In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t blogged in several weeks. There are two reasons for this. Number one, I re-read the first five pages of my novel. “Ugh.” So I revised them. Then I re-read pages six through ??. “Ugh—Ugh—Ugh.” So I’m revising the entire thing (again).
The second reason is that I am afraid of blogging. Or rather, I’m afraid that I will say the wrong thing on my blog and ruin my reputation, hurt someone else, or create a disaster from a single careless word. For that matter, Twitter, Facebook and commenting on other people’s blogs make me paranoid, too.
I can’t tell you how many times I have written a comment (or tweet or status update) only to hit “delete” because there might be negative repercussions from writing it. I’ve deleted blog posts before they became blog posts, edited out certain true-life stories, and changed names and identifying details on certain blog stories. (I note when I do this.) This morning, I was writing a different post and thought of the perfect detail to share, but I don’t know how to tell the story without people possibly recognizing themselves. (Assuming they read this blog, which is doubtful.)
What if that person googles me and reads that comment about that situation? Even if I don’t name names, will they realize who or what I’m writing about? Will this hurt them? Will this fuel anger in regard to an already bad situation? Will it be construed as gossip—slander—mean-spirited nastiness?
It’s not entirely impossible. Any number of well-known people have lived to rue the nanosecond they hit “publish”. Recently, I read about a former literary agent who was apparently well-regarded in a certain segment of the industry. This person made some choices that others didn’t think were ethical, published some ill-advised, inflammatory blog posts regarding these choices, and eventually left agenting.
I’m being as vague as possible since I don’t know this person or all the circumstances, only the gist of the situation. But when I read the blog posts, I kept shaking my head, thinking, no, no, NO, don’t say that, PLEASE don’t say that, DON’T GO THERE! . . . And this agent did go there, did say that.
In college, I learned my lesson—the only way I ever seem to learn it!—the hard way. I had just begun using email and didn’t realize how easy it is to tell too much of the truth in reply to a question. I also didn’t think about how easy it was to click “forward” or how easily written words can be misunderstood. I made some poor choices and got hurt. Thank goodness Facebook, Twitter and this blog didn’t exist then.
Now I try to never be online when I’m having a bad mental health day. No blogging. No Twitter. No Facebook. No email. Nothing. It would be too easy to be indiscreet or hostile during a weak moment.
Similarly, if I find myself increasingly angry at an online discussion I’m reading, I get offline. This is what I did after Casey Anthony was acquitted; I wanted to respond to hateful remarks with hateful replies, so I forced myself to shut down the computer, calm down and decide how best to respond.
Hitting “publish” to a post—clicking “share” on a status update—tapping the “tweet” button to my hundreds of Twitter followers—it’s a minor thrill to see my words plastered on a computer screen. It’s a thrill to have replies to my posts. But the thrill doesn’t ovecome my fear that one careless word will undo me or hurt other people.
Have you ever posted something online, only to regret it later? Or are you like me and fear the repercussions of everything you write online?