THE BLOG

Unremarkable

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET

There are many people who have the distinction of being listed in Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia "that anyone can edit." These are, one presumes, the movers and shakers of the world. There are many, many more people, of course, who are undistinguished and therefore not listed in Wikipedia. These are the ordinary folk who go about their full and rich lives in blissful obscurity. And then there is that smaller, select group of dangerously ironic and ambivalent people who are mentioned in Wikipedia as being unworthy of mention.

I have just discovered that I belong in this category.

Someone -- and I wish to emphasize that it was not me -- apparently posted information about me on Wikipedia. Whoever it was, thank you. I'm flattered. (I have a guess, but I reiterate: this was done without my knowledge or authorization.) Despite this person's generous attention, and despite my many accomplishments and my general all-around good personhood, however, it appears that my biography "does not sufficiently assert notability of subject."

I am, at least as far as Wikipedia is concerned, among the "unremarkable people, groups, companies and web content" that do not warrant inclusion in the free, user-contributed encyclopedia.

I'm crushed.

It's one thing to be comfortably obscure. It's another to be famous, infamous, celebrated, controversial, or any of the other things that make one "notable." But to be specifically mentioned as "unremarkable" -- well, that just hurts. And it doesn't help that my information was deleted by someone using the handle "DoomsDay349."

According to Wikipedia's "notability guidelines":

"A topic is presumed to be notable if it has received significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject." Other criteria that must be satisfied to demonstrate "notability" according to the editors include " objective evidence" and the proviso that "notability is not temporary."

Now, it might seem strange that on the most subjective and transient mass medium ever invented, the criteria for "notability" should be objectivity and permanence. And it might seem stranger still that a free, public assemblage of user-contributed articles should suddenly mistake itself for Diderot's Encyclopédie, making determinations of value based on these classical-era virtues.

But I guess that's pretty unremarkable, too. We all think our opinions are more than opinions, and that our subjective and transient judgments and accomplishments are really objective and permanent. It's just that we hate to be reminded that we're wrong. It wounds our vanity to know that Doomsday is waiting to press the delete key.

For now, all I can do is nurse my non-noteworthy wounds in obscurity and keep hoping that someday Wikipedia will lift me into its bright, shining light.

On the other hand, what if we all got together and created a genuinely democratic medium, in which each and every one of our contributions would be considered noteworthy? That would be revolutionary, sort of like, I don't know, a people's encyclopedia that anyone could edit.

Unremarkable people of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your Doomsdays!