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how to be on the internet
your guide to not being a total douchebag
by erik lars myers (@TopFermented)
4.17.09
writing


You are a creator.

You spend time organizing the inner workings of your mind into detailed output for the consumption and enjoyment of others. In your dreams of success, your work is out in the world for everybody to see and appreciate. Your name is on everybody's lips and pounded out on everyone's keyboard.

Harsh reality: Your work will be criticized; some people will not like it.

It's a fact of life. Even the most successful people have detractors. Sometimes, they are people with legitimate gripes from a perspective that you hadn't considered. Sometimes, they are just asshats unhappy with the success of others. Which one of these they are is not important. What is important is how you react to it.

Right now, and almost definitely even more so in the future, most of the criticism of your work will happen on the internet. Any jackass can start a blog and try to come off like an expert, spouting their opinions to the wind in the hopes that somebody - anybody - will read them (I know; I do it). If you reach a certain level of media exposure, you will inevitably find yourself at the wrong end of a Google Search, shaking with rage in front of your keyboard.

How COULD they? How DARE they? They CLEARLY didn't understand your point! Just who do they think they ARE?

All of these questions and more will pour through your mind and then, right then, you are at the turning point. You can handle yourself well and win the internet, or you can fumble poorly and forever wish that you weren't such a douchebag in this public forum over which you have no control.

Here are a few suggestions about how to handle this situation:

Consider not responding

This is number one, the absolute first thing you should do. Yes, it's infuriating. Yes, they're spreading lies about your work. But here's the thing: It's possible that nobody's going to agree with them. It's just as possible that someone who is a fan of your work will appear from nowhere and defend you for you. And finally, if they're being a total asshat, they might be discrediting themselves without you jumping in and being an asshat yourself.

Be polite no matter what

If you really feel like you need to respond, be polite. Thank them for their opinion and for taking the time to review your work. Remember: This is not about that particular person. This is about every other wandering eye who happens across your response. All you need to do is react angrily and drop a couple of F-bombs for someone to cut and paste that little response all over the internet. If you're classy, you're always in the right, especially in response to criticism.

Do not be defensive

Nothing suggests to people that they might be correct in their suspicions more than their debate opponent being defensive. Defensive can suggest that you have something to hide or that you secretly agree. Explain your points fully and be sure that nothing looks or sounds like a knee-jerk reaction and you should be fine.

Do not try to correct them

You know they're wrong. You can attempt to explain your viewpoint, why your made something the way it is, etc. But if you attempt to correct somebody else's opinion, you're inviting argument. Argument can lead you to being defensive, tempting you to not being polite, and finally dropping that F-bomb that will echo across the internet. If you feel like you need to refute a point, perhaps consider offering compromised alternatives. The phrase, "We'll have to agree to disagree" can also come in handy.

Again: Consider not responding

Seriously. Think about the most successful authors/actors/directors/artists you know. Can you imagine them responding directly to a detractor? Can you imagine them doing anything other than laughing off criticism? It isn't because they're too famous, or they don't have the time, or anything like that. It's that they know better: to respond is to lend credibility to the argument. Learn from their example. Rise above it and move on and never, ever read that jackass blog ever again.


ABOUT ERIK LARS MYERS

Writer, beer drinker, brewer. Not necessarily in the order. For more, check Top Fermented and Mystery Brewing Company.

more about erik lars myers

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COMMENTS

sandra thompson
4.21.09 @ 7:50a

You are absolutely one hundred percent correct in all these points. Even I, the egotist, thinks I could not have said it better myself, and that is high praise indeed. And now, excuse me, for I have to talk myself out of a few "frack yous" to some morons who disagree with me.

tim lockwood
4.24.09 @ 1:42a

Hit the nail on the head, you did. If only you'd written this sooner, I could have saved many many many sleepless nights of typing up angry diatribes to people whose minds I was never gonna change in the first place. Where were you in 1998 when I was posting on AOL message boards?



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