Going viral made me realize I don't want to be famous

An old post I made on Quora was sent to over 5 million people, and the vulnerability was too much for me

A little over a year ago in a burst of productivity, I decided to focus my efforts on taking a more active presence on Quora. The website is similar to other question and answer sites like it, however, the passion of the writers present in the Quora scene is unmatched. 

The site itself has a booming community with a strong sense of togetherness — it’s difficult to describe how “Quorans” (as they would call themselves) interact. The site seems to have its own unique cultural norms, as well as an inherent social structure with varying levels of so-called success. 

The community fascinated me, and I wanted to be a part of it. 

Through the course of a few weeks, I dished out about 20 or 30 answers on the website and eventually grew distant from the website. I completely forgot about it until about a week and a half ago when I received a notification about one of the answers I wrote.

The notification, the first one I had noticed in over a year, read: “5,000,000+ people were sent your answer in the Quora digest…” 

I logged onto the Quora website, and sure enough, the post had been sent out in the Quora Digest and accumulated over 300,000 views. I was shocked for a moment, but then my inner observationalist began creeping in and analyzing the possible outcomes of a viral post. 

Initially, the prospect of having gone viral was thrilling and vitalizing. Especially as a writer, it felt wholesome to have a piece of my work, no matter how small, be seen by so many people. 

My inner perfectionist always finds a way of inserting himself into these matters, though, and consequently my field of focus became inundated with worries of what individuals would think about my life.

Would they judge me harshly, with callous words and harsh thoughts, or would they pass me off as another writer when I wanted to be more?

Resulting from this introspection, I gathered that my personal life functions best in its simplest form. 

The appeal of reputation and regard are obvious, and they seem so powerfully alluring. However, when I got a tiny, insignificant glimpse of internet fame, I noticed immediately the presence of feeling trapped. 

My actions on the site felt dictated by the audience’s responses from henceforth, and any subsequent post I made was written with a hyper-critical eye. I can’t describe the feeling other than it felt naked and vulnerable. 

In contrast to what my thoughts were before, I prefer anonymity over internet fame and cultural regard. I am of the belief that there are real limits to the number of people we can truly form a connection with, and I prefer to keep my social domains within a reasonable range. 

The prospect of having any form of my work be so widely available now seems daunting and unfulfilling. If my work were to find its way to success, so be it — but I know surely that the greatest work is produced without the intent to commodify, and if anyone is to have any chance at telling a real and powerful story, they must speak truly to themselves. 

Reach the reporter at cbeal4@asu.edu and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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