Outside of geekdom, Robert Scoble isn't a household name. Yet. But in the tech industry he's quite a celebrity; a Silicon Valley insider who knows everyone and everything and can make or break a startup just by dropping a few names in the right places. Because of this he's sometimes maligned by other San Jose techies, but those of us on the outside are endlessly entertained by his insights into that microcosm of the truly bizarre.
I had never heard of Scoble either until my early days on Google+ after a beta invite came my way via the Google Developers Group in 2011. He was one of the few geeks there who didn't work at Google, and since he actually has social skills, he dominated the conversation. That annoyed plenty of introverts but I found it…educational. Scoble welcomed all of us newcomers and provided regular banter to keep us engaged. One of my all-time favorite geek moments was being Scobleized - added to his "first geeks" circle. Without him there, I would have lost interest in Google+ early on (though as much fun as it was, these days, unfortunately, I just can't keep up with it).
Lately, Robert Scoble has been baring his soul very publicly on Facebook.
I'm lucky that I don't have an addictive personality so I can't offer any personal advice on battling those kind of demons. But last year I watched a man die partly due to the self destructive addictions of alcohol and smoking, which contributed to advanced heart disease and heart failure in his later years. He was escaping pain of his own, he knew loss far too well, which manifested in stubborn behaviors like smoking even after being told he would die. He had a pacemaker defibrillator and smoked as soon as he returned home from the ICU after it triggered. It was hurtful to all of those who love him still, that he wouldn't stop for them, even as they pleaded. And by the time he wanted to try (though I say that hopefully, I really don't know deep down inside if he did...) it was too late. Ironically, you can't smoke in the nursing home…or in hospice…even though those are exactly the places where we should all be smoking and drinking like mad.
I haven't talked about this because I don't want to highlight things that cause us to remember only the negative. But not talking is exactly the problem, and exactly why Scoble is doing this even in the face of fear of public shame. By talking he makes this big, lonely, scary world of ours smaller, and wraps a cocoon of love around us.
Scoble is also shedding light on one of the serious dark sides of the tech industry. The fraternity, beer-pong party nature of Silicon Valley that's perpetuated throughout startup culture is one of the industry's greatest liabilities: it disenfranchises the rest of us who have regular lives, families, kids…generally, any interests outside of work. It's ageist, sexist, culturally insensitive, and exclusive. And it's so oddly contrary to the healthy living practices that actually foster youthfulness and creativity: exercise and yoga, slow food, stress reduction, sleep, mindfulness, friendships, community.
Geeks aren't the most socially balanced individuals so alcohol can sometimes be a helpful social tool but if its inescapable then the office holiday party becomes the everyday party and a decade later geeks are wrecked on the floor wondering what the hell happened to their lives. Luckily for Scoble, he's managed to step back and see the ruse.
Life is far, far too short as it is to let pain make it shorter. I can say this...I do know the pain of grief well, it's the only deep pain monster I've really struggled with. And the only thing I've found that chases it away is art. It's like meditation in that it helps you turn inward, yet it provides an outlet for the emotions that you discover there once you start looking.
That doesn't mean taking brush to canvas (though why not!), I use "art" loosely here. I mean follow your craft, whether that's writing, gardening, cooking, music, woodworking, knitting, drawing, or coding. Build something with your hands. Or tear something down and rebuild it. Just make art. It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be you. And when it's you, it's art.
Scoble's not-so-secret power is social media, it's his craft and he's mastered the Internet. Scoble's Facebook page is art and we're watching it happen.
And that's how healing begins…for him, and for us.
Kudos to you, Scoble, we stand with you all the way. Thank you for bravely sharing, and for making the web a little less wide, and a lot more human.