We first got the internet when I was sixteen years old which means I've been online all my adult life. Prior to writing fiction I ran a beauty blog/website and an accompanying YouTube channel. I've dabbled with fashion and food blogging, as well. I've had A LOT of nasty things said to me online over the years. (Fun fact: this is precisely what inspired my Bad Bachelors series) The relative anonymity of being online means people often say things to people they would never dream of saying in person. And while the internet is an awesome tool for so many things, it's also a place where a lot of nastiness comes to the surface.
When I entered the romance writing community it was like I'd finally found my people. Here was this creative, supportive, encouraging, knowledgable, welcoming, diverse, intelligent, passionate group of people who treated me like I belonged from day one. I was embraced with open arms.
Although the rose coloured glasses have to come off at some point, my honeymoon period with the romance community was long. The Lovecats approached me (Rachel Bailey asked me at my second ever writer's conference, and to this day I am still so grateful!) to be part of their pride when I only had a single book out. By the end of this year I will have 20 books published. So this community has been a big part of my life.
But publishing is a tough gig. Despite what ill-informed journalists might tell you, many of us work crazy hours to see this dream through. We battle with uncertainty of income and having our work publicly criticized on a daily basis. We deal with nasty emails, snide remarks about our genre, and face on-going rejection in some form or another. It sounds dire, but even on my worst day as a writer I am still so grateful to have this job. It's my calling, and I'm here to stay.
But one thing that I find very hard to swallow is watching authors in our community tear one another down. I am a big believer that there is space for us all, and that success of one does not mean less chance for someone else. I know many disagree, and I'm fine with that. This belief keeps me going on tough days and it allows me to genuinely celebrate the success of my writer friends.
Not all people in our community work this way. Lately, I've seen an uptick in dog-pile situations, open and public tearing down of writer's work from their peers, and several other forms of unacceptable, unprofessional behaviour. Now, I could speculate on what the cause might be (professional jealousy? Scarcity of publishing contracts? Diminishing visibility on retailer platforms?) But whatever the reason, it makes me sick. Our job is tough enough without us turning on one another.
So, in the spirit of making 2018 a year of kindness, here are some suggestions for how you can be kinder online both to yourself and to others:
- Unfollow/unfriend people or accounts who don't make you feel good about yourself. Got that one person in your life who's always spewing negativity and stirring up trouble? Unfriend or unfollow. Seriously, you don't need that crap.
- Send a DM/email/comment to someone who's having a hard time to let them know you're thinking of them.
- Go offline for a while if social media is stressing you out. It's perfectly okay to disengage and revel in some "offline" time. In fact, try to schedule this in at regular intervals.
- Curate the images you see. Follow diverse accounts that showcase all kinds of cultures, bodies, content and opinions. The world has a lot of different people, but often only a select few are heralded as worthy of our pixels.
- Remember that social media is everyone's highlight reel. We all have crappy days, most just choose not the share it online for fear of shattering the illusion. But that's exactly what it is...an illusion.
- If you're feeling down/worries/confused/scared/uncertain, ask for help. You'd be shocked at how many people are willing to chip in with advice or a kind word if you need it. There's nothing wrong with reaching out to people.
Want some book community specific examples? Here a list of things to do that make the romance community a better place to be:
- Take a picture of your Keeper Shelf or one of your all-time favourite reads, and share it online
- Re-read a favourite book
- Have you read a book that you loved recently? Let the author know.
- While you're at it, pop a review on Amazon.
- Has one of your author or reader buddies shared some good news? Let them know how proud you are of their achievements.
- Found a blogger whose reviews are really insightful or fun? Share the link!
Which kind things are you going to do today?