I learned that having one or two really good friends was enough.
When I started writing this blog I did so because I felt there were things I wanted to say. I don’t even think I much cared whether anyone read it, a thought which crystallised as I found an unexpected benefit to myself in writing out the thoughts which were in my head. The clarity we gain from moving words out of us and onto a page is not to be underestimated.
Over the years it occurred to me that one day, when I die, my children will know me better than I ever knew my own parents, not only through the relationship I hope I have curated but also through the thousands of words I have left behind for them. That on its own is audience enough.
But it isn’t just writing or on social media that we focus on size more than is healthy. Many of us have a strange need to have everyone think well of us. Popularity is the zeitgeist of the age, but it’s the snake oil too. Widespread acknowledgement from hoards of people will never better the genuine and valuable connection which comes from individual engagement.
Change happens through individual connections between individual people whatever Facebook, Twitter and Google would have you believe. They might provide us with great ways of quickly communicating a message but it’s the message that is king and, when the work, the art really matters it will always find its audience, no matter how much we worry about the size of our reach and our mailing lists.