Rather than lead you on to the end of the piece, leaving you to wonder about the nature of danger involved with writing online, I’ll have out with it now.
The danger of writing online is that you never can tell what’s going to raise someone’s ire. I can state the most innocuous thing ever and someone’s undies will bunch up so tightly that s/he must upbraid me for it.
Naturally, I have an example. I posted an essay called “What’s It Like [To Be a New Dog Owner] in Morrison County?” for a blog project we have started at work. In the essay, I happened to mention that now we have dog training shows on cable television to help us, including Cesar Millan’s “Dog Whisperer” and Victoria Stilwell’s “It’s Me or the Dog.” I did not pick a favorite or go into any detail about either show. This was merely an innocuous mention.
Someone going by the name of “calmassertive” gave me the whatfor on which show was better. The subtext I read into the comment was, how dumb could I be to find both shows entertaining and useful? (Or was I reading too much into it? That could be a secondary danger of communicating online.) Honestly, I never thought talking about dog training online would be controversial, certainly not like politics, sex, or religion.
There are two opposing lessons in this. If you don’t have the stomach for controversy, don’t post anything online. Ever. It doesn’t matter what you write, something will come back to bite you and likely it won’t be the thing you suspect will.
The second lesson is to take courage and write what you want anyway, fully expecting to have to defend yourself against those who confront you. If people can shut you up, they will. Why would you let them? (This, however, does not give you license to purposely be irresponsible with your writing, either to yourself or others.)
I’ve chosen the second lesson and I hope you’ll join me.
If you’ve been seriously engaged in the online writing for a while, I’m sure you’ve got your own examples of unexpected reactions. Please share, so we can kvetch together!