Scott Woods: Nobody Asked You

Our columnist argues that the vast majority of the time, your unprompted response isn’t needed.

Scott Woods
Scott Woods

Remembering this might save your life someday: Nobody asked you.

Just because you saw it, read it, consumed it, felt it or otherwise engaged what someone had to say about something, nobody asked you what you thought about it. People aren’t largely posting things with question marks at the end or taking surveys. As it turns out, they just like to talk.

But nobody asked you anything.

And while a great many people do post things for attention, it’s pretty easy to differentiate the person doing that versus the person with something to say who didn’t ask you what you thought about anything. Even attention seekers are largely just using all of this as an amplified diary. And you know what no one expects of their diary? An opinion.

No one asks their diary for clap-backs or retorts.

Think of all the problems in the world that wouldn’t have even made it to the table if, before we post or tweet or hit send or reply all by accident, we stopped and wondered inwardly, “Did anyone ask me for this opinion?” If you had answered that question honestly, you would have avoided a debate with someone you really don’t know over something you’re only getting half the story on, thereby ruining 100 percent of each other’s day. Because 99 times out of 100, the answer is that nobody asked you for your opinion.

Nobody asked you.

If you walk around feeling as if you are brimming with answers and you simply must engage, try creating something that people want to engage with: a blog, a post of your own, a platform, an essay, a work of art—anything but an armchair response to someone who didn’t ask what you thought about anything. That is space you create, a platform you launch, a game you have skin in. A general, public post isn’t technically an invitation to engage unless it says it is. You’re in control of how you respond to something that didn’t ask anything of you. Not only is someone not holding a gun to your head, but no one who owns a gun even cares what you think about anything. You know this because exactly zero gun owners asked you what you thought today. About anything.

Nobody asked you.

Our days are flooded with think pieces and takes on things that amount to people responding to people who didn’t ask what they thought. This is actually not an issue, since criticism is a valid form of education and awareness. But let’s be clear: You aren’t spending half your time on the internet responding to thought-out, researched articles. You’re responding to some random person who feels compelled to overshare or somebody who thinks God grants wishes through likes. I would encourage you to stop for a second and consider who is hurt by such pageantry and who stands to win should you choose to wade into the molasses of nobody asking what you thought.

Because really, nobody asked you anything. That’s probably true so far today, and it was probably true yesterday, and tomorrow there’s a 99 percent chance nobody will ask you anything. At all. No opinion required. Think of all the free time you will have amassed not jamming your thumbs into your phone for hours a day. Even now, I am typing this instead of replying over and over to any number of people. And if you happen to be reading this, don’t be surprised when I don’t reply to your comment. I try not to reply to any comments about what I write. I said what I said. And it wasn’t a question.

Scott Woods is a poet, cultural critic, essayist and founder of the arts nonprofit Streetlight Guild.