A very wise woman once told me never to talk about politics, religion, sex, or money at a cocktail party unless you like an argument or want to go home with a drunk.
The internet is like a great, big cocktail party, except we’re all usually in our pajamas and don’t often see the repercussions from our words, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you are a writer, or a public person, you need to heed these words. It’s for your own good. Honestly.
Things you might not want to talk about online:
- Politics.I completely understand being passionate about the subject, but choosing one side means isolating the other. If you are a writer, you don’t want to alienate half of you audience.
- Religion.You’ll never know who you’ll offend with this one so just don’t go there. Yes, I would love to hear about your experiences as a Wiccan high priestess, but some of your readers might not. They may try to convert you to their religion or even (egads) stop reading your books. As I said already, don’t go there.
- Sex.There is definitely such a thing as TMI, and there is also such a thing as too many racy photos. Moderation is the key. There is a difference between a sexy post and a trashy post – and one person’s sexy is another person’s trashy. Be careful.
- Money.No one ever asked me how much I made until I became a writer. Since then, I’ve had several people bring it up. Directly. It’s very strange. Don’t talk about money in your posts. Don’t brag about how much you’ve made or whine about how poor you are. No one wants to hear it.
- My perfect life. Everyone is happy you are happy, but no one has a perfect life. There is a fine line between sharing good news (with a proper dose of humor and modesty) and bragging. Make sure you don’t cross that line.
- Kids. This is a tough one for me. My in-laws and many of my friends live overseas and I share lots of info (sometimes too much info) about my children because I want them to feel more connected to our lives. Not everyone online is a doting grandmother or a loving uncle, though. Sharing too much might not only be boring, it can also be dangerous. And never EVER share anything that could be potentially embarrassing to your child. Some of my writer friends use code names for their children to avoid using their real names on line. I often call mine the extremely original “oldest son, middle son, and youngest son.” Do what works for you.
- Negative Stuff. In general, keep it positive. If you are negative, make it funny. Don’t say mean things about people. Don’t post about your misery. It’s just as annoying as posting about your perfect life. I’ve read posts that sounded like a cry for help, and others that were just sad. And needy. Don’t pretend to be happy if you aren’t, but don’t air your dirty laundry in front of strangers. There are people out there who don’t have your best interests at heart. If you are in pain, call a friend. Don’t send it out into the void.
- Your books. This might seem counterproductive, but talk about something besides your books online. My super agent, Marlene Stringer of the Stringer Literary Agency, said to follow the one-third rule. Talk about your books one third of the time. Talk about (and promote) other books one third of the time. Use the remaining one third of the time to talk about something else. If you talk about nothing but your books and your writing all of the time, you will lose readers. And friends.
- Gross stuff. I’m really sorry about the gaping wound on your foot, but do I want to see it? No. Please – NO.
- Share your passions and be yourself.This may seem like the opposite of what I advised above, but it’s important to talk about what you enjoy. I love coffee, books, and wine (not always in that order), and I post about those things often. Very often. Maybe too often. But it makes my readers feel a connection to me, because they know my enthusiasm is genuine. Be real. Be passionate. But don’t be annoying.
No matter how hard you try, or how diplomatic, kind, and light-hearted you might be, you will insult someone eventually. When it happens, apologize and move on. Don’t respond to negative posts. Ignore them or delete them. If you jump into the mud, you’ll get dirty, too. And getting clean again in a public forum is a difficult thing to do.