Imagine standing in a dusty frontier town, bustling with horse-drawn wagons. Maybe it looks like Walnut Grove, or El Paso, or an imaginary town populated by Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. I can’t be sure exactly who lives in your town. With its clapboard walkways and swinging saloon doors, this town is full of wagons that creak, crawl, and rumble past. Some are ready and waiting for people to load with newly purchased feed bags, calico fabric, or maybe a couple dozen scruffy kids. But one thing is for sure, there are countless wagons and they are filling up fast.
My mental picture of the internet is kind of like this town. And given that I LOVE to travel, be with people, and clatter along the unknown road, it is pretty hard for me to resist the call to clamber up into any popular bandwagon and go on an adventure.
In the three years that I’ve been on the internet blogging, I’ve climbed into a lot of wagons . (My three year blogoversary was yesterday. Yee-haw!)
Couponing. Sure, bring it.
Simple Living. I’m all over that.
Social activism. Who can say no?
Women’s ministry. Oh yes please.
Parenting. Mother, may I.
Gardening. Pick ME!
Real Food. All the other cool girls are.
Natural Living. What other kind is there?
It’s fun to join a bandwagon. You meet new people. You learn new things. You go places that you’ve never been before. Also, everyone on your bandwagon wants to hear your ideas because, obviously, you’re riding together. So surely you must all agree.
But after a while, a crowded bandwagon can get kind of uncomfortable, noisy, and full of pointy elbows. One jerk insists on taking up way more space than necessary and is always laying his sweaty head on everyone’s shoulders. One girl says, Nuh-uh, to everyone else, no matter what they say. Another girl is Penelope and always one-ups everyone else. (Click and watch if you don’t know Penelope.) Two girls keeps climbing up to where the driver sits. They constantly nag him about where the group is going. One says it needs to go more to the left; the other one says it needs to be more to the right.
If you are indecisive and spastic enough to try bandwagon jumping, you will feel like you are in a wagon train of hobos and vagabonds, each trying to stake their claim upon the frontier of cyberspace. You realize that some of the people are flat-crazy. Some are just mean, poking, and provoking everyone else.
You realize that the bandwagon is taking you somewhere that you didn’t mean to go.
How do you get off the bandwagon without totally biting the dust and admitting that you just aren’t cut out for this journey?
When can you get off the bandwagon without losing all your friends and winding up alone in cyberspace, watching the tumbleweeds roll by?
Readers, bloggers, bandwagon riders everywhere, I will tell you a secret.
There is another way.
First, you will have to jump the heck out of your bandwagon, which will feel like a suicide mission, but trust me, you’ll be glad. Leave your groups, delete the crazies, and stop listening to the girl who says “Nuh-uh.” This may involve practicing on the people who don’t matter.
Second, land in a cat-like crouch and let the wagon go off into the distance while the dust settles around you. Unfollow the wagon-driver. De-friend Penelope. Unsubscribe from the space hog. Take a nap. Read a book. You need a break. (I took six months.)
Third, look up. It’s beautiful out here on this serene prairie. AND you are not alone at all. Actually, you see a few people you know. Once the band wagon has rattled away, you will see other adventurers and artists, winding through the wildflowers to different spaces. You start walking. Slowly. Thoughtfully. Some travelers walk apart with respectful dignity. Others hold hands. Maybe you try singing as you go. If you’re lucky, you might catch the occasional flash mob. Every now and then, a passing wagon slows and invites someone aboard, but almost no walking people join up. It’s not that these people aren’t passionate about their journey. They just realize something you didn’t really see before from the stinky, crowded bandwagon. Even in cyberspace, we all need our space, away from the trolls, louts, and haters. Whether it’s your blog, your website, your twitter feed, or your Facebook page, you want it to reflect YOU and your journey, your art, and your conversation.
Not ALL bandwagons are bad, but hanging out with the loonies really takes the fun out of our journey in cyberspace. Remember, you can still be part of the conversation from down on the prairie, just without letting that weird spacehog blog-stalker braid your hair and sleep on your lap.
Have you thrown yourself off of any bandwagons lately? Which ones? How’s life down on the prairie?
And, because I could think of nothing else the entire time I wrote this blog post, here’s the claim scene from Far and Away. You are welcome!