Once upon a time, I wrote something about someone in the white heat of extreme anger. This particular person had done something to me which, on reflection, I probably deserved. I’d been neither kind or understanding to them, and in fact I’d taken the piss out of not only how they’d acted, but how they chose to respond to me. Basically, it was the worst possible thing I could have written at that moment in time. Then, to make matters worse, if that was in fact possible at that point, I went ahead and posted it online where that person not only could see it, but respond if they chose. When did this happen, I hear you ask? 2001. This event took place sixteen years ago but I can remember it as if it was yesterday, because it resulted in a phone call to my home from someone I had never met.
When you write stuff on the Internet, you have to be prepared for the consequences.
When I watch certain people on Twitter, it becomes apparent that they genuinely don’t grasp the gravity of what happens when you press ‘Tweet.’ Of course, there are some people for whom having a Worldwide audience is the drug they’ve craved for decades, and those individuals are normally pretty easy to spot. They’re the ones that don’t care who they hurt, what they say or indeed if the truth is present in any of their output. When you blog, especially if there’s a decision to target specific people or a particular events, not naming names is really the best idea you’ll ever have. Don’t make things personal, use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, ensure that you can’t be considered as libellous… there are long lists of what morally should be considered for any work longer than 140 characters, written by people far more worthy than me.
In the past, I’ve unintentionally upset someone totally and completely by accident. I’ve conversely called out a troll who wouldn’t take ‘go away’ for an answer. I’ve reported numerous people for abuse and I have a blacklist on all of my blogs, because sometimes you won’t upset people by accident but by the simple expedient of disagreeing with them. Doing that with conviction, and having the confidence to defend any viewpoint, is probably more dangerous than having a swipe at your best mate for standing you up last week or poking fun at the bloke who served you take-out when you were pissed. As a rule, there are those on the Internet who will never take kindly to you not agreeing with them. If that is upsetting, writing blogs is probably not for you.
I have been told, too many times now to remember, that my ‘rude and dismissive’ attitude is why people don’t like me. Many bloggers might be here to try and win popularity contests, but my personal work is the way it is for a very good reason. When I launch the Internet of Words project in June, that will have a completely differing tone and style, and it may become necessary to set up a separate site to accommodate that as time goes on. I’m well aware of how to write for separate and distinct audiences, and that those who have gotten upset at my words get upset by lots of other things too that are nothing at all to do with me to begin with. You will not please everybody, it is a physical impossibility. However as a blogger you have a moral duty not simply to your audience, but more importantly to yourself.
Your words, like it or not, are ‘out here’ pretty much in perpetuity. You might think you can delete posts, but you really can’t. All this stuff has been recorded somewhere, and the more contentious your subject matter is, the bigger the potential to never take it back. So, this week’s advice is simple and succinct: don’t write anything you’re not prepared to stand by a year, a week, a decade from now. When you write, make every word matter, but always be mindful that even though you’re doing this for yourself, that’s not the only audience who’ll potentially consume it. For every rant made in the heat of anger there is always a consequence, as is the case with everything you will ever write. If that’s something you’re not prepared to stomach, then it’s time to stop writing.
If you can cope with that responsibility? It all gets better from now on.