“Careful what you say on the Internet,” whispers the nervous Nelly on an online forum, “An employer or an agent or editor might be listening.”
“Look,” says another, “Here’s a case where someone lost their job because of what they posted online.”
“I won’t buy a certain author’s book because of what she said about toasters,” says another with an imperious sniff.
“Oh-Noes!” cries the Greek chorus, “Beware! Beware! Beware!”
*Yes, this is me rolling my eyes back into my head. Lookie, gray matter!* No, it’s never a good idea to post nekkid pictures of yourself, or a detailed account of your cocaine-enhanced, X-Rated adventures with livestock, anywhere on the Internet. Including a locked-down, friends-only Facebook page.
But some people think that they must present a bland, milquetoast face to the online world or risk seeing their career unravel like an old sweater. Heaven forbid that they offend someone.
The truth is: “No. One. Gives. A. Shit.” And the few that do won’t make much of an impact on your sales, career, or dreams to be PTA president.
At any given time, someone is getting offended on the Internet. Let’s say you post this comment on a blog: “I only like black kittens.” Chances are good that someone will think, “That bitch hates white kittens, so I’m never buying her book.” That may seem like hyperbole, but I’ve seen Internet discussions blow up over the stupidest shit.
I find the agent thing extra amusing. Obviously, no agent wants to sign a complete psycho. (Or at least, they don’t want to work with a completely unknown psycho. If you’re a reality TV star who specializes in acting like a shit-flinging monkey, they’ll sign you in a milli-second.) Most agents are going to shy away from someone who spends their days bashing agents and the publishing industry.
The occasional posting about politics shouldn’t scare away a good agent. Some controversy is good. Yeah, you might chase away some buyers. For every person you chase off, there will be someone who agrees and buys your book.
An agent/editor/employer who gets offended or finds you abrasive probably isn’t a good match anyway. Case in point…
Several years ago, I was hired by a consulting company. Now the corporate culture of this company is best described as “stick up its ass.” More like, “Stick so far up its ass that it’s poking out the top of its head.” Even on my best professional behavior, I was about as welcome as a fart in an elevator. I hated that job.
At the time, the Internet and social media hadn’t entirely proliferated society. There was an Internet, but hiring managers didn’t routinely Google. (Plus, I didn’t have an online persona.) But, had then been now, that company would’ve save us both loads of grief with some Google-fu. Because I know my online self would be too abrasive for their fuzzy-wuzzy (and totally disingenuous) corporate culture. Did I mention I hated that job? Oy!
If you want to spend years pretending to be someone you’re not (and you’re not an actor), suppressing the real you until that important vein in your head explodes and you die, go for it. Maintain that squeaky clean Opie image. Or better yet, stay off the Internet entirely.
Otherwise, lighten up. Be real. Be interesting.
Writing of any kind is subject to criticism. That’s kind of the point; to illicit a reaction from the reader. If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not even trying.