Here’s how the Internet kinda works.
I have something that I think is cool or interesting or that I desperately wish people would recognize. I have this thing — think of it as a beach ball or some kind of many-pronged sex gizmo or perhaps the glowing briefcase from Pulp Fiction — and I’m trying to get other people to take it. I want them to grab it and then pass it along. It’s like a funky little game of Whisper Down The Lane except for the most part, the information remains intact. It is, in its way, a viral transmission: a bacterial replication of information. A graphic I think is funny. A blog post I wrote. A ghost story about cats. An article espousing the propaganda I believe about vaccinated GMO grandmother hipsters. A campaign to raise money for toilet dogs — meaning, dogs found in toilets who now must be rehabilitated to live once more among people and other dogs, acclimated anew to Life Outside Big Porcelain. This is memetic transference: the epidemic of ideas.
We are all nodes on this network of sharing.
Some of us are doorways — open for the transmission of pretty much whatever. Our door is mostly open and we pretty much hand shit through that open space day and night.
Some of us are walls with tiny windows or little boltholes in our brick. We block most everything except a tiny extruded Play-Doh tube of meager information that we find somehow vital.
Some of us are kept gates: portcullises monitored to make sure whoever comes into our castle isn’t covered in plague buboes or won’t try to sell us on cults or Tupperware or meat sold out of a van.
I received an email the other day about some… writing thing. A website with a free something and a contest for something and something-something I don’t fucking know. But one sentence in that email struck me: “I’m contacting you because you represent the doorway to a larger audience.” (The email also used words like “micropublicity” and “a bonafide movement” and then also said he’d shout-out my blog and also hey he wrote a novel too well what a shocker! Ahem.)
Here’s the thing:
I do not represent the doorway to a larger audience.
You people reading this are my audience.
And I am not the way to get to you.
What I mean is this — I am not going to take any old thing handed to me and just jam it into your hands. “Here, someone gave me this because I am a doorway to you,” I mumble as I hand you a jizz-hardened mitten filled with old potato salad. “Someone said I should share this so I am sharing it.” And then I use your hands to give the mitten a good squish.
I despise the word “tastemaker” with the heat of a thousand fire ants nibbling my perineum, because I have little interest in somehow making tastes or setting trends. But what I am interested in is being a trusted source for… well, whatever. Good books or smart ideas or tasty coffee or the finest animated GIFs the world has ever seen. I curate what I pass along.
My social media footprint these days is bigger than I had anticipated. This is inadvertent bragging time, but I now have over 40k Twitter followers and almost 8k subscribers to this blog and 10k of additional visitors to this space daily. Which means over 3 million visits annually. I think I’m operating at 0.3 Scalzis? Something like that. Point is, for whatever reason, you poor misguided mooncalves keep on coming back here and hearing whatever inane shit I have to say and share with some regularity.
I thank you for that.
And one of the ways I thank you — or try to, anyway — is by not sharing total garbage. Or even passing along anything that has the potential to be secret garbage — like, “Oh, look, a pretty vase, OH GOD WHY DIDN’T ANYBODY LOOK INSIDE IT’S A SCORPION ORGY THEIR LITTLE LEGS AND BITS SCRAPING AND TINKING AGAINST THE CERAMIC NOOOOO WHY CHUCK WHYYYYYY.” I don’t have the time to curate everything you want me to to share. And I get a lot of requests to share things — writing contests, events, charities, pleas for financial aid, self-published books, and on and on. Sometimes people are trying to engage me by talking to me directly, and sometimes it’s folks just throwing spaghetti at the wall that is Wendig and seeing if anything sticks. They don’t even bother engaging. They’re just trying to hand off their Internet Thing in a dark room and hoping somebody like me will be dumb enough to grab it and sleepily pass it along.
So, this is why I won’t share the thing you want me to share.
I don’t know it and I don’t trust it.
I won’t share your writing contest. Or your publishing opportunity.
I won’t share your book no matter how you published it.
I won’t share your GoFundMe campaign to rehabilitate Toilet Dogs.
I won’t share your IndieGogo campaign to fund a smartwatch that also contains Nano-Bees to attack your enemies okay wait I might actually fund that one so bounce me an email, okay?
I won’t share most of the things you’re going to ask me to share.
Because I don’t know you and I don’t have the time to curate. That curation would become literally a full-time job. I have a hard enough time answering my actually important emails — how am I supposed to vet your plea for charity? I won’t even donate to or recommend an actual charity without first running it through CharityNavigator. How am I supposed to know that you’re not going to take the money you raise and fuck off to Fiji for 10 days? No, no, I’m sure you’re not a scammer — but everyone else is, so how am I supposed to know?
In this game of viral memetic transmission, I like to cover my mouth when I’m talking with you. Meaning, I won’t just cough on you and pass along any old cold. You won’t just get boring old warts from me, my friends. If I share any of my diseases, it will be the good stuff. The primo vintage gonorrhea. The rare flu that killed all those bats that one time. A very special Norovirus from a cruise ship featuring that celebrity you love so you can have the same diarrhea as Donnie Wahlberg or I dunno, whoever. Only the best for you, my darlings. Only the best.
Note: all this changes if we actually know each other. I’ll endeavor to take that time if we’re friends or, at the very least, friendly online (though no promises, of course). But otherwise? Your pleas to share things will thud against me like a shoe thrown at a bear’s head. It will drop into the mud, unregarded and ignored. And then I will eat you because I am an actual bear.
I am not, however, your doorway.