Ego Networks

People sometimes refer to Social Media as ‘ego networks’, and the way some people use them (not you or me, obviously) that is devastatingly accurate. But the phrase set me wondering, and as it is Saturday morning, a little light-heartedness is in order. What other ‘ego networks’ do we belong to? I take the phrase to mean groups or associations that flatter us, make us feel good, or enable us to advance some cherished aim or plan of ours. In my youth, a lot of people seemed to play golf who didn’t like the game very much but who valued the ‘opportunities’ playing provided. Then there were the week-end sailors who didn’t like the sea very much but who appreciated the ‘interaction’ at the yacht club. Even today we have parents who suddenly discover a religious bent when attendance at church is a pre-requisite for their child’s enrolment at a faith school. But what about you and me, decent, upright citizens that we are, what do we belong to for reasons of self-interest? I have examined my conscience on the matter and drawn a blank. Could that be the ultimate self-deception? Is blogging just another ego network? Over to you. 🙂

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13 thoughts on “Ego Networks”

  1. I suspect that within each of us is the seed of wanting to ‘get on in life’, most certainly when I was younger I wanted to progress in my career. In those days, it was because the Army is a very competitive environment and your progress up the ranks meant the better provision for your family and membership of the elitist Warrant Officer and Sergeants Mess or even the Officers Mess if you were successful enough to earn a Commission. It was also the key to a higher pension and probably not having to work that hard following retirement.

    There was such a thing as ‘Rank’ or ‘Position’ envy where some people resented the progress of others, thinking that they didn’t deserve to hold the rank or position that they had achieved. In an environment when the concentration was entirely on team cohesion and effective working as a disciplined fighting force, such dissension was quickly dealt with and those people weeded out or given a role elsewhere to avoid the problems that could arise in a situation where unit cohesion and discipline were key to the success of the unit on operations or training.

    In the end, you tire of the relentless pressure to succeed and normally find a niche in which you are comfortable – but the system isn’t content with that. If your lack of ambition is discerned you receive poor performance reports, which can easily lead to negative consequences for your future employment. A for instance would be having to achieve a certain rank by a given year of service or you could be discharged under rules designed to protect the pyramid and maintaining the fitness of the fighting element of the Army or unit.

    I eventually reached a point, where I was told that no further progress was possible (brutal honesty) and I looked around for other employment. Strangely enough, I found it in similar employment in one steady rank, with the reserve forces, which held the prospect of continuing employment in one role, in one place and the opportunity to settle down. I grabbed it eagerly. Of course that wasn’t the end of the story, as eventually someone decided that commissioning me and sending me to another job was a good idea, which meant staying put in the same home, and four years later a promotion took me to another post, where I served until my retirement in 2009.

    The moral (perhaps) of this story is that ambition can be useful, but it’s also destructive to life and personal relationships, certainly in a highly competitive working environment. If you’re always looking five or 10 years ahead to see where you might be, and at the same time, looking over your shoulder to see who is coming up faster than you and might superced you in time. Such an aggressive approach to life is wearing as I have said, and set backs and disappointments can sour relationships and make you bitter.

    But along the way, you learn an enormous amount about yourself and about others. You have choices to make when you lead people. You can nurture and encourage them, and lead them by example, or under the guise of discipline, attempt to drag them in your wake. I met many of both types of leader in my 43 years in the service, and I know that I strove to be the nurturing, encourager, rather than the disciplinarian. You certainly needed discipline, but the key to any organisation is the self discipline and feeling of self-worth of each member. Feeling that they are valued and respected and led by people with integrity and a solid sense of humour.

    I do know that I learned that respect for others and having a high sense of integrity was essential to being the type of leader that was needed. And, when eventually I came back to faith, the groundwork was already there for me to move forward and to grow as a Christian.

    Do I regret having ambition to succeed. To some extent yes, but without it, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.

    I don’t believe that your blogging is an ‘ego’ network – it’s about sharing in ways that are inspiring to others. And you’re doing a fine job.

  2. Like you Dear Catherine, I believe I am immune from the golf club, sailing, football fan and ego media world in which we live. But having examined my conscience, somewhat ignored for nigh on eighty years, I find I am kidding myself. ‘No man is an island’ so they say, and we reach out to the world through the clubs and indeed, more so today, through social media. Used wisely it is a good thing for one’s own mental and social stability and can be an act of charity to those who benefit (or otherwise) from the opportunity to interact; agree or disagree, with us if they chose to do so. Let’s not knock it even though you and I are more sophisticated than the rest. Egotistic; of course we are! It is ego that gives us a sense of personal identity without which we cease to be.

  3. I would have joined a golf club, like my husband, but obvious lack of talent meant I would be a golf wife. There are advantages – I get to socialise (and commiserate) with other golf wives. And dust golf trophies (husband too busy playing golf to do dusting)! 🙂

    I like social media interaction (mostly). And it’s wonderful that bloggers can interact with commenters. I just have to learn not to overdo the brackets and dashes – (then I’ll enjoy commenting more).

  4. ‘Is blogging just another ego network?’ Hmm. I hope not – or at least, not the way David Pocklington and I aim to operate our blog. We try to be as objective as reasonably possible and to avoid rubbishing comments (though I confess that we don’t always succeed in the latter aim). Having said that, though, it’s inevitable that we keep a careful eye on the stats – because if no-one reads the blog, why bother to write it?

    So, if I’m honest, there must be an element of ego-trip even in academic blogging. And if you’ve got any degree of self-awareness at all, you can’t avoid asking yourself ‘Why am I doing this when there are umpteen people out there better-qualified than I?’ To which the only possible reply in justification is, ‘Maybe – but they aren’t doing it, are they’.

  5. Fascinating. It brought to mind an exam essay question I faced many years ago: “We are all snobs of one kind or another. What kind of snob are you?” No doubt I answered it with the adolescent ramblings normal to a 17 year old, but I have never forgotten it. Thank you for posting this.

  6. What lovely people you all are! I think some self-reflection is useful, especially for those of us who blog, tweet and otherwise express opinions via Social Media, because it’s easy to forget that behind the words and images are real people, addressing other real people. I always tweet my blog post links, but even as I do so, I sometimes ask myself whetrher it is vanity that prompts me. I like Frank’s robust answer to that one: ‘Why am I doing this when there are umpteen people out there better-qualified than I?’ To which the only possible reply in justification is, ‘Maybe – but they aren’t doing it, are they’.

    • When we started blogging as complete novices I talked to someone who was an experienced blogger and he told me that a Twitter account was a necessary adjunct to blogging: when you put up a post, you announce it on Twitter. So that’s what I’ve done ever since; and I try to use the L&RUK account for that and nothing else.

      But I keep a separate account in my own name for off-topic tweets – and I guess that one’s the vanity exercise!

  7. I echo the comments made by Frank Cranmer re: our blog. Whilst we describe L&RUK as an “academic blog”, neither of us is a “career academic” looking for their next post and so “ego networking”/self promotion is less of an issue. Many of our posts have input from us both, and we have a relaxed attitude to the production of a piece and its attribution that some academics would find difficult to work with.
    I too have a Twitter account which I use in conjunction with the blog, but use Facebook for more personal comments.

  8. Very insightful, dear sister!

    I’ve never been much of one for social media, and have had a Facebook account mostly to keep track of extended family. I became ill with viral pneumonia just after Christmas, and am still recovering. Of course, I quickly became very tired of being cooped up in my flat and very, very bored!

    So I began to explore all the wonders on offer through social media, following interesting links (lots of stuff on why fearful, white, middle-class U.S. males like Trump), and being especially sucked into Facebook. As I spent more and more time playing with my IPhone, I realized just how addicting it can be. I also quickly realized how wonderful it can be to find so many insightful posts and articles that affirm my own, correct, and right-thinking views. I posted, re-posted, commented, and “liked” with all the fervor of a new convert! I quickly noticed which few old friends had annoying political and religious views, and took prompt action to disengage from their posts.

    Your question today made me reflect on my newly-forming habit. Wherever we venture, online or not, our little antennae are out and we’re delighted to find other correct-thinking people who mirror our thoughts and affirm to us that we are, indeed, right. It is natural to gravitate to others who hold similar world views, religious and political philosophies; it can affirm our common bonds with others, and our common hope that there are solutions to the world’s problems. However, we can be equally quick to dismiss what, as the saying goes, “rattles our cages.” We can easily put people who don’t share our views on the “outside,” and label their thoughts, or even them, wrong, crazy or dangerous. Then we confuse the ideas with the person.

    Perhaps an equal danger is the speed at which things can come at us digitally. It has the ability to co-opt frail egos/selves who can be seduced, overwhelmed, and assume the beliefs and values of others without thinking for themselves. I also wonder, given the volume and speed with which ideas and images come to us, how newly-forming minds have the time and space to learn to think at all, to reflect, and to form their own views and their own consciences. I see this in my nieces and nephews.

    As I recover fully, I won’t have the inclination or the time to live so much in the digital zone. It’s been interesting and fun to explore, and also to find so many people who affirm my ego! Everybody wants to be “liked!”

  9. Dear Sr Catherine, one finally has the opportunity to comment as promised yesterday in a tweet. I apologize for my lateness.

    I’ve enjoyed reading through the previous comments ending with Akilimali. You have some very lovely readers.

    “Ego”, a very small word with a large and complex meaning. You know how to pick the difficult questions. 🙂

    You have asked yourself whether self-interest plays a part in your activities and drawn a blank, and then questioned whether blogging could possibly be an ego network.

    Well, in your case I don’t believe it is. How do I know that? Well, once again that’s a difficult question.

    You see, I think that sometimes, even though we haven’t met someone face to face, it’s possible to discern a number of things about that person. I believe this is particularly so in your case as one can sense a very definite call to the life that you live and the ministry you exercise on a daily basis.

    You’ve been given a great gift, for a particular purpose which our Heavenly Father has enabled you to discern for yourself. You have been obedient to your calling and are serving Him faithfully.

    I do not believe there is one jot of self-interest in that.

    As to myself, well my story is the great failure of the century. Given a call, gone my own way for many years, ruining my life in the process and ending up at 65 with multiple health problems. What a work of refining our dear Lord has yet to complete.

    My life is now very simple, I go out a couple of times a week, once for the weekly shop and the other to take a 90 year-old blind man to mass on Sundays and then take him to lunch before going home to spend a lovely time in beautiful conversation with him over a wine about our faith.

    These days I don’t have the ministry of caring for the parish website, so the majority of my time online is spent on Twitter. I sincerely hope there is no self-interest in my Twitter activity. I simply enjoy trying to be an encouragement to others and trying to tweet about my faith to those who don’t know our Lord in a way that won’t send then fleeing. Many of them do though run a mile.

    Just coming back to yourself. Your activity on Twitter is by no means an ego trip. You are an extremely well educated Christian who has the skills to bless countless numbers of people worldwide.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing the way you do it. 🙂

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