Things have calmed down since last week. I wrote a bit about how stressful it is to go viral. Thanks to John Gorman, Mateus Rizzo, Michelle Oxman, and ATrigueiro for their kind words and empathy. It is a good problem to have, and I’m going to try to build on the success.
In the piece, I noted that Medium featuring two of my articles was what led to them going viral. ATrigueiro responded:
How naive of me to believe such things are organic. I very much appreciate you disabusing of that childish notion. It’s the 21st century after all.
It made me think more about what happened with my piece on the failure of capitalism. It had a slow start, but exploded. When I checked the referrals, I realized that the overwhelming majority of views came from Facebook shares, not Medium itself. Without the initial boost from Medium, I wouldn’t have gotten the numbers I did, but organic shares were a huge part of the success of the piece. That’s pretty powerful, considering Facebook essentially killed organic reach when it really started pushing its ad product.
There were a couple of other times I went pseudo-viral. One was off a Medium feature and the other was off a boost from a high-follower Twitter account I tagged in. The Twitter account paid higher dividends.
At some point, a high-follower account will have to give you a boost to go viral — someone has to pluck you out of obscurity — but organic reach is very much still possible. So, keep sharing your projects, and try to see Medium and other platforms choosing work to highlight less as gatekeeping and more as at-bats for people who don’t have a lot of followers.
My piece on Alexa also had some interesting comments. I think a lot of people are aware of the risks, and are staying away. That’s heartening.
Sherry Kappel wrote:
From the first I heard of these devices, I was horrified. Thank you for confirming my fears — most people think I’m being paranoid. On the other hand, I feel slightly better knowing that a friend who is being abused has one. :-(
Edit: Coincidentally, I got an email from Watchdog.org right after I responded here; it begins:
“Amazon wants to deliver cops and ICE agents — right to your door!
They’re selling a face recognition program to local law enforcement, who very often work with and share information with ICE.
It’s called Rekognition, and it’ll let cops scan as much as 100 faces in a crowd, putting immigrants, their families, and their friends at even higher risk.”
The interesting thing about that story with Alexa calling the cops, is that it was the perpetrator asking, “Did you call the sheriff?” that seems to have triggered the call. Abusers become more dangerous when their targets resist, so I’m not sure having a voice assistant will help people suffering domestic abuse. The devices are voice-activated. Shouting, “Alexa, call the police!” might escalate the violence. I’m hoping it could save some people, but I’m not sure it will…
Jeff Bezos is like a villain from one of the 70s Bond movies. He’s almost a caricature at this point. I don’t know what has to be done to break Amazon up, but I know that it’s necessary.
In response to my comment, “To engage in any online activity is to assume the risk of being surveilled,” Rachael Middleton wrote:
This assumption is where the first muscle of self surveillance is flexed. The Panopticon doesn’t even need to have a guard in the tower because the glass is one way. The idea of someone watching is enough to change behavior of the watched.
This is so true, and it doesn’t even have to escalate to something as sinister as law enforcement eavesdropping on you. One of the reasons I never felt comfortable on Facebook and Instagram was that I could feel the urge to create a fake life to project. Knowing people were watching and judging was altering the way I managed my life. Nevertheless, I see the value of social media for people who are in hustle mode and don’t have the stability of 9–5 jobs. The opportunities for self-promotion are low cost and effective.
The World Cup started, and for the first time in my life, it flew under the radar, and I haven’t watched any matches. I wrote about how the suffering of the workers building the 2022 venues in Qatar has turned me off the whole affair, and Harold Albert Johnson III wrote:
Those are all valid reasons not to watch the World Cup in 2022. I agree with you on your points wholeheartedly. However, how many of them apply to this one? Bribery could have played a role in Russia being awarded it for this year, but the same could have been said of almost any World Cup in history. As far as I’ve seen, slave labor hasn’t been an issue in Russia. I may not like many of their policies, but I don’t like many of my own country, either.
Again, you’re right about Qatar. Does that affect your enjoyment of Russia?
It’s clearer to me now that the tournament has started that shift in my attitude is even more profound than I thought. I can’t really explain it, but in the interim since the last tournament, the abuse of the workers in Qatar has soured me on the whole thing. I think because every time the tournament came up, I’d think of the abuses, and it made me really sad. I’m not fighting with myself about the morality of watching or not watching — it just doesn’t register as important to me anymore. I suppose because I realize nothing is going to be done. The workers are going to continue to die. There might be some kerfuffle of outrage four years from now, but we’ll all shrug it off and move on. I suppose I’ve pre-emptively shrugged it all off.
I’m hoping some of the joy will return. It really is one of my favorite events, and I almost always feel better about the world and our ability to co-operate and live in peace when I watch. I suppose I feel like that’s been betrayed with the Qatar builds.
On a lighter note, I wrote about one of my failed writing experiments: trying to turn my Instagram into a writing magazine. I shared a very short short story called The Shed that I’d posted in one of the captions. The experiment (even though it was a bust) has a special place in my heart. In addition, I haven’t been writing any fiction lately, so I was pleased to receive this comment from Jodi Tandet:
This is a neat idea… and I LOVE The Shed!
Thanks to everyone who signed up for my newsletter! It’s where I discuss what I’m mulling over and hope to write about down the line. It’s also where I’ll announce any news and upcoming projects first. If you’d like to, you can subscribe below!
Medium treats each comment as a separate story, which gets added to a writer’s list of articles. Comments also get queued up as a “Next story” and in other recommendations. This suppresses discoverability of the stories I spend time researching and thinking about. As a result, I made the decision that I wouldn’t respond directly to comments going forward. But I do want to engage with my readers and build a community. As a result, I created this weekly feature, where I respond to some of the comments I’ve received.