I’m on a lot of forums and I spend a fair amount of time on Facebook. It always amazes me how many people, especially writers, who dig very deep holes for themselves. This is from someone who has swallowed his own size 11’s on more than one occasion.
The internet provides plenty of opportunities to commit career suicide and destroy valued relationships. When such an opportunity presents itself, you must resist. Let me say this again, RESIST.
Resistance is not futile. You can and you must resist any self destructive urge that makes you post or do something online without thinking. The trick is to recognize when that moment is upon us.
Once something is on the internet, it’s there for posterity. This is especially dangerous for writers since we are judged by how and what we write. People might assume things about your books based on forum and blog posts. For example, you could have written the next best selling romance novel but if you come across as a mysoginistic scumbag, you might alienate your target audience (unless you are looking to sell books to other mysoginistic scumbags). Another example is posting on a forum and stating that you don’t respect the opinions of other forum members or their opinion isn’t as important as ((fill in current media darling here)) and the board’s membership includes people who you want to sell your book to, be prepared not to make many sales.
I’m not saying you should be an angel or the milk of human kindness. If you want to be a tool, go for it. Just make sure that is the way you want to come across. People might not like what you have to say or how you say it and there will be consequences. That’s the way things are. Think before you hit the reply button or post that rant on Facebook.
Above all, stay away from doing anything dishonest or shady. You’ll get caught. It might not be today or tomorrow but it will happen. When it does happen, there will be hell to pay. People don’t like being misled and the internet is the perfect place to get virtually lynched.
That said, sometimes you might end up going down that dark path. You can always save yourself. Be ready to step back and look at things with an open mind or from another point of view. If you insulted someone (either intentionally or unintentionally), you can fix things with a simple apology. The same thing goes if you did something to piss people off. A short yet sincere apology does wonders. Stay away from the more complex and long drawn out ones, those usually result in a deeper hole.