Thursday, 26 January 2012

STOP! Don’t Press that send button

I hate mingling (unless my boss is reading this in which case I LOVE networking, love it!), can’t stand big crowds, parties or large events and am allergic to ‘organised fun’. My favourite night out is a few friends, a cosy pub or restaurant, wine, food and good conversation; I avoid Christmas parties like the plague. As for phones, I won’t even phone up for a takeaway and make my long-suffering OH organise play dates etc if human interaction is called for.

Social media on the other hand, well you get all the nice parts of socialising; the fun, the humour, the support, the drama - all without needing to actually, you know, SPEAK to anyone. 

Did I say drama? There’s been a lot of drama recently. Now, I admit, I am just a tad hot headed. A weeny bit impulsive, a smidge emotional and, if pressed, will admit to a touch of the dramatics. I get riled, I get upset, I get emotional.

I am probably a fairly typical writer.

One of the hardest parts about growing up is learning to think before I speak, not to fly off the handle. To try and control my temper.

But the thing with email, texting, tweeting, blogging, commenting is that it’s all pretty instant – just like face to face interaction is. Once you press ‘send’ it’s out there, it’s gone. And you can delete, pull posts but someone somewhere has got a screengrab and they will be more than willing to post it.

Whether it’s the YA and romance writers griping at those who don’t think their work is the heartbreaking work of staggering genius their gran tells them it is, writers laying down rules for what they consider a ‘real’ review to be (either an academic treatise with footnotes or positive), an inexplicably single sci-fi writer (he highlights the single bit himself!) accusing all romance writers including Austen of 9th grade childishness and ability (that's about age 14 for those of us not in the U.S. I know some pretty mature 14 year olds actually) and then deleting all the comments on the blog he doesn’t agree with, well, the blogosphere has been alight with controversy the last two weeks.

It’s not just writers. All of us are guilty of hitting ‘enter’ on a tweet, email or FB post before we think about it – and we can’t all blame our Interns for sending inappropriate tweets (I’m looking at you office of Ed Milliband and Tom Watson’s #savetheintern). What we need to learn to do online is breathe, think and wait. We need to not fly off the handle on-line, just as we try not to in real life.

A colleague recently told me he has an email folder in which he files anything that makes him want to press ‘reply’ and compose an angry rant. He files the incendiary device in the folder, has a cuppa, does something else, sleeps on it and then replies. It’s pretty sound advice. 

So breathe. Rant to your nearest and dearest (privately NOT on Twitter or your blog comments). Spend 30 mins on the boxing section of your Wii Fit. Write the rant you want to write then save it and sleep on it. I can guarantee that when you read your imapssioned rant in the clear light of a fresh morning you'll be glad you didn't let it into the public domain to be laughed at. 

You're a writer and everyone on the internet is your potential reader. They might not be put off by a bad review but they will be put off by bad behaviour. 

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