There must be something in the water, because this week I have seen more than enough ill advised blogs that I’m certain will eventually come back and bite the writer in the ass. It’s led me to think about how much is too much?
As I’ve said several times before, the age that we live in means that our words are immediate. Gone are the times when you had to wait to say something, now you can just hit ‘post’ and it’s there for the world to see. This isn’t always a bad thing. I’ll be the first to admit that I love being able to instantly connect with people. I’m impatient and I want things NOW.
But this immediacy is also a bad thing. Once upon a time we had a chance to cool off, think things through, and even if we did decide to pen a letter voicing our dissatisfaction, we had time to think it through in the writing process. Now we can just fire things out there straight away.
And of course that brings it’s own set of problems.
Blogs have become journals. A place to share and contemplate. As a reader this is a fascinating to be allowed to see the inner workings and thoughts of someone, usually a complete stranger. It’s like being allowed to read their diaries.
As a professional I’ve seen how it can only bring bad things.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been interviewing potential new employees. It’s for a pretty high-level, responsible job in a business that I’ve grown myself and invested everything I have into. So you can be sure that I want the best possible people. So OF COURSE I’m going to Google them.
One applicant in particular seemed perfect. He had more than enough experience, the qualifications, great references and he seemed really nice, chatty and enjoyable to have around. His Facebook page was full almost entirely of drunken photos, homophobic ‘funny’ pictures and a huge amount of sweary rants, mostly about some girl he insisted on calling ‘fucking bitch’ every other sentence.
Yeah…..not going to give that guy my keys.
Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that we gag ourselves, after all the nature of social media is that it’s social. And as an employer I’m not particularly bothered by someone’s social life unless it’s something that might possibly impact on me. For instance, if someone has posted three times in five days about how late they are for work because they are ‘soooo hungover’ then I’m not likely to hire them.
Young people are most likely to shoot themselves in the foot in this way, simply through lack of experience, or pure naivety. But for an adult there’s really no excuse anymore.
We’ve all see the misguided rants which are sadly very common in the literary world – Anne Rice is a case in point. Not only was her infamous Amazon rant enough to cause widespread ridicule, it was passed around the internet with lightning speed where it will remain, highly visible, forever. Simply put, it made her look unstable and stupid.
I’ve stopped following several blogs after the writers posted one of those late-night-one-too-many-lambrini rants. You know the ones, they are peppered with unnecessary expletives, personal attacks, capital letters and much abuse of the exclamation mark. I don’t need to be reading someone else’s crazy.
It’s very easy to cross the boundaries of what we can write and what we SHOULD. And after midnight when you’re angry is not the best time to be making those decisions.
Now, I know all too well how strongly we need to get our anger and upset out. And blogging and social networking has allowed us to do that and seek the support or arguments that we feel we need. But I do feel that sometimes we need to take a step back and think.
Over the last year I’ve been going through a lot of personal stuff. Some of which I have posted about. But for the most part I’ve not put things out there. It’s been very tempting over the last lot of month to rant and rage about my marriage and my ex. But what good would it do to call him names on the internet? It would only make me look angry and bitter and pretty pathetic. So I haven’t done it. Quite aside from appearances, it’s just not appropriate. It’s no one else’s business, and I’m not going to embarrass either myself or those involved by putting it all out there for the world to see.
In all I’m pretty guarded about what I put on the internet. I’m slowly building a career in this industry and I don’t want, somewhere down the line, a researcher at the New York Times pulling up a post where I slagged off all of my ex-boyfriends, or swore my way through an angry and paranoid 1am rant.
At the end of the day though, it’s the choice of the individual. But in the literary world we’ve seen all too often how readers and reviewers have turned on an author after one of those stunts. It’s not pleasant and has a real and very detrimental effect to an author’s career.
Laurell K Hamilton became a laughing stock when she posted her infamous ‘Dear Negative Reader’ letter, and then got her husband to join in the savagery. Not classy.
Sadly, she’s not alone. Emily Griffin lost herself a lot of readers and a lot of respect when she called a reviewer a psycho on Amazon. Caroll Bryant has posted so many diatribes that I really can’t pick just one to list as an example, but he’s guaranteed that I’ll never read one of his books. Jamie McGuire, Leigh Fallon, Kiera Cass, Melissa Douthit, Jacqueline Howett. Sound familiar? If not, try Googling their names and one of the first things you’ll come across is references to the various ill advised internet activity that has had an impact on their career and credibility.
Seriously folks, don’t drink and post.
And if you must, absolutely must, post about something difficult, then you might want to reconsider HOW you do it. For instance, if you are going to write about bad reviews then do it. You can write about it in a calm and logical way without the need to do the written equivalent of screaming in the bathtub. Write about the topic, but don’t how us play-by-play. As a friend of mine likes to say when one of us steps out of line, it’s time to put your crazy back in the box.
Social networking makes fools of us all at some stage.
Big deep breaths folks.