As a comedy writer with an incredibly low online profile, people are often telling me when it comes to platforms like Twitter that I've 'just got to be more funny'. That's not too dissimilar from telling an athlete they've 'just got to get more gold medals' or telling a doctor that they've 'just got to cure cancer'. It's actually not quite as easy as that.
Take those who manage to go viral by snapping a photo of a sign and adding an hilarious caption; I often wonder how many times these people had to take that photo to get it just right, how long they spent mulling over a particular word. Did they orchestrate this so brilliantly, researching the correct algorithms to the point where they couldn't possibly fail to get social media waking up and sharing it to the point where publications pick it up and run it with headlines like "This guy found a typo in this sign and EVERYONE JUST CAN'T..."?
How much time did they while away on this? Was it really worth it? OR... Did they simply see their opportunity, shoot it, upload it and carry on with their lives, unbeknownst to them just how increasingly popular they were becoming.
I have tried to be this person, I have tried to 'be more funny', but unfortunately this is how that situation plays out...
I'm on the tube, which isn't particularly full cos it's 12:30pm on Tuesday and I'm currently unemployed (ahhh freelancing...). Suddenly I'll spot something unusual in an advert and a punchline strikes - a 'Ha! This is it, my moment to get that sweet network nectar of approval'. Phone out, subtle click, no one's any the wiser.
Unfortunately, my phone camera is blurry because I can't hold it properly without my hands trembling, the sides are too thin and I've walked around carrying a Pentax since 2009. There's a real grip on that, it's practically a brick. I can't bring that out now because, for an age that is obsessed with taking photos, if someone brings out an ACTUAL camera people get very funny about it. They're confused as to why you're not using your mobile phone for its sole function as a device used for taking photos, they're wondering what you're planning to do with your pics. It conjures up images of a lonely, creepy man in his dark room fishing out wet polaroids and pegging them up on a clothes line in his basement. I mean, these are digital photos so you wouldn't have a dark room anyway, you could turn off all the lights in your room when you plug in the USB cable and click import but that's less sinister and ultimately pointless.
So Photo 1 hasn't worked, I try to zoom in for a second go but it's too far away. At this stage I should abort this but I'm committed and deluded so I stand up and start aiming the phone at the poster opposite me. The poster is taunting me and I start to become self-conscious of everyone around me - they've definitely noticed. This guy has got out of his seat and is angling his phone towards an advert for Total Jobs... Why?
I'm poised, still trying to do this surreptitiously even though it's blatantly obvious. Even if people aren't watching me I have it in my head that they are and I start to become embarrassed and anxious, they're all thinking what a hopeless twat.
What? I'm only photographing this so I can post it up on social media with a headline which completely takes the original source out of context and on which has my own personal spin so I can show the world how I am So. Bloody. Witty!
It shouldn't bother me but, when you're not somebody who documents their life day-in-day-out to all and sundry, it does. Yesterday I saw a girl taking so many selfies of herself on the tube that I started to ponder if she was doing it just to monitor that she was still alive. She didn't care though, to her it clearly felt natural. My situation does not feel natural, I feel embarrassment, shame, and I want nothing more than for the doors to open so I can dart out and escape - I don't even care which station!
Third time's a charm-ish. I get my photo, it's not perfect but it will do. By the time I've got to where I need to be, I've forgotten about it. FORGOTTEN. This mission that was the bane of my existence for about 5 sodding minutes and now it's just evaporated from my brain. I only remember later that evening when I'm scrolling through my phone and I stare down at this POOR grainy image, we both hold each other's gaze - I can vaguely remember my titbit of observational comedy - we think about what we went through, for this.
Well, I've come this far. I log in, get the picture up, compose my post - which incidentally takes another 10-15 minutes - and hit tweet. The anti-climactic feeling is palpable. I watch the notifications. Nothing. It remains nothing. I visualise the headline 'this guy just made a joke and NOBODY CARES'. And yet with all the fantastical thoughts running through my head earlier - maybe someone will see my hilarious tweet and commission me, maybe I'll end up writing hilarious articles about my tube journeys for The Guardian and over time branch out into skewing modern society like some poor-man's Charlie Brooker and then maybe Charlie Brooker himself will see it and ask if I'd like to write an episode of Black Mirror and really I'll be too swamped with other projects I've been offered that day but I tell him I'll jiggle the schedule around so I'm able to make time...
Now only one thought, one question remains, 'was it really worth it?'