Posted June 29, 2009 5:14 pm by with 17 comments

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Twitter iconI am not an author. I’m a blogger. If I say something that someone disagrees with they can let me have it in the comments section of the blog. At that point, the decision needs to be made how, or even better if, I should fire back. In most cases, I make the decision to let bygones be bygones because comment crossfire usually ends badly (or at the very least awkwardly) and it doesn’t accomplish much in the end. As long as there are no off color comments regarding direct family members or my heritage, I can take it. Most online attacks come from people who are only exercising their Internet muscles anyway (meaning since they never actually have to face someone in person they can look like they have some nerve).

The New York Times covered an story that turns out to be a ‘how not to handle a situation online” mini case study. It appears that the author, Alice Hoffman, apparently got a bad review of her new book “The Story Sisters” from Roberta Silman of the Boston Globe. Silman’s review included the comment “This new novel lacks the spark of the earlier work. Its vision, characters, and even the prose seem tired.” Apparently Ms. Silman gave away the plot as well. It appears safe to say that this was a less than stellar review and a dwindling number of Boston Globe readers may or may not have seen it. We do know, however, that Ms. Hoffman did.

So how did Ms.Hoffman respond? With a Twitter tirade, of course. (Note to self: If you feel slighted it may not be in your best interest to write something similar to the following)

“Roberta Silman in the Boston Globe is a moron,” she wrote. “How do some people get to review books? And give the plot away.” Ms. Hoffman also lambasted The Globe and went so far as to post Ms. Silman’s phone number and email, inviting fans to “Tell her what u think of snarky critics.”

Fast forward to the new media version of the stockade; the written mea culpa (a fancy word for eating your mistake whole and in public for everyone to snicker at). Hoffman’s statement through her publisher, Shaye Areheart, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group division of Random House included:

“I feel this whole situation has been completely blown out of proportion. Of course, I was dismayed by Roberta Silman’s review which gave away the plot of the novel, and in the heat of the moment I responded strongly and I wish I hadn’t. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. Reviewers are entitled to their opinions and that’s the name of the game in publishing. I hope my readers understand that I didn’t mean to hurt anyone and I’m truly sorry if I did.”

Oh, and she also took down her Twitter account. Hoffman is just another in a growing list of people who shouldn’t be allowed to use social media. Heck, you need a license to drive a car, what about social media? Until it is recognized that no good rant goes unpunished on the Internet, these online reputation suicides will continue to occur with startling regularity and intensity.

What is your technique for keeping your emotions in check in online environments? Ever hit the send button and regretted it? I would venture to say that you aren’t truly involved in social media unless you have done that to some degree or another. What separates the online men from the boys is if you let it happen repeatedly and what level of intensity (or stupidity) you allow your emotions to take you to.

If you remember the TV show “Hill Street Blues” the cops never left their morning briefing without the words of Sergeant Esterhaus saying “Let’s be careful out there”. While not as dangerous as mean streets of some urban center, the Internet carries it’s own set of risks so that people should heed the warning as well.

  • I was about to post a scathing comment on Hoffman’s irrationality, but thought better of it after I typed it out and reread it.

    Emotions. Checked.
    Comment. Posted.

    Sara @ iGoMogul

  • “Apparently Ms. Silman gave away the plot as well.”

    If that is the case then that is completely unprofessional and Hoffman should have been pissed.

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  • I was in customer service for 17 years. I used to teach my staff that NOTHING (and I mean NOTHING!) is private… and to conduct themselves accordingly. And that was before social media! Everything we do or say online, everything we send by email is available to those who are looking. You’d think we’d all have learned that by now!

  • If your never going to get a chance to confront someone in person who rips you on your blog, I think it’s best to maintain your composure. Why let a stranger control your emotions.

    Hans Kristian Anderson’s last blog post..What Kind of Person is Frank Kern?

  • Frank, what a great post. I’m following you on Twitter, and just happened to click through to your post here. I’ve just been going through some emotions because of an email I received recently, and I think it is very safe to say, that people should think before they write emails, and think even more before they post on their blogs, and Twitter!
    Great advice “let’s be careful out there” and thanks for sharing.

    Diana Walker’s last blog post..How is Sunrider Food Different?

  • While not always easy, I think choosing to not fire back and take criticism in stride is a necessity – in the real world and even more so in the online world. It is just too unproductive, albeit deliciously tempting, but unproductive in the long run.

    Kim Hull’s last blog post..A Simple Way to Keep Up With Your Tweeps

  • She took her Twitter account down? Wow… that’s a little extreme if you ask me. That’s like hanging up your keys for life after a minor fender bender. Oh well, perhaps she knew it wouldn’t be her first time offending her fan base.

    jlbraaten’s last blog post..Choosing Content for a Usable Website

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  • Ed

    the person you’re referring to in the opening paragraph is the ‘Internet Tough Guy’ and we’ve all come across him at one time or another! It’s always best not to engage them directly, answer their accussations/rants with logic and decency and they soon give up when they don’t get a rise off you!

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  • Alan Bleiweiss

    Here’s the challenge. If you work for a big corporation (and an author using big corporate publishers DOES work for a big corporation), you better watch what you say in public. You do NOT have the freedom to be truthful, honest and human because you will get reamed.

    That’s what this is all about. Took down her Twitter account? Apologized if anyone was offended? The Twitter account came down in the hopes that she wouldn’t be canned by her publisher or agent. Apologized if “anyone” got offended? HA – the only person who should have been offended in that tirade was the craptastic reviewer. And truth be told, reviewers are just overpaid psychotics who rely on their ego.

    The whole thing unfolded in such a 20th century way.

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  • Ah yes, the very public and not very well thought out rant. Been there, done that but never on a site where I couldn’t immediately remove it once I realized how pathetic I was. I’m extra careful on twitter. More importantly I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. If it won’t matter a day, week or year from now? It just doesn’t matter.

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  • When I have received rants from critics I first work to maintain my self control then ask; What is this person saying about themselves with this attack? Often I ask a question if it is in person or on the phone but it could work with twitter too. This helps me keep in my head and not let my emotional reaction take over. As the person continues I know more about them because it usually is more about them than me in the first place.

    My guess is the rant and improper disclosure was about jealousy.

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