By now I’m sure you get the idea that I enjoy Social Media. There are times where I look forward to it, times where I really get into it. Then there are times where I want to just turn it all off.
I recently wrote another article for Late Model Racer, again focused on Social Media. for me, it’s an outlet to say things I think are important, or express how I feel about a given topic. But most importantly, it’s a method for me to connect with the fans on a more personal level. The goal is to transcend that typical relationship where the fans sit in the stands and just “see” me on the track. I want them to have a way to get to “know” me, to “talk” to me, to interact with me. Of course, the problem with that is that often times they can rail on you for the smallest things. An incident just the other day prompted me to write this post.
I’ve mentioned before that there are a few individuals that I compare myself to when it comes to Social Media. Burt Myers would be the bar I strive to reach when it comes to videos, and Brad Keselowski is the bar I strive to reach when it comes to Twitter. Now, I know I’ve set the bar pretty high. Those two are what I consider the gold standard of those two categories. So it’s a tall order to live up to my own expectations. But for me, I set the bar there because that’s what I think the fans deserve.
The fun part is when it goes totally sideways. I’m still learning how to handle it. I thought this post by Keselowski was rather amazing, and 100% honest. It really impacted me because this is how I feel lately –
Sometimes I want to say something really funny on here then I remember it's Twitter/2015 & everyone will be offended.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) April 2, 2015
There’s been so many times I’ve wanted to say something, but then I think “Is it worth it? Will I get crucified for this?” Often times it’s not “will I”, but more “how bad will I”, because you just know it’s coming. Brad also tweeted this out shortly after the above –
So many athletes are vanilla because it's easy and it allows you to focus on other aspects of your life.
That's a tremendous tragedy…
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) April 2, 2015
I couldn’t agree more. To me, TV contracts and mega-dollar marketing from the Cup level has totally ruined the sport. Don’t get me started on the cost of things, but let’s just focus on what it has done to the average driver’s persona. Everyone is so afraid to say something that someone else might be offended by. For most of my early childhood life I kind of kept my mouth shut, I got pushed around a lot in school and I did what needed to be done to stay out of the way. When I got to High School I kind of changed into this person who spoke his mind more, became more opinionated and more outspoken. Maybe it’s a product of being pushed around. You kind of reach this point where you just snap and you’ve taken all you care to take, I don’t know. I just know that from that time on I never really gave a second thought about what someone would think. I just said what I had to say.
Over the past couple years I’ve changed again. After a couple major Social Media blow ups I find myself thinking more and more about the aftermath of hitting that “submit” button. Maybe it’s a product of being ripped apart several times. Maybe I’m just growing more mature. I don’t know. I think my racing program has suffered in the same sense. For most of my life I’ve always been a guy who could laugh at himself. I’ve never been shy about joking at my own expense. I’ve never been shy about joining others when they joke about me. It never bothered me much. But the problem is, I can laugh at myself just fine, so long as you are willing to laugh at yourself too. Lately I find myself more and more just sick of always being the butt of the jokes. This attitude shift has caused me to not put myself in a lot of situations that I would have before. Sometimes that means parking my car when I could have raced it. And that bugs me.
I do all this Social Media for the fans. But often times I find the fans are not engaging in it. It seems like the drivers who have huge followings and huge interaction are the ones who are either already famous, or they give away a lot of free stuff. To me, that’s not interaction. I don’t have the money to give away free stuff, nor am I looking for you to like my free stuff. That isn’t what it’s about. It’s about carrying on a conversation with you throughout the week, away from the track, after the racing is over. But if the fans aren’t joining in, what’s the point? I really don’t have that answer right now, and I don’t think I want to try and answer it. Maybe you can help answer it, from your perspective. I’m listening…
Tim McDougald is a racer at Evergreen Speedway in Washington. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.