Things go viral unexpectedly and some of those things are humiliating. I think, as authors, we are always terrified of saying something stupid or making a typo (it happens to me all the time and it's no big deal) and looking like an idiot in front of a bunch of people because of it. Most of us are authors, rather than actors, because we don't like to be the center of attention. We prefer our characters to be. So being in front of all those people on social media is unnerving.
I will admit that this is even difficult for me. My books aren't me, so if you hate them, we can still be friends. But if I post something and you declare that everything I say is stupid and how could someone so horrible be allowed to live, then it's probably not going to lead to a deep friendship.
While, so far, I haven't had anything humiliating go viral, I have angered people with things I've posted and even had people threaten me because of it. Trust me, anything can anger people. I've even had someone rant about my cat pictures. In the past, as a regular person (and not an author), I've been flamed, bullied, stalked, and had my picture posted other places with rude comments. But I got over it every single time.
It's the internet and those things happen. Here's what to do if you find yourself in the situation:
BREATH AND STEP AWAY.
Here's the great thing about the internet. You can shut it off and never log on to it. If your life lands on the news, you'll have reporters stalking you and harassing you. But when you anger the internet? All that you have to do usually is shut it off.
So take a moment to breathe. You're emotional right now and of all times in your life, you need to be in the most control of yourself right now. If you need to scream or cry, do it to people you know in person, but online, you must think before you type or say anything to fix this.
Making a fool of yourself online is actually the best place you can make a fool of yourself. I know people scare people by saying things like,"The internet is forever." But in real life, when you say something stupid, you're usually stuck trying to fix it right away and stuttering through the whole thing and failing to make anything better. And it's not like that person is going to change their mind about you later. You messed up their opinion of you forever as well.
When you mess up online, you can step away while you are still emotional to think before you type. If need be, type your whole message, with emotions in it and all, up first, and then delete it and write something else that you think will calm the situation down.
The fact that it's typing instead of speaking makes it easier to deal with at your own pace.
DELETE AND IGNORE.
Even if what you said is getting passed around, deleting it will make it so that less people will see it because they can't find it at the original source.
It might feel like the whole world knows about it, but I guarantee you that there are still people out there who have no idea what is happening.
I know people worry that it will make you seem remorseful about what you posted and like you back down on your opinions, but that isn't true. Think of the last celebrity or CEO who said something that offended you. They probably took those words down and apologized. If so, did you believe the apology? Probably not.
Deleting isn't about apologizing. It's about calming everyone down. It makes it harder for people who are dwelling on the issue to come back and comment on it. While it's still up, people can keep replying to the original post and each other. It keeps getting worse.
A lot of times they are waiting for a reaction from you, so if you say nothing, then they'll quickly run out of things to say as well.
You can't control what people pass around, but you can control what is and isn't posted on your accounts. So surround yourself with positivity by focusing on the positive things, instead of the way people are tearing you down.
Because a lot of times when you try to defend your actions, you wind up looking more stupid to people and making them mock you more. The goal is not to win the argument. It's to make everyone forget, so you can be in peace. You likely can't win the argument. But you can make people forget that they were arguing with you in the first place.
All this reminds me of the time that I saw an author respond to a book review, flaming the person and insisting that they take the review down. At first, it was just an argument between the two of them. But she kept coming back, kept trying to defend her book and how the review was unfair.
Instead of winning people over, more people heard about the fight and started to join in, mocking her as well. If she had just shut up and deleted the first comment, it wouldn't have escalated to the point it did.
If you hurt someone's feelings, sometimes the best thing to do is apologize, even if you feel like right now that you weren't in the wrong. Try to see it from their point of view and own up to what you might or might not have done.
You don't even have to retract what you said completely when you apologize. Even just wording the same thing in a nicer tone and apologizing if your tone came off poorly can sometimes calm people down.
It's humiliating, but sometimes we just have to own up to things and try to make people feel better. Your goal is to sell more books and that means meeting people at their level.
And it means more if you apologize to the person through a message rather than publicly. Doing so publicly makes it seem like you are just trying to win people back over. Unless you offend a large group of people, then this rule doesn't apply. But if it's a single individual and they are posting what you did everywhere, then go to them privately and see if you can calm them down.
MAKE IT INTO A JOKE.
If you're the butt of a joke, sometimes it can help to go along with it. Mocking yourself shows that you have a good sense of humor and also makes people feel closer to you. Because you haven't made enemies out of them, you've joined in on the fun.
And they start to get to know you more for your awesome personality and not just whatever stupid thing you may have said.
But you should probably wait to do this until a significant time has passed and not when it's still fresh in people's minds.
REMEMBER THAT SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE MAKE IDIOTS OF THEMSELVES.
Famous people make idiots of themselves online all the time. How many celebrities have gotten into twitter fights and it been all over the news? Think of CEOs who have said controversial things and people have boycotted their companies.
Eventually, everyone forgets about it and moves on. The companies and celebrities rarely lose their jobs over it, so you'll likely be fine, too.
And the best way for this to happen is for you to stop dwelling on it and stop beating yourself up over it. If you stop talking about it online and instead talk about other things, people will get to know you for those other things. You'll stop being just the person who made a stupid mistake, you'll become more than that.
The only reason people are replying and getting angry at what you are saying is because it's relevant to them. Relevance is actually a good thing. It means people find you important.
Do you know how many people say horrible stuff on twitter and facebook every day and no one cares?
If they care about you, it means you are special and are given an opportunity to either sell a product or even deliver a message if you want to about something that's important to you. Because people listen to what you have to say.
It hurts, but it's also a gift.
Because sometimes you can take the lemons of life and make lemonade out of them. This is one of those instances. So don't be afraid of it. Embrace it.
I just want you to know that sometimes, even when you are not making a fool out of yourself, you might get into arguments with people online. That's okay. Just breathe and take breaks if you need to, like I said in step one.
Don't worry about whether or not you win an argument. Almost no one wins arguments online, we just make one another angry.
But it's part of openly expressing yourself. Everything is an opinion. Even this blog post is an opinion. And if you have an opinion, there is someone out there who disagrees with you.