My Link is Like…Wo[ah]

Today, while pickling my brain in Internet juice courtesy of Google Reader, I thought about how easy it’s become to share things, links & bits, little snippets of interest, via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, blogs. This wildlife photographer camped out up to his shoulders in parasite-infested water, stared down by lions (deadly predators!) for three months to capture these photos and I shared the link in like four seconds, two of which I spent crafting the insightful addition: Woah, cool warthogs.


Blossom anyone? This post has woah to spare.

Sharing is fun. But this isn’t really the kind of sharing that invites a dialogue, or seeks community (as discussed in Tamiko’s recent post). It’s more of the Wow-this-sock-stinks-you-have-to-smell-it sort of sharing, like, I’m in awe over something and I want a witness.

I haven’t read Freakonomics–at least not silently, to myself. But I’ve been around enough people while they were reading the book that I’m fairly confident I’ve heard almost the entire thing out loud. Books full of wonder-nuggets inspire this sort sharing, as do funny books. I gave my dad a copy of The Rejection Collection (I wish they would come out with one of these every year for my pop-gifting needs. And while we’re on the subject of New Yorker cartoons, three cheers to Cody Walker for his recent caption contest triumph!) and he proceeded to read roughly one third of the book aloud, taking care to describe the drawings my family and I couldn’t see. The delight he took in sharing made this a rare instance of second-hand humor living up to, or even surpassing, experiencing the funny firsthand. This seems connected to the way it’s wonderful to have Onion headlines read aloud to you, whereas whole articles are often best read to oneself.

Is there only so much of another’s wonder or delight we can digest? What, besides Woah, can we meet awe with? The recently published results of a study of the New York Times most-e-mailed articles found that, Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list.” One of the researchers explained, “Emotion in general leads to transmission, and awe is quite a strong emotion. [If] I’ve just read this story that changes the way I understand the world and myself, I want to talk to others about what it means. I want to proselytize and share the feeling of awe. If you read the article and feel the same emotion, it will bring us closer together.” Is clicking the same link enough? Are we brought closer together by marveling at same information, even in the absence of the actual “talking to others” part? One man’s wonder is another’s “Mark as spam.But we persist: looking up from our books and screens to read aloud and send along, hoping at least, for a laugh, or a breathless wow that we may not even hear.