I never win contests. For years, I suppose this has been a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I never enter any, because of the entrenched knowledge that I will not win. The closest I get to entering a contest these days is gambling $20 every year or so in Atlantic City. I never win, of course, though for everyone else in my family, every game seems to turn into an instant fount of cash. Some people are just lucky – somehow it seems like the same family always wins all the church raffles.
My friends have no qualms about entering online contests – maybe because they also have no qualms about relentlessly enlisting everyone they know to help them win. Social media makes this a snap. My Facebook feed is full of people trying to win contests not simply on the merit of their entries – from an art piece to a cute baby they happen to have birthed – but because they can mobilize a small army of people to vote for the entry just because contest entrant asked them to.
Perhaps I should also turn the vote-for-me question towards myself. This blog is approaching 20,000 hits: a modest number, to be sure, but a hell of a lot more than when I first started it. Each time I publish a new post and put it up on Facebook, I am asking for your clicks just as surely as all the contest entrants are. In this case, I don’t want people to affirm that my engagement story is the best EVER or that my dog is the cutest, but I do want them to affirm the worth of my platform as a writer, given everything else that teems on the internet, including friends’ contests.
I suppose one thing that bothers me is that it’s not just a matter of delivering one vote in the name of friendship. That wouldn’t be too much to ask, if I thought my friend’s entry was worthwhile. But the initial notice of the contest becomes a flood of entreaties about the necessity of voting once a day for the duration of the contest. This awakes in me a range of uncomfortable feelings.
I feel annoyed at being inundated with ill-targeted requests. Then I feel guilty for not taking the time to vote every day for my friends, whom I really love dearly. Then I get worried that if I did make a habit of visiting the website of the contest, and familiarized myself with other entrants, I might find an entry that is worthier than my friend’s: would I then betray my friend by voting for someone else?
Worst of all, I’m oppressed by a growing general fear that no-one wins anything these days because their entry is the most deserving. It’s probably just a matter of who has the most online friends which can be harangued daily into voting – or reading.
And so we come to the poll.