I've been working pretty steadily today, and it wasn't until around 4:30 p.m. that I went to let my dogs out into the backyard that I realized what absolutely gorgeous weather we're having in the DC metro area. It's sunny, with no humidity, and a temp in the mid-70s. You can wear shorts, but you don't have to. When I walked outside, I thought: Why, it could be San Diego here today! The breeze blew. The clouds shifted. My hosta and daylilies are in bloom, our tulip tree a leafy green canopy for the hammock. I grabbed my laptop, a book, and the phone, and ran for the porch.
Reader, I tarried not. Despite spraying myself from head to toe with insect repellent, the mosquitos arrived within scant minutes of my settling down on the chaise. (I don't think I ever realized that they'll bite palms; now I have the welts to prove that they do.) I sprayed the air around me, gave myself another coat (including under hems of trousers and t-shirt), and lit a penny citronella candle to the skeeter gods, all to no avail. They attacked, and attacked, and attacked. One particularly ill-adapted mosquito tried repeatedly to draw blood from the aluminum case of my laptop (I went all POTUS on her).
This savagery was thug-like and instinctual. It reminded me of some of the hazards we all face when we put ourselves out into the social-media arena. For many years, I've been commenting to fellow freelance writers that anything we say, even on password-protected message boards, can and will be used against us. (When you join a message board, you are not necessarily aware of all of its members; on the one I'm thinking of, lots of magazine editors joined simply to lurk and see what was being said about them!) If you don't mind everyone knowing about your spouse's intimate surgery issues and how they are affecting your emotions, fine -- but remember, sometimes familiarity breeds contempt (and editors sometimes back away from hiring writers who sound overwhelmed and unstable).
Things have gotten even more immediate with the advent of Facebook and Twitter and their ilk. Now instead of one editor backing slowly away from you, you can have hundreds racing for the door if you send out the message that you're not playing by established rules.
Now, when the equation is balanced thusly: Freelance writers + Editors = Well-Known Authors + Their Readers, you may know what I'm talking about. Or not. It doesn't really matter if you're aware of the latest literary skirmish. What does matter, I believe, is that we all remember that what we say in social-media venues isn't personal and private. It's not actually intimate, even though it sometimes feels that way, due to the easy collapse of time/space on these sites.
Unfortunately, the "stings and arrows" felt when a tweet turns into a misunderstanding of larger proportions can hurt. Even when behavior is thuglike and instinctual, it can cause welts. Fortunately for the itchy, insect-gotten kind, there's Benadryl.
What do we all need to know about social-media etiquette? I wouldn't want us all to have to stay in the proverbial house, not coming out to "play" on sites because we're nervous about how our messages will be taken.