It’s December, 2014, and some guy named “tbonewilson” is totally ruining my ego trip. Which sucks for me, because without my ego I am just another insecure basketcase suburban white guy pushing 50. And this particular ego trip has been a lot of fun so far.
I mean, there I am, watching myself on the computer screen where I’m on a highly-polished, professionally-lit stage in front of hundreds of people delivering a “TED Talk.” I’m watching my video clip slowly but surely go viral, and tbonewilson is over there in the comments section threatening to urinate on me.
TED.com, as you may know, is a well-respected website featuring “ideas worth spreading,” where marquee speakers like former President Bill Clinton and U2 singer Bono take to the stage to share their precious thoughts about Technology, Entertainment and Design. In my TED Talk, I’m not exactly exploring how to bring peace to the Middle East or solving world hunger; my talk’s about how to avoid unnecessary meetings at work, of all mundane things. And yet I seem to be having “a moment.” My talk appears to getting some “traction,” and my “personal brand” is really getting some visibility online this week. My talk has collected a half million views in its first few weeks online, along with hundreds of highly flattering Twitter tweets and Facebook links.
This, as it turns out, is high-octane ego-fuel for a closet creative writer and sometimes shameless karaoke singer with typically-American dreams of mega-stardom…and who, in real life, spends his days doing IT risk management.
My 15 minutes of fame on TED.com is actually lasting a few weeks, thanks to the TED brand and the powerful reach of its website. Viewers in South America, Croatia, South Africa, Singapore and Japan are tweeting positive links to my talk, and some are describing how they will use my video-talk in upcoming staff meetings to change the behaviors of their employees. Five weeks after it’s first posted, I’m close to 1+ million views, the video has been translated into 24 languages, and more than a few people on Twitter are asking: “Will you join David Grady and his global movement against bad meetings?”
I’ve started a global movement? I feel like Charlie Brown when they asked him to direct the Christmas pageant. “Meeeeee? You want meeee to direct your play/start a global movement!?”
For a guy with a photographable bald spot (increasingly like Charlie Brown’s), this is extremely dizzying stuff.
So, anyway. I’m doing pretty well on TED.com. But over there in the comments section is tbonewilson, ruining my virtual day, wishing that he could literally pee on me and my TED audience. tbonewilson kindly explains that my TED talk “is a time-waster, and the audience are so incredibly cringe-worthy it makes me want to urinate in all of their eyes.”
I know he’s just a troll, and I try to move on to the next positive comment, but tbonewilson’s comments gnaw at me. He has successfully murdered my mojo, and my happy little TED experience is tainted.
And so, inevitably, I am quickly (and thoroughly) seduced by the dark side of the internet: Googling yourself for negative comments.
Trust me, you don’t want to do this.
Look! Over there are two women on a Jewish-themed website debating if I’m wearing a Yarmulke in my video, or if it’s just an overhead light shining on my male pattern baldness! Look! Over there on Twitter is some cranky lady petitioning TED.com to take down my talk because it’s not deep and meaningful enough. Look! Over there on YouTube, someone points out that I’m a little chubby! There’s always more if you look hard enough.
And then there’s tbonewilson and his burning desire to pee on me.
And after a minute of self-reflection (because any more than 60 seconds of real introspection is highly unadvisable, if you ask me), it occurs to me when you’re almost 50 and have unexpectedly achieved a tiny little bit of fame in an otherwise normal suburban lifetime, it’s dangerously addictive. And the voice of a hater like tbonewilson can be awfully loud. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.
Fast forward, May 2017. It’s been almost three years since my TED Talk was a highlighted “talk of the day” on the TED homepage, and it’s been viewed more than 2 million times and translated into 37 languages. People still tweet links to it almost every day and say nice things. They showed my talk on a flight my daughter took to Paris for spring break, much to her horror. Am I proud? Heck yes. I can say without hesitation that it’s been a pretty cool experience, having a few minutes in the spotlight.
But now, whenever I’m tempted to let a little bit of online praise from a stranger go to my head, I think of tbonewilson peeing on me from the comments section. And I get back to work. There’s a lot of IT risk out there to be managed, and its not just in the comments section.