Getting back to last week’s topic, let’s talk about speaking no evil. [Edited to add: After I finished typing up this post, I couldn’t believe that all I said really needed to be said, after all I write for adults. I then skimmed through a few things online and realized that it does still need to be said. To adults.]
There was a bit of confusion about what I meant last week, so I will endeavor to be more specific this week. As these three posts are intertwined, I hope it’ll clear up any lingering doubts as to what I meant.
I’m Rubber, You’re Glue
Who knows where I’m going with this already? I don’t know about you, but I can remember hearing I’m Rubber, you’re glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you! On more than one occasion, this little ditty echoed across the playground. I can’t believe I’m in my thirties and I’m about to tell you what it means.
When I was a kid this was often said by the kids who were picked on just before they ran to the bathroom for a good cry. Back then kids probably hoped it meant that the kids who called them stupid would, in fact, turn out to be the stupid ones—because I suppose we were fans of karma even if we didn’t know what karma was. But if we don’t take the literal approach to the rhyme, and we look at it a certain way, we can most definitely apply it to our lives as adults. Particularly with what we say in person and online.
Let’s forget for a moment that I am writing for writers. This applies to anyone, at any stage, and in any arena. I’m going to create a fictitious person really quickly for a few scenarios we’ll go over today. Let’s call her…Lucy. (If your name is Lucy or any derivative of Lucy, this post is not about you.)
Lucy is scrolling through Facebook and she sees a friend complaining about someone they both went to high school with. Lucy decides to chime in, and the two ladies get into an epic, long conversation about how terrible this person is. They haven’t seen him in decades, but man this guy was an asshole.
The next day, Lucy hears from another friend that the asshole from high school actually runs a charity now and is a philanthropist who is changing the face of something Lucy holds dear…and it turns out Lucy had hopes of working with this charity for an event she’s got going on soon. But, much to her chagrin, the
asshole from high school philanthropic heart-throb (did I mention he’s gorgeous?) saw the rant Lucy partook in on Facebook and now he’s decided to work with another event.
In this extreme scenario, Lucy probably wishes she’d kept her thoughts private. She didn’t, and now she has no one to blame except herself for any missed opportunities this might bring her way. (Because of course the dreamy philanthropist will probably out her as an idle gossiper to others in his circle.)
Pettiness Attracts Pettiness (And Repels Positivity)
Okay, now lets pretend that Lucy is an author. (Because I do write for you writerly folk) Lucy wrote a novel and it’s getting mixed reviews. Someone she thought she could count on for a five-star review (which isn’t something you should ever “count on” anyway) gave her a three-star review…so Lucy decides to employ something so devious she’s sure she’ll get away with it.
The device in question is called the subtweet. Don’t know what that is? Lucky you.
This is a concept I was introduced to a long time ago, and it’s one I see on a semi-regular basis. Here’s Lucy’s subtweet:
“It’s true what they say: you can’t count on anyone these days. That’s okay, sweetheart, I gave you a 5, when you deserved a 2. I still can’t believe you don’t know a clause from a predicate. #IllNeverForget #YouReapWhatYouSow #Bitch”
Lucy needs to chill, right?
Here’s the thing about subtweeting—at least from where I sit—if I see something like that, even though it’s not about me, I make a mental note not to work or collaborate with that person in the future. I know lots of people who feel that same way. In my opinion this does nothing but hurt the subtweeter, not the subtweetee. I’m positive I’ve been the recipient of a few of these for some reason or another, but if I was, I didn’t pay it any attention. (Besides, for a subtweet to really work, doesn’t the subtweetee need a guilty conscience? The whole point of this is to establish certain online ethics that will prevent my having a guilty conscience.)
It may have made Lucy feel better in that instant to post that, but there were probably a lot of missed opportunities as a result. Sadly, from what I’ve seen people who employ this sort of defense(?) mechanism do so often and with careless abandon. They develop a sort of reputation across whatever social media platform…and it’s rarely ever a good one.
And that level of pettiness often attracts that same level of pettiness. We could jump down the rabbit hole of what happens when the subtweeter becomes the subtweetee and what a subtweet battle (yes, those exist for some reason) might look like between Lucy and this other person…but I’m going to pretend this other person took the high road and left Lucy alone with her woes.
One thing rarely thought of when in the throes of one of these battles is that in battle, people must choose sides. You’re forcing people to choose you or someone else, and that’s not always a safe place to be…especially when you’re building a brand in a creative community. We’re already an alienated bunch of people, there’s no call for making it worse on anyone, yourself included.
Things Cannot Be Unsaid
This is one thing that still astonishes me. Let’s forget Lucy for a second and go back to the real inspiration behind these posts.
Did you see her video? The hour-and-some-change-long rant she posted to her Facebook page before she took it and her Facebook page down? If you didn’t, it’s still floating around the web somewhere.
Which is kinda the point.
There were a lot of things she said in that video I’m sure she wishes she hadn’t said. Let’s give you a short list:
1.| That despite people mistaking someone else’s book for hers, that her sales have not diminished and she’s doing just fine.
Why might she regret saying this? Because it may hurt her stance in court that she had to apply for that trademark because the confusion over Cocky was causing her lost wages.
2.| That calling her readers stupid is the same thing as calling them autistic.
Why might she regret that? Because it’s an asinine and hurtful comparison—one she quickly tried to deflect and blame on someone else.
3.| That she is the descendant of a slave.
Why might she regret that? Because again with the asinine. That was her big solution to deflect the rumors she was only seeking out authors of color with trademark enforcement.
The delightful thing about the internet is that you can say whatever you want. The horrible thing is that you can say whatever you want. What you want to say and what you should say (or not say, as the case may be) are not going to always be aligned with one another. And, repeat after me kids:
Nothing you say or post online ever goes away. You cannot outrun it.
And I can hear what some of you are thinking right now. Did I not just speak evil about Faleena Hopkins? Am I outing myself as the biggest hypocrite on my own blog post?
This is also where the confusion from last week came in. I’m not saying that certain things shouldn’t be discussed. What’s going on with Faleena and the trademark fiasco should be discussed. (Mind you, don’t be petty and 1-star her work for no reason!) If some troll starts DMing you unsolicited naked photographs, then by all means you can call them out publicly in the interest of saving your friends/followers the same fate. These are abuses being called out. There’s a difference. Please, please see the difference.
Beyond what Faleena said in that horrible, train wreck of a video, though, what people are saying in the wake of this debacle also cannot be unsaid. Some of it is truly vile. I understand the uproar…but c’mon.
This is a golden opportunity to band together and show the world that the indie community is A.) Not a community to take lightly and B.) As professional as any other.
Take my friend Vania, for example.
I guarantee you this woman has kept track of everything going on with this case because few people care more about this community than she does.
Vania has a new book coming out soon called Wherever He Goes. I’ve read it (at least a version of it) and it’s fantabulous. Go follow her and get it as soon as it comes out.
Also, Jewel E. Leonard has a book coming out really, really soon called Possession. I’ve also read it and it’s fantabulous, so go add these two ladies to your TBR list!
Okay, so we’ve discussed how your words can come back to bite you in your ass. We’ve discussed pettiness and subtweeting. What else is there?
Ranting is Perfectly Normal
Sometimes someone just pisses you off. It can’t be helped. People are people. We’ve discovered the human race is full of pettiness and spite, malice and vindictiveness.
But, ranting doesn’t have to be public. Sure, the words you say in private can also come back to bite you in the ass, so you’d better choose your tribe carefully.
Most of the time I prefer to air my grievances to my husband. It’s safe to say that most of the time the subjects don’t register with him anyway, he’s just there as my sounding board. But I know he won’t tell anyone because he loves me and he’ll forget in five minutes anyway.
Before you post anything online, especially if there are negative connotations, I urge you to pause and ponder what it might do to your reputation in the process. If you aren’t quite sure you’ll walk away unscathed, then maybe put away the tweet or the ‘gram or the FaBo post until after you’ve had some time to calm down and think things through.
[Full disclosure: I’ve said a lot of things online I wish I hadn’t. Not so much in recent years, but definitely in my past. I grew up, though. My mindset changed. My values and beliefs evolved. I am not preaching from a place of ignorance. I know what it’s like to rebuild my reputation not only among others, but for myself. And remember, nothing kills an apology like immediately reverting to old behaviors.]
All right, folks. That’s it. Next week we’ll end this impromptu series with seeing no evil. Have an awesome week!