Push button publishing is cool. Everybody's little home business can say its piece. We can discover levels of genius to which we would never have been exposed without the internet. Everybody has a voice.
But there’s a problem with everybody having a voice. Everybody has a voice.
I am consistently shocked, and re-shocked, and re-shocked again by the stupidity of some of the things I read on the internet. Blog posts, comments, tweets — man, people are mighty dumb sometimes.
Seriously. What the hell are these people thinking?
What seems to get forgotten by 79% of the people on the Internet is that it doesn’t go away. It is completely public, uncontrollable, and it exists forever.
You will be on Google forever. Forever, forever, forever.
You can delete your own blog, but you can’t control who’s already seen it. But other people’s comments? Forum posts? Even emails? They. Do. Not. Go. Away.
People forgive. They don’t forget.
I’ve seen comments lately, as well as umpteen social media updates, that make me cringe to read them. Are these people going to be happy with themselves when the hangover has worn off?
Here’s the thing. You are entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to broadcast your opinion. You are not entitled to control what other people think about it. And that’s the problem.
Here are some ideas:
Do not comment when drunk. Do not blog when drunk. Do not tweet when drunk. Keep in mind, you can be a little silly and tipsy, but if you’re a snarky drunk or an angry drunk or a maudlin drunk or a stupid drunk — and let’s face it, most of us can be described as at least one of these — get yourself a bottle of water and walk away.
If you have a personality disorder that causes you to have major mood swings, do not comment when you’re in a bad mood. You won’t think the same way later, and you’ll either feel or look like a jackass. Bookmark and come back if you have to.
If you don’t know all the facts, put the laptop down, Tolstoy. How many times have you read a nasty snarky comment and then read the backpedal later that says, “Oh. I didn’t realize that”? Do you want to be that person?
If it’s none of your business, shut up.
If you’re specifically commenting as a marketing strategy, don’t comment when your site sucks. If you’ve been posting things lately that are highly off topic, you haven’t posted in six months, or your last four posts have been lousy link posts, you will be wasting a first impression. You don’t have to wait for perfection, but at least wait for mediocrity.
Remember when somebody told you — and somebody ALWAYS tells you — that if you wouldn’t want it printed in the newspaper, you shouldn’t put it in an email? Emails are generally read by one person. Blog comments, Twitter rants, and Facebook snarkiness can be read by thousands.
Do not turn somebody else’s comments into the All About Joe Show. How many times have I read something on a big expert blog that talks about, say, newsletter marketing, and some genius with 8 subscribers comes in and takes four paragraphs to talk about, “Well, in my newsletter, I’ve experienced…”? If the writer is asking for your input or your experience, awesome. But if you do talk about your own experience, make it relevant. If you respond personally to every blog comment — all three of them — don’t go around flaming the Technorati Top 100 for not responding to each and every one of theirs. Apples and oranges, dude.
If all else fails, qualify. Say it’s a rant. Say you’re in a bad mood. Say you didn’t take your happy pills today. Whatever. Just don’t leave it alone and bitch.
Finally, keep in mind that the internet is not all about you. In the vast majority of cases, nobody cares what you think. Feel free to say it anyway, but be aware that nobody wrote an article because they wanted your specific input. You are not God. And even if you were God, you don’t hear Him talking shit in the comments, do you?