Sharing, Generosity, and Abundance: What Am I So Afraid Of?

In some of my recent posts, I have provided more links to content from other sites, and I noticed that I often second guess whether or not I should. I find myself wondering if it is wise to send my readers off to another site, off to other corners of the internet, never to be heard from again. And, as is often the case, I realize that I am dealing with fear, in this case, a few fears.

I am afraid I will lose control.

The magic of hyperlinks (yes, I’m old enough to use that word) is that they make the reading experience an interactive one. You get to choose when and if you will follow a link, when and if you will return. So, by linking to other content, even my own on occasion, I am giving up some of my control. This is new media.

Granted, you can read content however you wish, links or no links, but there is an implicit suggestion in a hyperlink that the author believed the content on the other end of the URL is relevant. So how do I know you’ll come back? I don’t. Not in any guaranteed sense, and I can’t know that you will come back to the same place or with the same interest as when you left. All I can really do is trust that if you follow a link and find value in it, you’ll remember who sent you there. Which brings me to fear number two.

I am afraid I will waste your time.

I don’t want to be the guy constantly recommending stuff you don’t care about. No one likes to watch a movie just because of a friend’s positive review only to hate it. Aside from the bad experience, it makes us feel like the other person doesn’t understand us. The solution to this is two fold.

First, I should be confident that what I am linking to is valuable. If I find it useful, I should assume that some of my readers will too. Second, I should do the work of knowing my audience. This can be as simple as trying to understand the kind of person who will continue reading what I write without sending me hate emails. And it can be more involved, like asking readers for their opinions about my choices. Again, it comes back to trust. Trusting myself to provide relevant information; trusting my audience to visit these sites in good faith. But what if you like the other site too much?

I am afraid I will lose you to someone better.

This is probably the biggest fear, at least for me at the moment, and it comes from a mindset of scarcity. I sometimes worry that you will find the other site I link to so engaging, so useful, that you decide you would rather spend your time there. It’s a strange fear for a writer to have, not wanting to recommend other writers. And it can be a legitimate problem if you view the work as competition, as a zero sum game. If I think I’m losing readers when I point them to someone else’s work, then it is painful to push them away. But what if I see it a different way?

What if I believe instead that cooperation is more powerful than competition? It’s the old struggle between trying to get more of the pie for myself versus trying to make the pie itself bigger. While I will acknowledge that we all have limited time and attention, I don’t believe that it is so scarce that I can’t recommend you to work that I found particularly powerful or useful. Especially if you find their content so engaging that it makes you even more interested in what I was discussing in the first place. Plus, there is actually great value in being a good recommender (more often we probably use the word curator, but I like recommender in this case). If you appreciate what I link to, I now have increased my value through my suggestion.

In the end, I should really be thinking less about how the link serves me. Whether I should point you to other content or not should be decided solely on one question. Will it benefit you, the reader?

So, this is something for me to improve on. Both the finding of excellent content and the sharing of said content without worrying about what I have to gain or lose from the suggestion. If you’re wondering why there are no links to other content in this post, I assure you that is mostly coincidence and a result of time shortage more than fear.

Has someone made a recommendation you appreciated recently? Do you feel more or less likely to listen to that person again in the future?


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