The deeper I tumble down the rabbit hole of community development, the less I care about the social media marketing crowd, and the more interested I am in people who just do it without realizing how or why.
I’d like you to meet Whitney Moses, if you haven’t already. (Chances are you have.)
Whitney is a massage therapist with a social life.
The social media numbers? It’s unfair to talk about them since she could care less, but I’m going to anyway. She has over 1600 friends on Facebook, and is actually friends with every single one of them. She keeps a close written account of her life for her inner circle of friends (400+ people) on Livejournal. And being still kinda new to Twitter, she’s rallied about 630 followers from her universe on there. (It’s also worth adding that she and Amanda Palmer go way back.)
The only internet stats she does care about are her business reviews, since they’re critical to her livelihood. Having changed office spaces several times in the last few years, she’s at the mercy of her clients to rebuild that pile from scratch every time. The last move was a few months ago, and she’s up to 30 reviews on Yelp and a 5-star rating.
Whitney is active, both physically and socially. She sings and dances regularly in the San Francisco club scene, and she monkeys around at the rock climbing gym whenever she has the chance. She’s obsessed with the human body, and is usually enrolled in extra courses to expand her massage therapy offerings, even though she already has plenty of certifications. Online, she reads as much as she can about what her friends are up to, comments on their stuff religiously, and sends them personal notes whenever she’s thinking of them.
People love her. She’s smart, generous, compassionate, aware, engaged, fair, accessible, and joyful about life. Whenever a friend needs something, she finds a way to make it happen for them. Whenever she needs something, people run toward her in mobs, holding as much of it as they can carry.
When I started the Deviants Online series in the winter, Whitney was one of the first people I invited to speak at the workshop. But when I asked her, she looked at me like I had three heads. “Social Media Marketing” isn’t her subject. She wouldn’t even consider herself a great example of how to “be awesome on the Internet.” That’s for other people to be experts on. She’s just being herself.
Exactly the point.
I’m still working on her, and will hopefully get her to start articulating her methods and philosophies soon. But that’s not what’s going on right now.
Right now, she has a broken leg. Well… worse. A knee full of ripped ligaments. As of last Saturday, she’s injured and not allowed to walk, dance, or work for six months. Our Whitney, the center of a massive community, is down. And without insurance.
I saw her last night. She was laughing about it, but also clearly frustrated, and worried about how this is all going to play out.
I managed to wait until I left before I burst into tears. I crumbled into an incoherent, snot-dripping wreck, mumbling onto the shoulder of another friend, “No. We NEED her OUT there!”
It’s just six months. She’ll get through it. But the shock still has me dizzy: Whitney’s been a lighthouse of passion, activity, health, and engagement in my life for years. I don’t think about it — I just stand up stronger because I know she’s there, and living with the grace and force and connection that I pretend I’ll someday attain. Seeing that threatened hit me like a fist to the gut.
No. We need her out there.
Fortunately, the whole “without insurance” thing is only a half-truth. It’s true she’s probably facing $30,000 in medical bills and 6 months worth of lost wages, but there are also hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who are committed to helping her out. The crowds are already organizing a central calendar to plan visits, transportation, and meals for her, and schemes for several fundraisers are already in the works.
She doesn’t have that kind of safety net because she’s a nice person.
She has that safety net because she has spent her entire life listening to and supporting the people around her, pursuing her dreams as honestly as possible, and including as many people as she can in them.