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. 

 

 

 

Comments
by SDFicklin on ‎06-29-2009 07:06 PM

I think if you are a professional, it's important to remember that private, or not these sites are how people see you. A wise agent told me at the beginning of my writing career to Google myself and see what came up. Not having much of a web presence at the time except my "personal" myspace page, I was shocked. There were lots of pictures (not professional ones, either) and links to my private weblog. It was the last stuff I wanted a potential editor or agent to see if they took the time to look me up!

So now everything I do online is done with the knowledge that a potential boss, or investor, or whatever may be looking at it. Taking a vested interest in your professional web image is an absolute must, and it's worth the effort!

by on ‎06-29-2009 07:40 PM

This is funny, or not.....I was thinking this same thing...Google...dontcha love it! 

 

A couple of years ago I Googled my pin name...the one I use here on B&N...Ha!  Bingo!  Back it took me to some comment I'd made on a book discussion board.  Thankfully, it was halfway intelligent!  I don't have the foggiest idea why these comments are important enough to show up on the internet!  And yes, I've known these boards are not a safe haven....

 

.......But sometimes you get familiar and comfortable with the person you're talking to....and forget....and say some really stupid things!  We can forget it's like living in a a fish bowl....or a glass house!  Watch out for flying rocks and fall-out!

by Moderator Melissa_W on ‎06-30-2009 12:36 AM

Great mosquito analogy! :smileyhappy:

 

There are always two things to remember about electronic communication: 1) it is very hard to convey the "tone" in a written communique (even with all the smilies, etc. available) and 2) once it's out in the Internet Ether it's out there, and there's no getting it back.

 

As a DC for a chemistry fraternity, we're always very conscious of the ways the fraternity is portrayed on Facebook, etc. (we always make it a point to note that if you're going to something really dumb it's best just not to take a picture while doing it because some bozo will put it on the web, even if said dumb thing isn't illegal but just in poor taste).  Same goes for internet rants - even if it's just blown off steam it doesn't take long to get around the globe.

by on ‎06-30-2009 01:05 AM

ALWAYS google yourself. Just watch a bit about how in France companies are googleing any job seeker. Over 60% are not getting the job they put in, simply because those companies did not like their facepage, ect..

 

Think of it this way; everything you post or type will always be somewhere on the web. 

 

Myself I've delt with photos that I did not post or even knew were taken. Having them pulled down, just to have them pop up on a other site.  And again, and again. Each site you have to ask them to pull each photo down. But they are out there and they will pop up again.

 

Having a half a page of a letter that went to an authors site. Chopped up and put on the first page of someone's I HATE site. The original letter had more love than, I pissed in it. But some kid took what they wanted of what I wrote and did as they pleased.

 

If it's out there, you never know when or what form it will pop up in again.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎06-30-2009 10:39 AM

Ah, Bethanne, you've nailed it: everything lasts forever in cyberspace, and we've all been stung in one way or another. I once attended a pro bloggers conference and, astoundingly, heard more than one blogger complain that what they'd written online had been used "against them" by potential employers, in court cases,etc.  After sitting through an entire small group workshop of folks lamenting the abuse of their First Amendment rights, I asked: What made you think the Internet was anonymous? To which everyone replied...well, nothing; blank stares abounded.

Authors might try to understand that what they write online remains on record and colleagues, editors, agents, media, etc., are savvy and will google them to make sure a) authors are professional and legit and b) authors haven't literally gone on record tearing down the googlers' themselves or their agencies, houses, etc. 

 

There's another popular saying that might translate well here, but it's quite base and has something to do with where one places one's chamber pot in relation to one's eating quarters.  Something to keep in mind when networking socially in places where industry's sure to lurk -- and they're sure to lurk everywhere you do.

 

 

by on ‎06-30-2009 12:33 PM

In the age of instant information, where Tweats and Facebook postings are literally a key stroke away, self-editing is self-evident

 

 

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