I have read two of Dan Kennedy’s three books. I own the third and will read it soon.
I follow him on Twitter and read his tweets daily.
I read his work in McSweeney’s.
I have listened to him tell true stories from his life, both on stage and recorded.
I have seen him host many Moth events, where he often shares bits from his life as well as his reactions to the stories.
I’ve spoken to him in person on many occasions at Moth events.
My question is this:
Do I really know Dan Kennedy?
I’m not sure.
I think I know Dan Kennedy, but I find myself wondering what would happen if Dan and I were to spend a weekend together. Would I discover that I didn’t really know him at all? Would I find myself liking him more or less than his public facing persona?
Is the Dan Kennedy who I know and love the real, honest-to-goodness version of Dan Kennedy that his friends and family know?
In this age of media, it’s easy to think that you can know a person by immersing yourself in their content, particularly when they produce a great deal of it across multiple platforms.
The same holds true for me. If a reader has read all of my novels, reads my blog regularly, follows me on Twitter and Facebook and has listened to me tell stories for The Moth similar organizations (live or recorded), do they really know me?
I’m not sure.
Do they know me better than an actual friend or family member who sees me once every couple months or only during the holiday season?
I have a friend named Gary. I’ve known him for at least twenty years. I’ve spent long stretches of time with him, including a road trip to Florida more than decade ago. Today, I see Gary a few times a year. He judges my annual science fair at school. We spend an occasional weekend together. I see him at parties and cookouts. We might play poker or golf together or attend a Patriots game with some mutual friends.
Gary doesn’t read my blog. As far as I know, he hasn’t read any of my books. He doesn’t follow me on Twitter. He doesn’t use Facebook. He’s never seen or heard me tell a story onstage.
I’m not sure of he even knows that I am a storyteller.
Does Gary know me better than someone who I have never met but who consumes my written and spoken content regularly and interacts with me through social media?
I think maybe not.
I suspect that the person who immerses him or herself in my content and communicates with me regularly through social media might actually know me better than Gary.
But does that person know the real me?
Is my book/blog/social media/storytelling persona my true persona?
I like to think so, but maybe not. I’m not sure.
Here’s my hypothesis:
The person who knows me through my content probably knows me better than Gary. For the same reason, I may know Dan Kennedy better than I know Gary. But I have no idea what the combination of me and Dan Kennedy would yield.
Dan Kennedy is like a chemical compound that I have studied closely. I know a great deal about his color, consistency and chemical composition. But I don’t know how Dan Kennedy’s chemical compound would react when combined with my own. Would we integrate seamlessly into some new, more glorious compound? Would one compound consume the other? Would we separate like oil and water? Would we explode?
I may not know Gary’s chemical compound quite as well, but I know how we fit together. I know how we interact. I know that when we come together, as infrequently as that may be, Gary’s chemical compound and my own will react well together.
All will be well.
Though I don’t see Gary often and rarely speak to him unless we are doing something together, I know that we work well together.
I think this is the real difference between knowing someone in real life and knowing someone through social media and their content. It’s not a question of knowing the real person. It’s a question of knowing how you and that person would get along in the real world.
I suspect that Dan Kennedy and I would combine just as well as Gary and me, but I don’t know for sure. I can’t know for sure. I only know the side of Dan Kennedy that faces the public. There may be other parts of his chemical compound puzzle that I don’t know well and wouldn’t combine with me at all.
Do I know Dan Kennedy as well as I think?
I don’t even think Dan Kennedy could answer this question.