Ah, the internet. Born in the 60s, built in the 80s, commercialized in the 90s, it has become an integral part of life in the world. It lets people reach out to other people across the country and around the world. And other cliches! The best part about the internet? It gives everyone a voice and lets them speak and be heard in one of the most open idea exchanging media that the world has ever known.
The worst part about the internet? Anyone with a computer can read it.
I avoided talking about the situation a few weeks ago where a self-published book author went off on an online reviewer in a very public meltdown. But it’s worth looking at. The situation made a lot of people look bad, not just the original writer, but other writers who piled on in a very unprofessional manner. And now that’s out there. People’s names are attached to it. And some would-be writers have just made their path to publication that much more difficult because they decided to lash out under their name.
It’s the same thing we hear about all the time in the business world, how companies may now look up applicants on Facebook or Twitter to check out how they approach the internet, and whether they might not be the best fit for the corporation. It’s a new world out there, and people are approaching it having been either insufficiently educated as to the ramifications of the internet, or just not caring about them. Indiscretions are harder to slough off when they are associated with your name in a world-wide network that never forgets. Not really.
We see these meltdowns all the time. Most recently a famous cartoonist who I don’t care to namedrop was caught using a sock puppet account to go onto internet message boards and talk about how much of a “certified genius” he is. He has chosen to now double-down and rant about how there was no real harm done. But there is. It’s reputational harm, and he’s suffered it. And those writers who chose to unprofessionally attack one of their fellows in her moment of weakness suffered it.
It needs to be said: even if you’re not yet a famous author, if you have any hopes or aspirations of fame, you need to be aware now the kind of personality you’re creating on the internet, the self that you’re presenting to the world, the person that savvy internet users will be able to track down when they decide to learn more about you. It’s worth thinking to yourself “what will they find.” I’m not saying everyone is required to be a saint on the internet. You don’t have to stay out of political or religious discussions. You don’t have to moderate any and every opinion. Just, be aware. Be aware that your words will still be out there in a year, in five years, in a decade. And be aware of what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, who you’re saying it to.
But have fun. Network. Tweet. Provide status updates. Blog. For every danger that the internet creates, it also creates opportunities, the ability to connect and network, even the ability to connect today with fans in the future. Create the self you want people to see, and create the connections that, in the past, required face-to-face interactions at conventions. Just don’t forget that nothing on the internet ever completely goes away. Not really.
And while I’m talking about blogging. Over in my blog this week I’ve been talking about urban exploration, dead malls, Chernobyl, tasty Spanish food, and oh yeah, my latest Fortnightcap.