Professionalism and our Internet Footprint

A common phrase heard these days is “carbon footprint”. Specifically, it’s the impact that we have on our surrounding environment with a goal of reducing harmful effects.

Smaller, therefore, is better.

In the writing world, the opposite is true when it comes to our “Internet Footprint.” Authors, editors, agents, and those wishing to see their name in print work to develop an online presence, but unlike our carbon cousin, larger is more desirable. It provides us easier access to potential readers, the ability to network efficiently, and the capability to announce “here I am” to the online world, all of which are important factors in the Computer Age. And while I agree that we may not technically need an Internet Footprint, the reality is that our hobby/profession is trending that direction. In fact, Jane Friedman had this to say in her blog yesterday:

“If you’re serious about your career as an author, you need a website. And the sooner you get one going, the better.


The most important reason: There’s a learning curve. You don’t want to be scrambling to put together a site when your book releases, or when you have an agent’s interest, or when someone asks why you don’t have a site.”*

But what happens when we step on our footprint? As is the nature of the Internet, that error seems to go viral. 

Without rehashing the gory details, there has been a surprising amount of this in the writing community recently. Trolls, flame wars, dog-piling reviews, dramatic emotional outbursts, etc, have all reared their ugly heads in large numbers. Perhaps much of it is in earnest, with people passionately defending their opinions. Or perhaps it is intentional to stir up discord and draw attention to themselves. 

Either way, many blogs, review sites, and forums appear to have exploded.

Which brings us the point of this entry: Professionalism. In a day and age where everything winds up on the Internet, a person cannot go wrong handling themselves in a professional manner. Writing is a community of educated thinkers working tirelessly to express ideas, emotions, and creativity in the most artistic manner possible. We strive to build a community of peers to not only learn from, but aid in the long trek towards making this a career. It’s a family of people from across the globe, all with unique stories to share.

Each of us will suffer rejections, harsh critiques, and disappointment, but the way we handle them sets a benchmark for our character. Opening fire on someone with vigor and disgust may increase your online stock in the short term, but the writing community, and Internet as a whole, has a long memory. Everyone talks and word spreads at light speed, so the ability to shoot oneself in the Internet Footprint is pretty easy. Burn a bridge on one site and you’d be surprised how many other bridges go down with it.

But if we handle ourselves and others with respect and professionalism, then we will ultimately expand our Footprint rather than watch it wither and die.  

*retrieved from Ms. Friedman’s blog on 07 Apr 11

2 thoughts on “Professionalism and our Internet Footprint”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you. However, writers are known for their “artist” temperament, and many think this is an excuse to behave badly… In the end, they have to earn the consequences.
    – EEV

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