Monday, February 15, 2016

I Can't Help You

A short one that hopefully won't sound whiny.

Being that I create a lot of content and have a decent (though not viral-level) following online, I sometimes receive requests for help or advice from strangers.

I don't mind that.

Sometimes those requests are from people I can help easily, or who I relate to, or who asked their questions in such a way that I know why it's me they asked. They may have read something I wrote and found it inspiring, or followed me for a long time and made supportive comments even though we're not really friends, or just asked at a time or in a situation where I felt like responding. 

So I don't mind.


What I do mind is that I also get a fair number of requests I don't want to respond to, and sometimes those people get upset with me for not helping them.

Here's a list of what makes me not want to help someone.

1. I don't know why they're asking me. I have some specialty areas and all, but sometimes someone will ask me a question about something I've demonstrated or claimed NO knowledge of. So rather than explain to them ever so patiently that they've asked someone who can't be expected to know, I often don't respond. (This is after years of realizing that such people who don't research often throw fits if I won't research FOR them.)

2. They ask in a rude or entitled way. This goes without saying, but if someone's request for help or advice is brusque or snotty or acts like I owe them commentary I didn't sign up for, I'll be way less likely to engage.

3. They badger me if I don't reply immediately. I get this kind of frequently--a comment, followed by a follow-up comment asking why I'm not answering or repeating themselves, or even sometimes a follow-up on a different platform. It feels like pestering. I don't like helping people who are impatient and have no respect for my time, especially when it's clearly not a time-sensitive request.

4. They ask me something they could just research themselves. I don't mind if friends and family ask me, say grammar questions or asexuality questions, but I just get irritated when someone comes to one of my educational videos on asexuality to type "what is asexuality anyway?" or messages me on Facebook to ask how commas should be used. You do not need my attention for that.

5. They contact me in a bizarre way. I'm still confused as to why someone tried to get me on their radio show by leaving a public comment on my website asking ME to contact THEM, and I don't like when people want to have in-depth conversations but try to use Twitter to have them. (I once had someone tell me to follow him on Twitter so he could private message me. That, my friend, is what e-mail is for if I don't know you.) 

6. Helping will require a large amount of time and effort. I'm sometimes asked to comment at length on someone else's work for free, by strangers, who think that because I've made query letter help videos I'll be willing to review theirs even though I don't know them and am not participating in a contest or anything, or they want really in-depth personal counseling about something I'm not necessarily qualified to handle. If I know the person and/or am close with them and/or have expressed that I would be willing to help, it's different, and I'll probably be more willing to dedicate a lot of time or effort to it, but otherwise, I usually find it to be an imposition. 

I also sometimes get people requesting that I make a public statement about something that offends them, like if they saw an upsetting YouTube video and they want me to rebut it with a video of my own, or if someone takes a quote of mine out of context to prove someone wrong as if anything I say represents the opinion of my community. I kinda don't like being set up as somebody's attack dog or untouchable authority, but that doesn't happen very often, so it just gets an honorable mention here. Well, dishonorable really.

Asking isn't really a bad thing, but I think mostly what I'm reacting to here is the entitlement that sometimes comes out of these interactions. I've been out-and-out scolded and shamed by people I didn't help, didn't help fast enough, or didn't help thoroughly enough, either through passive-aggressive "GUESS NOT THEN" comments or long lectures through e-mail about my supposed obligations to my adoring public (who will now unsubscribe from my channel and unfollow my Tumblr or something because I wasn't helpful enough). So if anyone who reads this wonders if I get annoyed that someone asks, usually not really (unless it's worded rudely). But behaving as if you deserve it and you're disappointed in me when I don't deliver, even when I haven't agreed to?


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