There is something about looking back to make one realise how far one has come. I did this for a different reason in May when I realised that we’d been doing Sunday Suppers @ The Sandbag House for two years.
Two years ago, I was in a very different space. Yes, I was living inMcGregor, but that’s not what I mean. At the time, I had not long turned my back on a world that had been my professional life – in one iteration or other – for nearly thirty years. I wrote about this here which was the start of a different journey on a relatively new and novel platform: Steemit is both a block chain and a social network. One can invest fiat – as one might in Bitcoin – and one can invest by “working” or “mining” the block chain to earn Steem and Steem Based Dollars. The platform can best be described as a mengelmoes (mixture) of Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
At the same time, I started to germinate an idea for a business, the seed for which had been sown some years previously, but had been ignored except for taking on an aligned project from an earstwhile friend. I have been in business with friends before and the friendships have happily weathered inevitable storms. In this case, I learned, to the detriment of my soul, that a longstanding connection, rekindled via social media networks, does not necessarily translate into a business relationship; the chasm between the apparent values reflected in social media posts and how business was conducted, plumbed the depths.
Never, in my entire professional life, for as long as I had been self-employed or a sub-contractor, had I ever been so rudely addressed, mistrusted or micro-managed. Prior to being self-employed, every job, even my first, required me to not just use my initiative, but to work independently and manage myself. Actually, in my first job, I ended up leading a small team – at the ripe old age of twenty-two. My judgement was trusted; if I screwed up, I said so, and dealt with the consequences. Usually, all involved learned lessons, and yes, sometimes, mistakes happen – we are all human. As they say, shit happens.
That this went down when I was feeling particularly vulnerable, and because of the tenuous personal relationship, is probably what made the experience all the more devastating.
Surviving the dark
After moving to McGregor, and partly because of moving to McGregor, I became more active on Facebook: for sharing our journey with the dearest who were no longer near. At the same time, I began posting photos of my cooking, and as I explain here, folk wanted recipes. But when the proverbial hit the fan, the inspiration to write went with it.
“Steeming” or stifling
I’d been lured to Steemit by two things: the prospect of being able to blog on a new platform and earn something – I’ve long wanted to generate an income from writing – and also in the hopes of finding interesting and well-crafted posts to read. This had been another of the joyous discoveries of blogging – a new community of writers and thinkers who encouraged discussion and engagement. Joining Steemit, I was under no illusion about bullies and trolls – I’d seen that play out before and written about it. In those early Steemit days, I didn’t even manage to scratch the surface. The platform is inhospitable for other than geeks who understand a bit of coding; it
was is difficult to navigate without help. I was apalled at the drivel that found its way on to the “trending” page. I didn’t understand the block chain and found the documentation difficult to digest: I’m not technically minded at all. It took me almost a day to do a post that on the WordPress platform would have taken a few hours (give or take…).
I look back at that first post which was not my best work, and recognise now that I’m a more seasoned Steemian, that it had been picked out by one of the most prestigious curators on the platform. The notion of curation was foreign. It was something one did for an exhibition. I’ve learned a lot since then.
I’m digressing, but suffice it to say that the environment was so hostile and foreign that for the balance of 2017, I only wrote seven more posts. The only one of any significance (to me) was one in which I recognise that I was beginning to heal. That healing was, in no large part thanks to this village and my circle of friends. I also received support from unexpected places and in ways I didn’t expect: being introduced to a new web-building platform on which I could create (relatively easily) my new business site, and literally being given the logo design for the new business. Talk about gifts that keep on giving.
That was another reason for the long leave of absence from Steemit, punctuated by the festive season, so that it was only in February 2018 that I started writing again. Something had shifted. I’m not sure, what, and that post is not just about food, but included memories of a seminal day in my life as a young South African.
Things had changed
Discovering a virtual
Certain social media platforms make use of hashtags. I never really paid them much attention until she who was responsible for getting me to join Steemit, gave me a bit of a crash course. I began using them more and more strategically, and suddenly my posts were “noticed” and I was invited to join groups of folk with shared interests or roots: fellow countrymen in Team South Africa; groups of potographers – a bit of a shock considering I am not even a rank amateur in that department. The third community that I was invited to join was the PowerHouseCreatives (then known as Steemitbloggers), and founded by longtime friend (in real life) and also responsible my being on the platform and for aforesaid logo, Jayne.
Not long after joining that group, and really beginning to enjoy myself, disaster struck. I fell victim to a phishing scam, and my account was hacked. One of the things one is told when joining a crypto platform is to save your password. Your master password cannot easily be changed. It cannot be retrieved. Save your password. Don’t lose your password. Your account contains money; it is valuable. Save your password. The Steem Based Dollar at the time was worth US$1.37.
At the time, my account was worth about US$ 250. Not much to some people, but to me, huge. It was the most devastating experience and one which I shan’t forget, not because of being hacked, but because of how the two communities in which I was most active, comprising people I virtually (in the real sense of the word) knew. It was a profoundly lifechanging experience.
Since then, the core of one of those group shas become as close knit as any family: it has its ups and downs, but when the chips are down, they rally to keep it together and support each other. I have made friends with folk from all over the world and find myself extending genuine invitations for them to break bread in our home in the event they are ever in South Africa. As soon as 2020, I hope. Their compassion when I lost a mentor and friend remains with me, as with other losses during that year.
A space to write, discuss, and play games
Today, two years ago, I registered my account on Steemit. While those memories of the early tribulations remain with me, I have learned a great deal about how the ecosystem works (or doesn’t) for the likes of me. Recognising that is is an ecosystem is key, and like all ecosystems, there are times when it thrives and others when it comes under threat. That the ecosystem is inhabited by humans with feet of clay, makes conflict and disagreement inevitable. It’s how one engages with, or avoids, that conflict that determines one’s survival on the platform. It never ceases to amaze me how some folk “speak” to other Steemians. I often wonder if they’d tolerate a similar level of abuse, and whether they’ve forgotten that they are not addressing a machine.
I digress. As usual.
In my two years on Steemit, I have had the opportunity to reflect on significant milestones in my life, including a swansong and the village where we live. Some have been quite serious, others very serious and others less so. I have also found myself writing pieces with my toungue firmly in my cheek. I was rather taken aback on receiving and email from the Wall Street Journal’s South African representative, asking, “May we quote you?” That some of my musings have been recognised by the curation initiatives on the platform are a source of pride and gratification, I cannot lie, especially for a post I’d not have thought worth considering.
On Steemit, I have found myself doing what, for me, a few years ago, would have been unthinkable: participating in challenges and contests. In April, I took up fellow PowerHouseCreative and blog pal Traci York’s challenge to do a daily post for a month. A challenge it was, and somehow, I managed to do it: not just for thirty days, but for five weeks.
And the contests
Much to my surprise, I’ve allowed myself to be enticed by these, and despite myself, it’s fun. There is a caveat, though: the topic must speak to me. I won’t compete for the sake of competing and winning. If I win? Well, who doesn’t like winning? It’s just the cherry on the top.
So, with my 236th post, I mark my second anniversary on Steemit. It is, as it was for my first anniversary, an entry to a @zord189’s weekly contest, and this week’s topic, “My Steem Journey” was already on the agenda.
In closing, thank you to my Steemit and PHC family for sharing the last two years with me. Clichés, I’m afraid are all that work there:
- there are too many to mention; and
- it would not have been possible without you
Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa
- I blog on three platforms: WordPress and Instagram, both of which auto post to Steemit. Instagram is mostly a visual with microblogs about fluff: mostly food and the cats and posts that sometimes
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