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Four Topics Writers Probably Should Never Write about on the Internet

March 18, 2012
English: Alec Baldwin at the Museum of the Mov...

Maybe some people are born to read aloud what others write for them (and make tons of money for it). Perhaps these same people should not try to write for themselves. Image via Wikipedia

An unintended consequence of the internet is that a lot of people who used to never write are now writing.  People who would never write letters (like we used to do in the old days) now write about their personal lives and opinions in emails, blogs, Facebook, and tweets. 

The problem is that a lot of the people writing aren’t truly writers.  They’re talkers, using writing as a tool.  Talkers are charming and personable, so when they say something tacky, people laugh and forgive it.  But when a charming talker tweets a tacky comment or puts it on Facebook, it can be seen by countless people who don’t know how personable and charming the charming talker really is. 

If charm and personality are taken out of the equation, then all that’s left is the tacky comment.  And then clients are dropped, jobs are lost, and insincere public apologies are made. 

I kind of feel sorry for these charming talkers; they’re getting punished for writing the kinds of things that they’ve been saying all their lives (and probably have been praised for saying them too).  It has to be really confusing for them. 

DISASTROUS CELEBRITY TWEETS 

But there is a positive side to internet writing. 

Disastrous celebrity tweets demonstrate how important good writing is.  Take Alec Baldwin, for instance.  Give him a good writer (like Tina Fey), and he seems like a charming, funny guy.  However, when he writes his own tweets (or leaves his own messages on the phone), he comes across as angry and obnoxious. 

That’s the difference between good writing and bad improvising. 

BACK TO THE TOPIC 

It might be funny when a celebrity loses an advertising gig for tweeting a tacky joke about a natural disaster, but it’s not as funny when a teacher loses her job for writing about an unruly class on Facebook.  We normal people have to be careful about what we write.  We have to protect our livelihoods, so here’s my advice. 

Here are four topics you probably shouldn’t write about on the internet: 

1. Personal problems 

Don’t get me wrong; I love reading about other people’s problems.  But if you choose to write about it publicly, a lot of people who aren’t really your friends are going to read it.  You’re basically providing free entertainment to readers you don’t know.   It’s probably even worse if they do know you.

2. Personal Vices 

Vices are really fun.  Whether it’s getting drunk, getting high, hanging out with strippers (helping them through college), tearing up property during a protest, it’s best if you don’t brag about it.  If you do write about your vices, make it sound fictional. 

3. Job related issues 

Writing is a blast, but getting paid is way better.  If I ever criticize my boss or employer or anybody who is giving me money, I do it behind the scenes so that it can’t get traced back to me.  I’m not going to put it in an e-mail, or a tweet, or on Facebook. 

And the few times I absolutely have to take a stand (It happens!), I am very careful about what I write.  At the very least, that means deleting a lot of adjectives. 

4. Jokes that aren’t funny 

Yeah, I know this whole blog is filled with jokes that aren’t funny.  I get it.  At least when I write a bunch of lame, tasteless jokes, I’ll title it something like BEST LAME, TASTELESS JOKES EVER!  You know what to expect from me, there’s a context to the lame jokes, and I don’t attach them to my name, or my employer, or anybody who knows me. 

***** 

I don’t think many people will follow my advice.  If they did, the internet would be a boring place, and that would be bad.  You just might want to make sure it’s others providing the free entertainment, and not you. 

That is, unless you enjoy providing the free entertainment.

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