by Mindy McGinnis
I'm from a small town. And by small I mean that even in the worst shape of my life I could run from one end to the other and not be winded.
As an adult, I love small-town life. As a teenager, I kinda wanted to blow up into a big mushroom cloud of venom every time I heard the phrases, "I heard that you..." or "Is it true that..."
I made a rule for myself in high school. If I was considering doing something, I needed to be sure that it was something I wouldn't care everyone knowing about. Because they would, eventually.
In a lot of ways, small-town life prepped me for using social media as an author. Anything you say is fair game, my friends. It can and will be posted, re-posted, copy-pasted, italicized, CAPS LOCK'ed and attributed to you over, and over, and over again.
And hitting the delete key won't make that go away. There are caches and screencaps to make sure that your words will hang around your neck like a big, fat, stinky albatross for the rest of your life. It's permanent e-gossip and it will haunt you right into your virtual grave only to be resurrected the next time you screw up and say something stupid.
With that in mind, I have three rules for anything I ever say on the internet—
1) I'd say it to my mom.
2) I'd say it about my mom.
3) I wouldn't be embarrassed if my mom knew I said it.
So you're thinking—okay, maybe when I'm published I'll watch what I say, but right now I don't exactly have a huge audience. Doesn't matter. Here's an example: when I was out on submission I wrote a post about not liking to talk on the phone. When my editor (God bless her understanding soul) Googled me, guess what she found out? I don't like to talk on the phone. In fact, I run from the phone when it rings and hide until the voicemail comes through.
My awesome soon-to-be editor (who has a lovely speaking voice, by the way), called up my agent and said, "So I'd really like to talk to Mindy, but I understand she doesn't like using the phone." And my awesome agent (who also has a lovely speaking voice), said, "She'll take your call. Not a problem."
And I did. And boy, am I glad.
Remember that next time you type something. I'm lucky that my little gaffe was innocent enough to be a laughing matter and a great ice-breaker, but I don't know that the same would be true if a Google search had brought up a blog post where I ranted against the establishment or was bad-mouthing a fellow writer.
The Internet is Forever.
And Your Mom is Always Right.
Mindy McGinnis is a YA librarian and author whose debut, Not a Drop to Drink, will be available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins in Fall 2013. She can be found kicking butt and taking names on both her blog and Twitter.