Nothing gets deleted on the internet – know this

I’ve recently been reminded of that all-powerful law of the internet which is: nothing gets deleted.

Nothing.

Careful- things could blow up in your face

It could blow up in your face

Even if you delete something you’ve written, someone somewhere has probably made a copy of it, or commented on it, or referenced it somewhere else. Trust me, it’s still out there.

And don’t even get me started about backup and cached copies. Information lives on.

In some ways this can work to your benefit. You have proof that you were on one side of an argument, or that you came up with an idea first (thanks to time stamps), but (and that should really be a large “BUT”) here’s where it can bite you in the butt –  the internet is not the place to take your petty arguments and your insecurities.

Especially if you are trying to establish a writer’s platform.

Witness the Lynn Shepard fiasco where she demanded that J. K. Rowling stop writing for adults and stick with YA to give other writers a “chance.” I’m willing to bet that that little poorly thought-out rant will follow Ms. Shepard to her grave.  As long as a copy of that post exists, there will be continued outrage.

Which is why, as a writer, you have to be very careful about what you put out there. A slip, a moment where your emotions take over from your brain and your reputation can be damaged for years to come.

Is it fair? Should you always have to toe the line just because you have a platform?

The answer is yes, but only if you want people to believe the credibility of your message. It’s all about impressions, baby.

Some people try to stir things up on purpose. If your intent is to incite, then go ahead, but be prepared for the fallout. Have your counter arguments lined up and be sure to put your flame-proof suit on before you press that Enter button. If your role is to incite then be good and consistent about it, don’t then switch to world class whining – you’ll confuse your audience.

And a confused audience is one that leaves you.

If you are pissing and moaning about life and feel the need to dump on everyone, then be prepared for the backlash. When you publicly say that you can’t stand your neighbor, don’t be surprised when things get frosty at the mailbox. And when you trash a beloved author, be prepared for the (not necessarily fair, but understandable) one star reviews you end up getting on your work.

I’ve been asked to design on online blogging course for the college where I currently teach Technical Writing. Part of my class is going to cover netiquette (polite societal rules for blogging.) Another section in my class is going to be awareness and repercussion of actions. If you are going to publish on the internet (or anywhere for that matter) consider the implications to your reputation as a writer and to your platform, first and then write your piece second.

How do you avoid these sometimes tempting but always embarrassing lapses? Just as you can’t write a book without knowing what its purpose is, you shouldn’t ever write anything for the internet without knowing its purpose.

Ever.

You must always know why you are putting fingertips to keyboard.  What’s the message you want to convey and perhaps more importantly, how is it that you want to convey that message?  And also is that message consistent with your platform?

If it’s not, then you need to decide if it’s worth the potential fallout.

If you want to be seen as a pulled-together writer, then you have to present the same coherent message at all times. A lapse in judgment – like Ms. Shepard’s – can do more damage to your career as a writer than you might think.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

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Success follows doing what you want to do. There is no other way to be successful.

Malcolm Forbes

Photo credit: Freidwall

17 thoughts on “Nothing gets deleted on the internet – know this

  1. Excellent point.

    And more than a few bloggers seem to disregard the fact that the use of profanity and/or vulgar language (which I see at some non-WordPress political blogs) could really come back to haunt them.

  2. I have a policy in life to never say something about another person that I am not prepared to say to their face and not to commit to paper anything that I would not wish my worst enemy to get their hands on. As a rule it works out well and as I have seen other people take hits to themselves because they did not consider everything it has only reinforced itself over time.

  3. Yes, yes, and yes. This “it lives forever” philosophy to approaching the internet is vital not just to writers, but to everyone. I try to make it clear to every young person I meet, because every photo or post or rant will live in infamy for all eternity, even if you’re not prepared for it to.

  4. Wendy, Thank you for reminding us why civility is important.

    Before the internet, if someone said something bad about a person, they could always slap their face off or punch them in the nose. I think John Dillinger said, “An armed society, is a polite society.”

    When the internet came along, with all its supposed anonymity, people started acting like jerks – about the same time normal social interactions became more coarse and vulgar. People stopped acting with honor, and started shaming themselves.

    The NSA and Google admitted what they were doing, and that all these people hiding behind dozens of email accounts might actually be found out. Maybe this is enough to shake people back into a mindset of accountability and transparency, that it isn’t okay to be a bully or a hate monger.

    Maybe, just maybe, we can return to a more polite society. Only, we won’t need to carry swords or six-shooters.

    Thank you, Silent

  5. I try to walk a fine line when writing about my divorce. It’s my story, and I consider it anonymous(ish), but there is always the possibility that my soon-to-be-ex or my children might someday see it. Thank you for the reminder. I will try to continue to be true to myself when telling my story, but not hurt anyone.

  6. I was recently reminded of that same “all-powerful law of the internet” when I googled my name. I was horrified to find a “Livejournal” account that I had completely forgotten about. I’d kept it as a teenager, a silly silly teenager, and needless to say, it was full of silly silly things!
    Figuring out the password and getting it deleted was a fiasco.

  7. Pingback: Posts I loved this week | Taylor Grace

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