When I was in fifth grade, I was a real goody goody. Sometimes, this worked to my advantage. However, a lot of times, to be fair, the teacher would have to punish me right along with everyone else. On days when the class was just talking too much for her to stand, we’d all have to sit down at recess and copy “Silence is Golden” over and over again. I still hate that phrase. I felt it was really blatantly unfair that I had to sit there when I hadn’t been talking at all.
Lately, I’m starting to feel that same twinge of concern, trepidation, and “Hey man” in the Social Media world.
I haven’t been doing this game for very long, but so far, about once a month, one of the people I respect in this space has written a post about how they are tired of people failing to value their time, or they are tired of how people take advantage (or try to) of their expertise. First there was Chris Brogan’s post called “Make the Ask.” Then Tamar Weinberg wrote a post called “The Audacity of Free.” And now Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media has written a post called 15 ways to handle “Pick your brand” requests.” All of them cover the same types of information. All of them, in different ways, reverberate with frustration.
Now, as an idea type person myself, I totally sympathize with these kinds of frustrations. I’ve written about this before, in fact. But here’s the problem I’m having. The people who are writing these posts are people whom I view as role models, as teachers, as mentors. The fact that they choose to post blogs and articles based on their years of experience ensures that I can keep on learning so that I can pay it forward to people with less experience than I have. That’s the way the game is supposed to work.
Unfortunately, folks like me are becoming collateral damage in the growing war between the (insert your preferred title here..expert, thought leader, influential person) and the people who do not respect them. In order to learn and in order to grow, I would like to be able to ask small questions of these people. I’d like to be able to say, “I didn’t understand that part of your blog post. Can you clarify it?” Sometimes I like to ask other questions too. I’m a born questioner. But all of these posts filled with righteous indignation are making me seriously debate with myself before asking any of those questions. It is making me feel like I should not ask for time or a smidgeon of advice because, no offense to the grey masses team, but I don’t want to be classed as a person who fails to respect time and knowledge.
Of course, the great irony of life is that the people who really are guilty are probably not affected by these posts at all. But it would be of a great help to me if these posts of understandable frustration could delineate what is considered offensive and what is not. What falls into consultation and what falls into friendly mentoring or teaching? I never want to be in a position where I ask a question and then feel like I should ask to be invoiced. So, thought leaders, I’m asking you this one question. Where is the line between the brain-pickers and the students? And which one am I?
Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/clix