When It’s Not Okay to Not Clap

Source: Unsplash via William Recinos

The buzz came to a hush and the lights dimmed away. Parents hum as the curtains tow aside; tonight’s show beams adorably before the auditorium.

That’s my little girl” a voice whispers.

As usual, my 5-year-old niece stood bashful, holding back a smile. This was her big Christmas recital. Over 100 people in here? The entire world must’ve been watching, in her eyes.

Everybody claps.

Clapping is weird. Who came up with the idea of clapping?

“Let’s strike our palms together repeatedly to make a popping noise. It’ll mean strong approval and praise!”

We clap at a lot of things. We clap at the dog, at the game, and even just to get excited — hey, we even do it here on Medium.

There was plenty of clapping going on at my nieces merry, little performance…

But then something happened.

Silence

The dainty dancers ran coherently around the set. They all took turns executing various jumps and gestures. A line formed and, one-by-one, the girls ran across the center of the stage doing a sort of signature move. This was the “big moment” for the little ones.

Claps followed every turn… until there was an accident.

One very small girl charged up toward to middle of the stage. As she gained speed, she stumbled over her feet.

*faceplant* *gasp!*

In an instant, the room turned dead silent. To my surprise, the little girl was giggling. As she looked to her teacher at the side of the stage, she smiled — she must’ve thought it was fun! She was totally fine.

But then she looked out into the crowd. She saw the shake on our faces; she noticed the silence.

She broke out into tears.

Medium Claps

How many claps are enough on Medium? According to my stats, apparently 1 to 5 is plenty for me and my writing.

I’d looove to figure out what exactly makes someone push that little 👏 button. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know why I clap for stories.

It’s not the typical reason a lot of readers abide by either… at least I don’t think it is.

Challenge

Do you agree with the following statement?

People clap when things are done right and they like something.

I want to challenge this idea… the idea that approval and applause can only come when things are done in a particular manner. People think clapping should serve them; meaning “Your performance should ‘wow’ me and make me applaud. If you do everything right, I’ll clap.”

I really don’t like that line of thinking. I don’t look at it like that.

I wish we’d clap when things are done wrong. I wish we’d clap for great effort. I wish we’d clap for bravery to express and fail.

Courtesy claps are just sad. We should clap unapologetically.

“But why Alec? What’s the big deal?”

Let me say this: Claps are free. Virtual, real life, they cost nothing (exception to the Partner Program, but way beside the point!) Given this, why don’t we use them more free and willingly?

I’m not saying everyone deserves a participation trophy. I’m not denouncing hierarchy and competition. I get that some things are better than others.

But clapping for someone is not an award or prize. It’s a sign of appreciation. I’m really saying we should appreciate more outside of just “doing things right.”

“Right” is not always perfect.

Outcome

So, what could change if we took a new approach to clapping?

Well for starters, maybe that little girl wouldn’t have started sobbing in front of a bunch of parents. If the audience had looked at her stumble as a fearless effort, rather than an embarrassing mistake, we could have saved face.

Who knows? Maybe that experience ruined her ballet career for the rest of her life. Exaggeration? Yes. Out of the realm of possibility? No.

And what about Medium? Did you know you can clap up to 50 times? Great. When was the last time you used all 50 of em? With more claps, maybe more minds would be willing to create. Maybe more minds would have the drive and will to keep creating.

We underestimate the amount of encouragement we can instill in the world — we have power.

Do writers deserve 50 claps from 50 people on every run-of-the-mill article? Absolutely not. Let’s not further devalue the claps (remember, they don’t really mean anything!)

However, should someone only get 2 claps after you just read an 8-minute article by them? Hell no.

Oh, it didn’t completely inspire you or play out how you wanted? So what. At least show love for the amount of time, effort, and expression that went into it.

That’s really what it’s all about: more love and thoughtfulness.

We make mistakes; we are imperfect.

It’s okay to clap for being human.

- AZ

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.