There was a movie released a few years ago about an arrogant college student who felt that his own wit and capacity for greatness shielded him against the reality of his behavior. When he gets dumped, he takes to his blog and writes a nasty post about his ex. Later when he seeks to make up, she confronts him, rejects his apology and tells him: “The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.”
That’s not usually how it goes. Ask Thor Lund, a college student who wrote a blog post revealing what he’s learned about picking up women. In a 5,000 word scramble, Thor manages to cover a lot of ground. From his own mommy issues to how he creeped out his second girlfriend. From “She said no, she means it, get the fuck out,” to, ” If you really like her, tell her you can’t stand her. If you think she is pretty, make fun of her oversized purse.”
This is not good stuff, Mr. Lund. I’m sorry to tell you this, but your vision for the successful wooing of female partners comes off as pretty Jr. High material. It’s misogynist (“Girls are lying all day long”) with a solid layer of homophobia (“if her hands are manly…check for an adams apple”). But that’s being covered elsewhere. I want to talk about blogging.
There are millions of terrible blog posts written daily. I’m not talking about boring blog posts, or unread blog posts, invisible from the “blogging community” at large. I’m talking about blog posts that espouse a terrible prejudice, or seek to hurt others, or try to be funny but fall hard into the offensive. This is an issue for all bloggers. I’ve been doing this for 8 years, and I’ve seen my share of terrible blog posts.
It pains me to read stories like that of Thor Lund. I’m not that pained, because he seems like an arrogant know-it-all college student. But I, too, was an arrogant college student; I was no saint with the ladies at that time and place in life. Lucky for me, in those years I didn’t know about blogging–the word wasn’t in the common language even, though the form was around. I was afforded the opportunity to be arrogant and only annoy the people around me, until I learned about being a decent person, and grew out of it.
I’ve a feeling Thor’s going to grow out of it too. Only now he’ll have the world’s coverage of his arrogant, disrespectful, childish attitude towards hooking up with women to contest with for the next several, and important, post-college years.
So for Thor, and for others who are out there writing their wiles on the internet, in hopes that someone, someday will come across your blog, here are a few things I’ve learned as a former writing teacher and long-time blogger, that should be made known to everyone when you start self-publishing online:
- Writing well is a great defense.
- Writing well is not a defense for prejudice.
- It’s really hard to write well. Some people try hard to write well, to make a point and back it up, or to share honestly an experience that can enlighten others or tell a good story. That’s not easy. Writing’s difficult. Do it carelessly, especially around sensitive or important subjects, and you will get trapped in a defensive posture you cannot escape.
- When you write online, it hangs around. You can delete your post, your blog, scrub your entire internet footprint. It just doesn’t work. It’s written in ink.
- One of the greatest curses of blogging is the potential that people will actually read what you write.
- There are people, somewhere in the universe reading your blog. If you get 8 hits a day, that’s 8 chances for everything to change.
- It’s much more difficult to get attention online for writing thoughtful and well-crafted articles than it is for writing controversial, outrageous, offensive material. This should be obvious.
- The internet is filled with outrage. If you write something outrageous, it will get read, maybe not immediately, but someday. And people will be ready to pounce. It’ll be cached, screen-captured and reproduced. Remember, ink.
- If it’s difficult to write well, it’s equally difficult to be funny. You might think it’s funny. That doesn’t mean it is.
- Being mean isn’t funny.
- Being mean isn’t satire.
- Writing satire is even more difficult than being funny. When you’ve written something indefensible, and you fall back on “it’s satire,” you’re dead in the water.
- This is the most important lesson: no matter how badly you want traffic, no matter how desperately you want to be read, write stuff you aren’t going to have to apologize for. It may make it much harder to get attention, but it will be worth it. Strive to make the world better, and you’ll tend to avoid blogging like a misogynist, or a homophobe, or a racist.
The internet doesn’t need more mean bloggers.