This month I got to see another author flame out on social media, annihilating their career in essentially seconds by failing to understand one, simple rule: social media is incompatible with professional life. Facebook was designed for college kids looking for dates. Twitter was designed for… actually, I don’t know who it’s for, but it’s turned out to be a receptacle for the absolute worst of the online worst. These are not venues for professionals to discuss anything of substance, and that goes doubly for anything beyond the most superficial.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I fell into all the online traps, like flame wars and political posts and all that, though I was self-aware enough to know when enough was enough. In at least a couple of cases over the last few years, I’ve seen authors who really ought to know better put their whole head in front of the social media shotgun and pull both triggers. An ugly image, but not much less so than the offending online behavior in question.
Want to post pictures of your dog? Your food? Sunsets in Tahiti? Go nuts. Want to present yourself as a person who knows what’s appropriate to share with strangers and what isn’t? Stay away from social media. The temptation is far, far too great to step over the line of propriety, and once that line is crossed, there really is no coming back. Maybe some of the biggest and most powerful figures can put their foot in it repeatedly, but not you, dear reader. You are going to burn in Internet Hell.
It’s important to remember that the online world consists of millions of people you don’t know and will never know. If you wouldn’t stand directly in front of every single one of those people and say the exact same things you write, you are asking for trouble. Don’t share your politics. Don’t share your personal travails. Do yourself a favor and don’t even name your favorite Beatle. Not only does no one care about any of that stuff, but it’s really none of their business, anyway. Every person’s heartfelt opinion is another person’s outrage, so keep yours to yourself if you want to keep working.