Beware the Dark Side of the Web

.001I have a question for you: have you ever stopped to look—really look—at a spider’s web?

Take a moment to study the image above. Look beyond the incredibly beautiful intricacies of something woven by such a tiny creature (because wow, it really is awesome). See more than the water droplets and the silken strands. Instead, pay attention to the interconnectedness: how every strand is attached to all the others, from the very centre to the farthest edges. And just for a moment, think about the purpose of that interconnectedness: how, no matter where an insect touches on that web, its presence is signalled through every fiber so that the spider will know it is there.

Now think about those three Ws  you type in at the beginning of an Internet address (i.e. www.yourdomainname.com). Those Ws stand for World Wide Web: the original—and far more descriptive—name for the Internet, because a web is exactly what it is. A web that has become so much a part of our everyday lives that too many of us fail to appreciate (or have forgotten entirely) its nature. And just as every strand of the spider’s web is interconnected, so is absolutely everything you see or do on the Internet. Whatever you write, whatever you post, whatever words you put out there, it all becomes a part of that web–with the potential for thousands of paths to lead back to it. Forever.

I cannot stress enough how critical it is that you appreciate this, because as wonderful as that interconnectedness can be when you’re promoting yourself or your books,  there is a dark side to the web, too—and more than one unwary author has fallen prey to it.

You see, just like the web pictured above, the World Wide Web has its own spiders lurking, waiting for a fly to become ensnared. React badly to a negative review, post something inappropriate about your publisher or editor, get snarky with another author or a blogger, and you will become that fly. The presence of your words will travel through every fibre of the Internet’s web faster than you ever thought possible. Your words will be shared and re-shared, criticized, shredded, and mocked. Before you can blink, you’ll be trussed up and sucked dry, and your writing (or blogging) career will be a dried up, empty husk. (Trust me, this is not the kind of online presence you’re looking for. 😉 )

No matter how hurt or angry you might be about a review or blog post or whatever, decide now that you won’t react to it online. Grow a thick skin, learn to turn the other cheek, develop a network of friends you can vent to (privately!), take out shares in your favourite chocolate ice cream company, or scream into your pillow if you must, but never post anything that might come back to haunt you. Not sure if something you’ve written is appropriate? Here’s a checklist to help you decide:

  1. If your grandmother would cringe at your words, don’t send them out into the world.
  2. If you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger on the street and tell him/her what you’re thinking, you shouldn’t be telling a stranger on the Internet, either.
  3. If you’re angry or upset when you write something, give yourself 24 hours before you hit send or post. If, after rereading it, you’re still not sure whether you should share it, don’t. Keep that one to yourself.

The bottom line? Whenever you’re on the Internet, always, always understand and be aware of how very connected you are—and how much of a target you can become. Play nice, treat others with the respect you’d like yourself, and you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the many, many connections without becoming inextricably entangled in them. 😉

P.S. You may also be interested in Basic Online Etiquette for Authors


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