Klout wore make-up.
Glittery, shiny, vomitously gaudy make-up that only appeals during that narrow kid-to-teen window — simply because any make-up signifies adulthood – and since you’ve yet to learn the adult lesson of moderation, slap on as much of that shit as your face will hold!
Klout’s version of make-up, though, is the candy-colored temptation of seeing – pseudo-quantitatively! – exactly how popular you are compared to everyone else online. It’s just like middle school, when an up or down thumb from a Mean Girl can define your social fate for years – either elevating you to one of the elite, or punching your ticket for the express train to Dork City.
Yet no matter where people end up, everyone still wants to popular.
Don’t even bother pretending, all y’all “Well it doesn’t matter to me” poseurs.
You’re all fucking lying, and we all fucking know it, so get the hell off your own pedestal and take your meds.
* * *
I joined Klout… oh, I wanna say a year ago, but maybe it only feels that way – like holding an excruciating yoga pose.
Every second lasted a day, every minute a millennium, because once I was in its clutches – once I’d swallowed the illusion that “all the cool kids are doing it” – I was as helpless and hopeless as an 11 year-old girl swimming in purple eyeliner and a push-up bra.
Initially that was all right, though, because…
ZOMG! The Mean Girl liked me!
(Every woman reading this knows what that means: good hair and cute outfits and romantic jocks [wha?] who will scrawl bad poetry for you on lined notebook paper, and aren’t afraid of the hallway PDA that will solidify your status as desirable. Truth be told, in sixth grade I would’ve sold my own mother to human traffickers just to feel socially accepted. Sorry, Mom. Guess you’re lucky I was an irredeemable geek.)
Because back when I first joined Klout – compelled by that formerly dormant middle-school yearning (“But do you really like me? Like, do you really, like like me?” ) – I was delighted to discover I already had a relatively high Klout score, thanks to my recent dive back into the net, where I was now spending upwards of 50 hours a week. Blogging, tweeting, YouTubing, reading and commenting on articles – news, pop culture, music, science, art, technology – as well as on other folks’ blogs, which I found endlessly fascinating, as I’m always, subconsciously or otherwise, storing people and voices in my mental Character Bank for future use in my writing.
And since I still hadn’t found The Thing yet – that reason to leap out of bed in the morning – I didn’t even feel guilty about it.
I called it “research.”
I was researching this new world – Internet 3.0 – and once more, slowly but steadily, relearning cyberspeak. For example, discovering that 1) no one really uses the word “cyber” anymore, and 2) what the meanings of acronyms like “smh,” “ffs,” “fml,” and “asl” were. (Initially I thought the last one referred to sign language, which confused the hell out of me.)
Becoming more proficient made me feel good – connected – in the inner circle – and Klout was with me the whole way, encouraging me to wear those shoes with that skirt (one +K!), to try this iridescent lip gloss (two +K’s!), to snog that acne-ridden boy in eighth grade because HE WAS IN EIGHTH GRADE, ffuckingfs! (Three fucking +K’s! BAM!)
God help me, I even convinced some of my online friends to join Klout.
Though I didn’t need any special help in this department, that may be the tipping point of why I’ll eventually go to Hell.
* * *
Then suddenly – oh holy of holies! – I found The Thing.
Or rather, it found me. Like it always does.
I’d been going to meeting after meeting with production companies, networks, studios, and indie producers. Sitting in rooms with excited Suits, bored Suits, kind Suits, dim Suits, brilliant Suits, Suits who stared right through me, Suits who told me, point-blank, “We’re not interested in any shows with a female lead” (true story!), Suits who said they loved my work… but just didn’t have a property that would fit my “special skills.”
(I’m relatively certain “special skills” means “vagina and opinion”. As in, “We think you’re super good at all those action/horror/comedy/sci-fi/fantasy script-thingies. But you have a vagina and an opinion. So we don’t know what to do with that.”)
However, at last I found a production company that owned the rights to a fabulous graphic novel I got really, really excited about. It was straight-up action — but big, operatic, set in an exotic milieu that’s never been explored in-depth on TV before. (And considering shows like “B.J. And The Bear” and “I Was Impaled” have been made? That’s saying a lot.) I came up with a pitch – a pitch that added a little comedy, widened the world a bit – and before I knew it, the company had hired me to develop The Thing.
Now, not only was this a reprieve from my internal dictator – the one that periodically flagellates me with a whip made of “What the shit are you DOING with your life?” – but the project itself inspired me. It brought on a deluge of ideas: characters, arcs, themes, emotional resonances, universe-building, and more.
In fact, it turns out The Thing is kinda like Soviet Russia: you don’t work on it; it works on you.
So I surrendered myself. Spent hours and hours and hours (and hours and hours and… you get the idea) working and stretching The Thing like pizza dough blessed by Jeebus Himself: I started out with a pound, but the more I kneaded and rolled it, the bigger it got, until I had 4 tons of pizza dough, enough to feed the 5,000 a dozen times over.
So I was genuinely happy.
For a while.
But in those first heady months of developing The Thing, it seemed I’d forgotten the cardinal rule of being popular:
Pay continual obeisance to the Mean Girl — or you are in for a world of hurt.
* * *
I went on vacation.
Naturally, because I’m allergic to sun and beer, this just meant I went somewhere and stopped working on The Thing for a while. This is good, and necessary – a lesson I learned the hard way several years ago – because if you don’t take a break every now and then, you will liquefy your brain and – much, much worse – you will find yourself hating The Thing.
And then watch out, bub – because The Thing will hate you right back.
Ask any former Soviet what happens after that.
Anyway, thanks to writing The Thing all day every day, my online involvement had dropped to its lowest levels since I’d plugged back in. Correspondingly, my Klout score took a nosedive, and Klout started prodding me in the classic way of all Mean Girls. You know, pushing me to do shit I didn’t really want to do, just to demonstrate my loyalty, just to stay in the group.
At first I was afraid (I was petrified!) (sorry, that’s— it’s involuntary, I’m sorry), because finally, for once, I had been in the popular clique, and I didn’t want to lose my “prestige.” Never mind that this “prestige” was based on an equation they wouldn’t tell me about – exactly like a Mean Girl – or that the rewards of this “prestige” were things like diet drinks and nail polish.
Fuck, this metaphor is getting scary accurate.
So while I was on “vacation,” I gorged on the net in a futile effort to prove my devotion. Binged, bloated, and in the end, force-fed myself websites like one of those geese they later split open for paté.
But still Klout told me I wasn’t going to enough parties.
So I joined LinkedIn. I joined G+. I joined Tumblr.
Klout told me I wasn’t being funny enough to get Retweeted.
So I started pushing myself to come up with more jokes, one-liners, light and fluffy and blatantly desperate to be noticed.
Klout told me I wasn’t keeping up with the in-crowd, posting enough funny cat pictures on G+ or re-posting enough of someone else’s funny cat pictures.
Basically the Mean Girl was saying I was no fun anymore, and inevitably bound for the Dork City Express — so I began frantically doing everything I could think of to raise my Klout score, which was still going down like a hooker at a stag party.
I spent more time on LinkedIn. I G+’d. I Tumblr’d. I blogged, tweeted, left messages on every site with a Comment box…
…but nothing helped.
Down, down, down went my score, the little slut.
Apparently the Mean Girl had decreed that I was now -K unkool.
* * *
So I came back from vacation and suddenly had two things to obsess over:
– and –
Begging the Mean Girl to let me back into the clique.
Well, never underestimate the staying power of a lonely, bullied, emotionally-scarred childhood.
(It’s partly why we become Writers in the first place. Functional people need not apply.)
And so I bowed and scraped and kissed the hem by continuing to spend disgusting amounts of time on inane online fuckery I didn’t even care about just to raise my Klout score — which, of course, took time away from The Thing.
Time — that commodity most precious to any Writer — something we’d kill to manipulate, if only we could go through that draft just once more, because we know we could make it better, swear to god, if we only had a little more time. I was squandering it all on a Mean Girl who didn’t give an eight-millionth of a fuck about me, when I should’ve been paying attention to that true childhood friend I’d always taken for granted: the Writing.
Finally, after one weekend in which I spent — no shit, y’all — 18 hours online without writing a damn word of The Thing, it hit me like a bus in a Final Destination movie:
WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, YOU SILLY TWAT?
I’m not kidding. It was like a physical kick in the gut, reminiscent of every shallow, awful “realization” I came to in middle school. “Realizations” like: You are never going to be beautiful. Your teeth are crooked and your face is pimpled and you are stupid and weird and use long words nobody understands. No one is ever going to like you. People think you’re a loser, a fake, a joke. (For the record, I am 99.98% cured of those thoughts today — and that leftover .02% only hits me when I’m already down, like an opportunistic yeast infection.) However, now well into my thirty-somethings, I know those “realizations” are nothing but fears, and those fears can’t hurt you if you refuse their existence.
So that’s what I did.
I refused Klout’s existence.
I cancelled my account, and happily re-boarded the Dork City Express.
Luckily, The Thing had saved me a seat.
For much as I’d loved being one of the popular kids, much as it seemed to heal those wounds I’d sustained growing up, the true realization was that I didn’t need to be popular anymore. I didn’t need to be constantly petted and reassured (no more than any other Writer, anyway). I had found my self-worth in my work, in my writing — despite my “special skills” — and not even the Mean Girls could take that away from me. At least, not without getting unpolished fingernails clawed into their glittery eyes.
And so this is the crux of my entire Klout warning: you can only have one Thing at a time. Sure, sure, you can always work on several projects at once – what Writer doesn’t? (Answer: The dead ones.) But only one of those Things can be your BFF, and trust me, Klout is not it. Klout was only waiting until I truly believed I was popular, so that my subsequent misery at being ejected from the clique would drive me to the ludicrous lengths I went to in order to re-ingratiate myself with it.
As my mom — a brilliant woman (whom I did not sell to human traffickers this time, either) — told me when I was in sixth grade, and which I am only now coming to appreciate fully:
If they don’t like you for you?