A Twitter Rant Gone Bad

    June 30, 2009

I 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.