I'm currently sitting at the beach in the sun reading a book (I know, life is hard). As I look over my book, to my right, about 150 meters away from me, there's a guy flying a kite aggressively and he's really getting into it—he's yanking the string in his hands in strategic ways, making it dip and swoop around, and it looks sort of neat at first glance.
The problem is, however, that he's almost hit a few people with his trick kite in the last five minutes that I've been watching him.
So the cool kite moves he's doing are quickly becoming not so cool. And it will become especially not so cool if he ends up blinding a kid who's just minding their own business and building a sand castle.
As I watch this guy, I think about how there's always that guy or gal who shows up to beaches with some sort of gimmick. Like a snake, an iguana, a kite, a parrot, those weird wire things you hold in both hands and spin, flower sticks, or any other random thing that wins the temporary attention of other beach goers.
Really, you can see the rationale for using a gimmick to form temporary social connection in public spaces: the gimmicks provide incentive for conversation, and some degree of connection, although both the conversation and the connection only go as far as the gimmick. Once the questions about the iguana on the shoulder or the super daring trick kite have been asked and answered, the fascinated people move on and forget the gimmick guy or gal.
Sort of sad, really, but it's nevertheless true, and all of this causes me to think about how gimmicks really don't work. Sure, they may get you temporary attention and engagement, but once the next gimmick comes along, people will flock over to that gimmick instead of yours. So it's ultimately better to have a gimmick free creativity, media, and social method, even if it is harder to approach someone or someones without any gimmicks.
You're going to have to spend that much more time thinking about making and sharing something truly engaging and connection forming than you are practicing your sweet kite dips and dive bombs in public. But really, I think it's worth the extra effort.
So which will you choose? The fleeting gimmick or the lasting creative contribution?
You can buy this scale model statue of the Queen of England at a store in London, but nobody buys it—they just want too look at it, giggle, take a few pictures like I did, and then they move on to something else.
Why? Because it's just a gimmick.