Fame Is Relative


No, this is not a treatise on North American culture and our fascination with/addiction to celebrity. The internet is littered with thinkpieces about that. This is simply a personal observation inspired by events of the past weekend. I attended the terrific Now Hear This Podcast Festival in Anaheim, California. It was a fabulous weekend for many reasons, and one is that it really made me think—and brought me to a realization, which boils down to this tl;dr:

It’s all relative.

Early in the weekend I tweeted this:

It was 100% true. We did have a happy listener track us down to hang out with us at the con. And I did have a serious fangirl moment myself mere moments before that. I listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour every week and admire the people who make that show happen. I did not go up and talk to them at that moment because A) they were just checking in to the hotel, which is a shitty time to accost someone, and 2) I am, at heart, a shy introvert. (Despite any perceived evidence to the contrary.)

What I did was attend their show and enjoy every minute of it—perhaps especially when Linda Holmes gave special recognition to Jessica Reedy for producing the show—as someone who does a lot of the unseen work for several podcasts, I’m always thrilled when the hidden engine of a program gets recognition. Afterwards, Steven walked up to Jessica, shook her hand, and thanked her for all her hard work. I was like “Why didn’t I think of that?” (Answer: shy introvert.) But I smiled and thanked her as well. Being at the same con all weekend, I wandered past the PCHH crew more than once, but didn’t get up the courage to say hi (or to thank them for inspiring our “happy things” segment on Verity!) until they were literally on their way out of the hotel. (And thus I missed meeting fellow Wisconsinite Stephen Thompson.)

Anyway, the point is not how nice they are or how cool they were or even the fact that Glen Weldon knew my name:

The point is this: The nerves I felt at approaching people I hold in high esteem are something I’ve experienced from the other side. I’ve had people breathlessly introduce themselves to me, clearly feeling every bit as uncertain as I was this weekend. As a humble Midwesterner/Canadian, I tend to assume those folks are simply introverted people who would be eqally nervous talking to any fellow human being. But it’s happened often enough that that is statistically improbable.

So again, the bottom line is it’s all relative. Glen may think my fame meter is mis-calibrated, but it isn’t really about fame per se. It’s about the level of respect/admiration one feels. I am not famous by any stretch of the imagination (certainly far, far less than self-effacing Glen). But there are people who listen to me regularly, and for whatever reason, think I’m pretty okay. (Thanks people! You rock!) So that’s what I assume makes them nervous—that and the basic weirdness of lopsided familiarity levels.

I’m reminded of when I started as a panelist on The Incomparable. To me, Jason Snell was just this really nice, cool, random guy who invited me to be on his podcast. To several of my friends, he’s a bona fide celebrity, and their eyes went wide at the very mention of his name. I spent this past weekend hanging out with him and other Apple-adjacent tech podcasters/pundits like Dan Moren and Lex Friedman. I agree that they’re awesome people worthy of adoration (I do adore them), but I don’t get heart-fluttery talking to ’em.

In the end, we’re all just people, and I suppose this has been a long way of telling myself to settle the frak down.

I mean, I probably won’t. But it’s good to try.

Oh, and also, if you want to talk to me at a con, please do it!



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