Monday, March 26, 2012

The Internet is Forever

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.


JeffO said...

Great advice, Mindy, and something I warn my kids about all the time, along with some corollaries: 'there's a video camera everywhere,' and 'everyone has a Youtube account.'

Jemi Fraser said...

So true. We really do have to be aware of everything we say and do online - just as we should in our 'real' lives. The internet has a very long memory :)

Angela V. Cook said...

Great post and so true! But this doesn't just apply to aspiring writers--everyone should be careful of what they put on the internet. I have family members who plaster their entire life stories (the good and the bad) on Facebook, and it has already come back to haunt them a couple of times. My rule--if I wouldn't go to a family get-together and announce it, I don't put it on the internet.

Again, great post!

Sophie Perinot said...

Preach it sister! Yes, as Angela points out this doesn't just apply to authors, BUT writing is one of those professions where your good name is a huge part of your brand (Drs, lawyers, etc too). A book is not a widget -- nobody cares (or generally even knows) who makes their widgets or what that persons opinions and passions are. But people do follow the authors of their books.

Christopher Hudson said...

I don't know, Mindy ... when I post something on Fazebook, the only response I get is, well, nothing ... I've never gotten a response, let alone any reposting it somewhere.

Jean Oram said...

The other day I discovered I can go back to what my blog looked like over 5 years ago using's Wayback Machine. It's a free service. It isn't the only service out there, either. If you give people a reason to dig--they will.

The Internet is forever.

Thanks for bringing this up, Mindy.

Bethany C. said...

Wise words, BBC.
(don't editors/agents know we'll ALWAYS take their calls?!)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Jeff - you're right. Everyone has a smartphone now that can take video. This is why I don't go to the beach.

Jemi - I'm just waiting for it to go AI and decide it hates me. Then we're screwed.

Angela - Very true. I think a lot of people throw stuff out there expecting a certain reaction, and when they don't get it, they become defensive. And defensive is never sexy.

Sophie - Absolutely. As a girl who follows movies I can tell you that after one or two "celebrity meltdowns" over the past few years there are certain people I'll never support again. Even though we're not high profile, we're still out there.

Christopher - Well, part of the problem might be that you're using Fazebook and not Facebook.

Jean - Yep. You gotta watch your azz.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Bethany - Yeah, I think my agent considered throttling me that day.

Darke Conteur said...

I hope more new writers understand this. I have to wonder how many have ranted about the whole querying agents process while they're querying, only to lose out because of the same rant.

April Tucholke said...

Yeah, the phone thing. The pressure, the pressure. Be concise. Be polite. Be interesting. Don't allow for any long awkward pauses. No do-overs. This is not my style.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Darke - Well, hopefully they follow FTWA :)

April - Yeah. Exactly. Which is why I usually just opt out!

Christopher Hudson said...

Mindy, I keep thinking they're just trying to faze us.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Hang in there Chris! Remain unfazed!

E.B. Black said...

The problem is, being afraid of this very thing caused me to only blog in a mechanical manner when I first started blogging. I made sure to never, ever say anything personal.

I'm not a celebrity though and it's very likely that I ever will be, so a high level of paranoia is unnecessary.

That being said, all that you just said is true and why I try to keep my opinions of other people in the business to myself unless they are entirely positive.

Mindy McGinnis said...

It's true, E.B. you have to make sure you're true to yourself and not offensive at the same time. Not as easy as it sounds.