The Stoa's Zero Fucks Social Media Strategy
Collective Presencing W/ Ria Baeck and Co-Hosts. Every Tuesday @ 3:00 AM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.
Black Feminism and Womanism: Soulful Critique in a Pivotal Time W/ Loretta Ross, Imani Perry, and Toni M. Bond. April 20th @ 12:00 PM ET. RSVP here. 90 mins.
An event to get excited about:
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What is this weird Circling thing that all the cool meta kids are always going on about? It has been called an intersubjective meditation practice and it is notoriously hard to explain without attending a practice session.
To prime us for the Patreon-exclusive May 3rd practice session, Taylor Barret from Toronto’s Circling community will deliver a presentation on Circling. He will explain its history, its variants, and its potential. This will be the first session of its kind.
April 19th, 2021
I want to stop looking at the metrics associated with The Stoa. Looking at them feels like it is corrupting the spirit of The Stoa for me. These annoying questions emerge on a daily basis …
How many subscribers does The Stoa have on YouTube?
How many people are supporting The Stoa on Patreon?
How many views on yesterday's Substack journal?
I imagine I am not as obsessed as some online “influencers” are about these metrics, but I am not as Stoic as I could be about them. I feel pulled, and I do not like feeling pulled. What is going on here? I will look at each in turn, and perhaps a throughline between all of them will show itself.
I will start with the YouTube channel. We have 16.6 thousand subscribers right now. Besides the views on the videos, this is the only stat I am aware of, because it is the stat that is front and centre. I guess this is pretty good for about a year of being active on YouTube. I do very little to promote the channel though: no tagging, disabled comments—which the average YouTube consumer gets furious about—and I never once said at a session: “be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel fam,” nor did I put one of those “subscribe” buttons on the videos.
I do not create fancy video thumbnails either, and usually allow whatever moment the YouTube algos selects for the thumbnail. Sometimes those algos are not the kindest to the guests, and it shows them in some unflattering pose. In an act of compassion I do put in the effort to screenshot a more decent pose and put that as the thumbnail. I also slap a punk rock intro onto the videos before posting. That is about all the work I do for the YouTube channel.
I get annoyed though. There is this pressure to get more subscribers, and it feels like an egoic component. Achieving the vanity goal of having 100K subscribers would be cool. Apparently you get a trophy for that. I want a trophy. I also want more subscribers simply because it would “thin-slice” the channel as high status right away. I am stubborn though. A part of me wants more subscribers, but I want to get them by not playing that game. Sure, it is impressive getting 100k subscribers, but it is even more impressive getting 100K subscribers with a “Stoic Punk” zero fucks approach.
Okay. Be prudent here. There does seem to be an egoic-driven irrational component to getting more subscribers while being zero fucks about trying to get them. It creates this internal tension, and this tension is actually delicious, and I sense it is wise to let it be delicious. Yeah, I could totally play the normie “get-famous-on-YouTube” game, but that game will be corruptive in unforeseen ways.
I will start optimizing for narrow things if I play that game, and what are those narrow things in service to? Getting more eyeballs? More eyeballs is not always a good thing, and having a rush of egoic noise coming one’s way is definitely not a good thing. Somebody I know had a decent philosophy YouTube channel, then she got a shoutout from PewDiePie, then she had almost 100k subscribers overnight, and she also got serious stalkers overnight, which prompted her to leave YouTube altogether.
Overall, things are going well, and I have the capacity to sidestep the downsides of not being a big YouTube channel, which might be seen as a low-status marker for some. Given my capacity to speak the language of status and the ability to netplay, I can get most people on The Stoa who I want to get on The Stoa, and the in-person Zoom calls are always well-attended.
So what is the problem here? Why do I have the pressure to get more subscribers? The motivators seem to be subconscious, and they seem to be bullshit motivators that are following the deadplayer script of “scale for its own sake.” Yeah. The ego trip of achieving the vanity goal of 100K subscribers so I can pet my YouTube trophy while thin-slicing high status to random people does seem to be the motivator, and it does seem to be bullshit.
So fuck that motivator. Sinking into prudence now, The Stoa does not need more subscribers. It already has enough. Sure, you can argue being more sophisticated in getting more people to the channel is a good thing: giving good content more exposure is a good thing, right? Nah, fuck that. One question I always ask people in my coaching practice is how they came across The Stoa, and a common thing I hear is that they stumble upon a YouTube video and convey the following: what the fuck is this place?! They taste the mystery, then they stay. That is the right way to find a place like this.
I guess you can also argue that getting more subscribers can help more opportunities emerge, including financial ones. People often discover The Stoa through a YouTube video, which leads them to discover the coaching practice and Patreon page. My personal coaching practice is going well enough though. I have at least one coaching conversation a day, if not more, and the quality of conversational partners are super high, probably thanks to the “seduced by the mystery” thing.
This brings me to the Patreon question. The Stoa currently has over 300 patrons, which I am told is pretty great for something that has only been in existence for about a year. I have a fickle relationship with it though. The general trend is that it is slowly rising, but there are periods of dips in supporters. I get this mini existential crisis when this happens, and my thoughts turn to things like this: oh noes, is this place becoming irrelevant and lame now?!
Then a pressure emerges: a pressure to do more, to be more hype, and all of that “get attention” stuff. This is not the right intrapersonal algo to enact. It is wiser to just allow this place to become irrelevant when it is time for it to become irrelevant. And yeah, it cannot be relevant for everyone at all times.
People come and go at The Stoa. Some people have an intense relationship with this place for a while, and it is super relevant to them, then they go away, and it might become irrelevant for them. I really miss seeing all those people who were once regulars, but I am also grateful to see new people arrive. Missing certain people can be a part of my Stoic practice of non-attachment. I do not want to hold on to anyone or anything too tightly. The Stoa is a part of their journey, but The Stoa is not meant to be their final destination.
The Stoa is also a gift, and the framing is that this place is situated in the spirit of the gift economy. I have to keep reminding myself of this truth: you give a gift without expecting anything in return. If people want to provide an ongoing gift to The Stoa via Patreon, that's wonderful. I am grateful, and I will express my gratitude.
I think the logic of the market economy is sneaking in here, and I am being subtly corrupted by it. When people stop supporting via Patreon, which probably happens for a multitude of personal reasons, I need not have a mini existential crisis of irrelevancy, and I need not put pressure on myself to make myself more relevant.
I am not losing a customer if somebody stops supporting, as this is not a transactional exchange. I will give a gift, and even if the patron amount drops to something like 5 supporters, then so be it. I am going to stop looking at the page to see if people drop their support, and I am going to continue to be grateful when I am notified that somebody new provides an ongoing gift.
I sense this pressure comes from getting comfortable with receiving Patreon gifts, and partly relying on Patreon for livelihood support. It is time to wisely get uncomfortable with this. I do not want to put livelihood pressure on The Stoa. It is not the right move to expect my gift will support all of my livelihood needs. I need to be crazier here. I want to create, and give, without expecting anything in return.
I am very warm to the idea that The Stoa can be an incubator for business ventures though. I like the idea of courses (or experiences), consulting practices, and coffee shops that emerge from this place, which are situated in the market economy, but I sense it is important for them to be separate entities that only have loose ties to The Stoa. This seems like the right move.
This brings me to these journals. There are a few thousand subscribers on the Substack, and I have noticed that I am becoming more self-conscious as subscription numbers increase. My impression management algos feel like they are working harder these days. I do not like that. I miss the original days, where I was journaling on the Letter platform first, then reposting here.
There was such a zero fucks energy about those earlier entries, and I want to return to that. I had no idea who was reading me, nor did I care. I was writing to myself, and doing that “ta eis heauton” thing. Looking at the Substack stats, and seeing some entries having fewer views than others, sparks that mini existential crisis of irrelevancy thing. My mind says something like: oh noes, does my writing suck now? Are people losing interest in me?
Man, fuck that noise so hard. People lose interest in things all the time, so accept that they will lose interest in The Stoa, my writing, and me. Do you need more eyeballs here? No. I do not need more eyeballs here. There are already many beautiful eyeballs here. If only 5 people end up reading these entries on a regular basis, then that is fine: I would still benefit from writing here, because writing here helps me think things through.
I am going back to the spirit of those early writing days, and I sense for me to do that will be a simple move: effective immediately, stop looking at those stupid Substack stats. Good. I sense I am closer now to being in the right relationship with these platforms.
To summarize the takeaways ...
Right relationship with YouTube: The Stoa has enough subscribers. It does not need more subscribers. The vanity goal of petting a 100K subscriber trophy is a “preferred indifferent” that I can let go of. You are not optimizing a YouTube channel for more subscribers, you are beautifying The Stoa by arranging beautiful conversations.
Right relationship with Patreon: The Stoa is based in the spirit of the gift economy. People provide an ongoing gift for many reasons, and remove their ongoing gift for many reasons. The Stoa is a gift I am giving, and it is wisest to give without expecting anything in return. I will continue to be grateful to people who provide a recurring gift, and I will stop relying on The Stoa for livelihood support. Financial opportunities are emerging from The Stoa which can exist in the market economy outside The Stoa.
Right relationship with Substack: Stop looking at the readership metrics. Write to myself, like the crazy Stoic motherfucker that I am, and that’s that.
The throughline between these three things is really grounding myself in the daemon. I am going to be on guard now, and do my best to resist the deadplayer scripts that try to attach themselves to the online platforms that The Stoa uses or may use.
It is important to not conflate The Stoa with a platform: it is not a fucking YouTube channel, Meetup page, Clubhouse group, or whatever thing the clout chasers get hyped up about next. These platforms are simple artistic tools for this steward to express what the daemon is asking me to express.
I do get wildly enthused by thumos often, but The Stoa is not in service to making money, or massaging my ego, or scaling for its own sake. The Stoa is in service to something else, and I do not really know what that something else is. I am going to be fiercely loyal to whatever that something else is though.
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