In this electronic world, an icon or avatar is the pictorial representation of our alter ego or character. This is the image that appears beside our user-name on every comment we post in any forum on the internet, and is our internet face.
We carefully select what we put up to represent us because we want people to see us as who we think we are.
The common courtesy that we would extend in a face-to-face conversation should extend into our online conversations. These conversations are places where we are represented in two ways: by the picture we have selected as our ‘icon’ or ‘avatar’ and by what we write in the comments sections of public forums.
How we interact with other authors is public information and is visible to the world. When an interested reader Googles our author name, our online interactions at Goodreads and every other public forum will be available for eternity.
We must have a care about the way we behave. We are judged by the manner in which we act and react in every online interaction.
This brings me to the breach of common courtesy that brought this subject up in my mind. This turned up, posted on my Facebook author page, out of the blue:
Thank you Connie for the invite to your page coming to say hello and bring some love. Hope to have some in return here: https://www.facebook.com/—-/ Be sure to check out my writing group –(deleted group name)– where Writers can post blurbs, giveaways, get beta readers, and more here: https://www. facebook.com/groups/——-/
This was a surprise, as I had not ever to my knowledge met or spoken to this person, nor had I invited her to like my page. I don’t engage in those sorts of antics as I want readers to find my page. My author Facebook page is for readers to find my work, engage with me about it if they choose, and perhaps find a book they might like.
If you, as an author, are invited to ‘like’ another author’s Facebook page or website AND you choose to do so, it’s not appropriate for you to then post a comment on their page that you have done so and also post the links to your pages or books. The proper way to inform the author you have ‘liked’ their page is to send them a personal message saying you have done so and include those links in that message.
Some of these offenders have no idea how rude such behavior is. However, most do and don’t care, as they’re only interested in advancing themselves. These are what I think of as Toxic Professional Relationships, and I refuse to interact with them unless they are playing nice. I set boundaries.
Random authors who post ads and links for their books and websites are not welcome on my Facebook author page. Their posts are immediately deleted. I won’t disparage them, but I refuse to be a part of their PR team.
If you are desperate for FB likes and believe anything will help, there are groups out there on Goodreads for authors who want to engage in “Facebook Page Like Parties.” When I first began as an author, I was advised to do that. I ‘liked’ about 50 authors’ pages, and only about 10 of those ‘liked’ me back.
I soon realized that Goodreads ‘Like’ Parties didn’t help me find readers, which is what an author needs to do. I made a personal commitment to ‘like’ the pages of authors whose work I enjoy and not worry about whether or not they like my page in return because it doesn’t matter.
We are now seventeen years into the 22nd century. We live and interact in a world of the electronic ephemeral. It has no physical place in our lives as a tree or an animal might but the ramifications of what we do and say in that world are monumental.
The internet never forgets.
The internet is forever and deleting a comment you regret making won’t make it go away because it has already shown up in the in-boxes of all the users on that forum. We communicate instantly and frequently with no filters between the brain and the keyboard.
In this world of instant communication and myriad opportunities for damaging your own reputation, it is critical to think before you do.
To that end, I offer up this list of suggested “manners” for authors in the world of the internet. I didn’t invent them; they are copied directly from the website “Common Sense Media“ and made to apply to indie authors trying to make their way in the cruel world of the internet:
Rules for Online Etiquette
Context is everything. If you want to have a silly online name that conforms to the convention of a particular online community and only your friends there will see it, fine. But for more formal communication — like email addresses, posting comments, or anything to do with work or school — choose a respectable screen name (though not your real name) that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to utter out loud in front of, say, your grandmother. If it is an author related forum, it’s okay to use your author-name.
Double-check before you hit “send” or “post”: Could something you wrote be misinterpreted? Is it so littered with slang that it requires a Ph.D. in Urban Dictionary to be understood? Were you upset when you wrote it? Check to see if it’s rude, mean, or sarcastic. If so, don’t post it.
Take the high road (but don’t boast about it). Chatting, texting, and status updates are all “in-the-moment” communication. But if there’s an escalating sense of rudeness, sign off. No good will come of firing off a nasty comment. Authors (who are touchy, hypersensitive creatures at best) will NEVER forget how you flamed them. You can always write out a response to get something off your chest … without sending it.
Grammar rules. Rumors of grammar’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. (I love that line!) But again, context is key. An IM to a friend can dangle as many participles as you want, but anything more formal — for example, a public online comment or a note to a colleague — should represent your best self. This applies to capital letters, too. By now, everyone knows that writing in all caps means that you’re shouting, but it bears repeating once your kid starts interacting online.
Keep a secret. In today’s world, photos, texts, and videos can be posted, copied, forwarded, downloaded, and Photo-shopped in the blink of an eye. If you think something might embarrass someone, get them in trouble, compromise their privacy, or stir up drama of any kind, keep it to yourself — and maybe delete it from your timeline or the thread for good measure.
Remember the Golden Rule. Don’t post something online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. If you do have something negative to say, discussing it in person is a better way to resolve your issues. Post nothing on someone else’s wall that you would not be glad to have on your own.
These suggestions translate directly to Do No Harm.
Behave with dignity, and extend the common courtesies to others that you wish to have extended to you.
Credits and Attributions:
Common Sense Media 7 Rules to Teach Kids Online Etiquette posted 5/5/2011, accessed Jan 1, 2017
Eye on Flat Panel Monitor, Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Woman at Computer http://www.classroom-clipart.com/ and Microsoft CC-SA-3.0
Dog Using Laptop Computer CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)