What would you say to the world if you had the opportunity?
Well, if not to the world then at least to several thousand strangers. That’s the idea behind The Listserve – an email list where one person each day is randomly selected to send an email to everyone else.
I heard about it a few weeks ago on Google+ and signed up out of curiosity. It’s easy to think that the list will be populated by self-publicists, nutters and spam artists, all keen to get over a message or product that you’re almost certainly not interested in. And while everyone so far selected has been getting over a message, it’s usually a thoughtful and reasonable one, nearly always including some sort of tips for a better life – be it a recipe, inspiring quote or thoughtful story.
There have been very few sales pitches, religious preaching or attention-seeking stupidity, and I think that reflects well on humanity and is one of the reasons why the concept appeals to me. It reminds me of the idea of togetherness in diversity that came over in the marvellous YouTube film experiment Life in a Day (which I reviewed here).
One recent message from The Listserve contained a reflection on the concept itself, and I’ll let you read it in the poster’s own words:
I am an avid reader of The Listserve. I love the concept of the group and I love receiving each day’s email. So far I’ve learned so much from so many strangers – drink recipes with ingredients I would never have thought of, more information about bees and beekeeping than I ever thought I’d learn, the list goes on and on.
While I always hoped that one day I’d be selected to send out an email – I didn’t expect the time to come so soon. To me, the chance to email almost 20,000 people in countries ranging from Belarus to Cambodia to Lebanon to Nigeria is an incredible one. It’s the 21st century equivalent of being given a microphone to talk to a massive audience of people from around the world, people that you’d never normally meet. A really amazing opportunity, but also one with quite a bit of pressure. I have to be honest, when I received the email yesterday afternoon, I panicked. What could I possibly tell people that they didn’t already know? I’m 22 years old – how many incredible life experiences do I have that would be inspiring to 20,000 others?
The question obviously occurs: what would I write about if I was selected? You apparently get three days’ notice so there’s a little time to think of something, but I imagine those three days could fly by, especially if you are busy or away from your email for whatever reason.
The statistical likelihood is, of course, that you’ll probably never get a chance to write anything, as the odds of being selected are slim. Every day, though, you get the thoughtful contributions of those who have been. And that’s a lottery too – you never know where the next message will come from, what sort of people they will be, and what they will say. It’s an interesting demonstration of the little things in life which make people tick and which make it special.
I’d like to think I’d write something that people would appreciate reading, though despite there being very little “selling” so far I’m rather ashamed to confess I would struggle not to be tempted to mention my books past and forthcoming. I hope I’d resist though, and perhaps instead I’d talk about travelling in general, life in Scotland in these exciting times, or maybe Esperanto.
One feature of the internet is that (at least where there is no government restriction) you can very easily write what you like, as often as you like. It’s therefore too easy, thanks to the internet, to write quickly, often and without thought. But what if you were given a unique platform you’re highly unlikely to be given again, with only three days’ notice? What would you write?