So I went through an experimental phase with video blogging (vlogging) and it all started because of a suggestion:
“Hey Paula, you’re living in India and you’re a filmmaker. Why don’t you make videos about your life in India?”
Makes sense, right? So I thought I would give it a shot. Being the ones who instigated the whole thing, my lovely family generously pitched in to help me buy an HD camcorder for my birthday (though not as convenient as a new iPhone, it was way more affordable).
I came back to India after renewing my visa and for five months I tried vlogging. At first it was pretty easy; I realized that the only thing of value that I could share was my experience of working and living in India as a white, middle-upper class, straight female. I would shoot all week and sit down for two hours on a Sunday putting it all together in chronological order. I would take shots of interesting images, people, events, and occasionally turn the camera around and give some kind of explanation for the people watching ‘back home’.
Funnily enough, I learned through Youtube statistics that I had more people from Trinidad & Tobago watching my vlogs than from Canada.
However, towards the end of my 5 months, things started to slow down. I started pimping out my cat, Mogambo, because I thought I didn’t have anything more exciting to shoot, and I didn’t want to turn the camera around and explain that I’ve done nothing all week but sit and binge-watch “The Sopranos”. I was beginning to feel awkward being ‘that person’ who is always pulling out the camera whenever something interesting happens. The more I was filming my life, the less I felt like I was actually enjoying and appreciating those moments. Every time I turned the camera around I felt like I was forcing myself on people, so I felt pressured to say something interesting or funny. My lightweight camcorder started weighing on me, like a monster that needed to be fed.
I was never comfortable with the whole ‘selfie’ thing… what was I thinking doing a video blog?
So when I went back to Canada for a family visit I stopped putting up weekly videos… Sort of. I made a deal with myself that I will only make a video if I have something to say.
That’s when I made my first, and penultimate “How to India” video. I wanted to do a series of How To videos for non-Indians needing a guide to everyday life in India. I wanted to cover the things people don’t normally warn you about, like bucket baths, squat toilets, and how to cross a busy street when there isn’t a traffic light for miles.
I wrote a script and I waited until I was alone at home. I stacked a bunch of books on top of a table and shot the damned thing. Once Sarang came home, I showed him what I did and made him shoot me doing the demonstration. I put it out into the wilderness of the Internet and waited… and I got a pretty good response. Apart from some creepy comments on Youtube, people were encouraging me to keep going.
The only problem was that I thought I was being pretty fake. The best Youtubers are always so charismatic, with energy oozing off of them while they talk to camera as if they can actually see their audience on the other side. I just didn’t understand how they did it… I tried to copy them but it felt wrong. However, because everyone was being so supportive I tried another video.
“How to Ganpati” took two attempts before I was happy. As Ganpati is a 10 day festival, I had until the last day to make something good. At first, I thought I would make a documentary type video explaining the importance of the festival and how it has developed over the years… I shot Sarang’s family puja, got hours of footage, and ultimately lost the plot when trying to edit it all together. It was pretty boring, and I felt that I would leave it to the BBC to cover it properly. I fell prey to the seductive nature of view counts, and decided I would make a HILARIOUS video about how to be safe and have fun during Ganpati.
The dancing part was actually really awkward to shoot… sort of like an out-of-body experience. I could see myself looking like an ass, and trying to look like an even bigger ass because that was the only kind of comedy I had going for me… I actually love dancing like an ass… but only for myself; not for an audience I don’t even know, in an attempt to make them laugh.
So even though the video did great, I was feeling icky. What would I do next? I had a list of possible How to India topics, and I thought they were all great but could I really deliver something of any value if I was too busy monitoring my performance for ‘viral’ quality?
I still couldn’t put my finger on what was going wrong, and I tried making another video. I shot it once and was repulsed by it… I tried it again a month later and felt the bile rising in my throat as I watched myself grinning widely saying, “Hello Youtube!” as if I already had a dedicated audience of thousands. My friends kept asking me when they would get to see another video and I felt the weight on my shoulders as I told them I was working on it.
Then I read this book, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” and I found my answer… I’m an introvert living in a world that values and celebrates extroversion. As a child, I was always quiet and lost in my own world. It was through 18 years of the Education System that I was taught that I needed to make myself heard if I wanted to do anything of value with my life… and for society that meant speaking up loudly, confidently, and with the charisma and magnetism of a salesman. However, many people forget that some of the greatest minds in history were reclusive, socially awkward introverts whose ideas were only communicated through writing and well-rehearsed lectures.
The amount of personal acceptance I have found after reading this book goes beyond my aversion to video blogging. I also realized that I don’t have to feel guilty about not making small talk with everyone at the party and always being the first to leave. I realized that the reason I was so conflicted about my videos was because I had a lot of things to say but hated the way I was saying it.
One of the many differences between extroverts and introverts is that introverts are far more comfortable expressing themselves through writing than through speech, because introverts understand that if they use the wrong words it can change the meaning and reduce the impact of their message. I’ve always been jealous of Extroverts and their ease of tongue that turns them into riveting Ted X speakers and inspiring politicians… However, that kind of communication just doesn’t come easily to me and I’ve learned that that’s okay.
So, I’m thankful that I have this wordpress blog (that I’ve been neglecting for the last 2 years). Basically, I just wanted to tell you that How to India isn’t stopping but that it’s going to be a pseudo-literary experience rather than an audio-visual experience… and I’m going to get back to blogging in general and stop forcing you to look at my face while saying, “Hello Youtube!” Also, if you’re like me and just can’t get onboard the selfie train, then you should also read Susan Cain’s book and perhaps learn something new about yourself too.
P.S. I’m thinking of starting a Youtube channel just for Mogambo. I can’t be Youtube famous… but maybe my cat can!