5 Ways to Look Like an Internet Idiot

It has long been said by many a famous and infamous person that listening is a far more important skill than talking.

Those people would have been mortified by the internet.

Because in today’s day and age, it’s less often we find ourselves in a room full of people having conversations and far more often that we end up “in” a little electronic box full of people’s typed ramblings.

So my question:

Is “talking” on the internet the same thing as an in-person meeting and does listening even apply to the internet?

In my humble opinion? It applies even more online than in a face-to-face setting.

Stephen R. Covey said it well (and you should listen!)

Here’s a quote I really like that kind of sums up exactly what I’m going to detail in this post:

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." -- Stephen R. Covey

Covey must have been talking about people who post comments on the internet! Because, more often than I’d like to see, people online run rampant with their opinions, bad attitude and complete disregard for the hard work that writers put into their work.

These trolls essentially talk without listening.

People can be very self-centered, that’s human nature to a point, but that emotion is so heightened online because we’re in control of the words we write and no one can interrupt or cut us off from saying them. 

Talking and talking about whatever floats from your brain into your fingers can be a scary prospect though. And it can alienate your readers until they all go away.

Death for a writer. Don't let it happen to you, check out these 5 tips to stop being an internet idiot.

You might be an internet idiot if…

1. You don’t notice that no one’s listening anymore.

I’m not talking about newer writers trying to establish an audience with no comments yet. I mean seasoned writers who have lost their audience engagement (this could also be due to any of the next 4 points as well so keep reading).

We’ve all been at those parties where the annoying person keeps rambling on, oblivious to the fact that the people around them have checked out, stopped paying attention and maybe even walked away. Don’t be that person online!

If your posts used to get great engagement but of late you’re finding they have little to no traction then it’s time to go back to writing about what people wanted to read.

Engagement and conversation is the key to a healthy internet network. Listen to your readers by their clicks and comments and give them what they want to hear.

2. Your comments lack any connection to the original post.

This one is tricky because there’s a fine line between adding to the conversation and hijacking someone else’s post for your own gain.

There are going to be times when you read something that stirs some kind of emotion inside you. Your instinct will be to post a comment sharing your experience. Great! True connection is so crucial when chatting through the typed word.

What isn’t great? Making it clear you didn't read the original post and your reaction is purely due to the headline.

Comments can bring traffic too and lots of people use them for that very thing. But it's tacky. At least make a point to skim a post when a headline draws you in.

Click first. Comment later.

3. You never promote anyone but yourself.

Hey, I get it. In this business shameless self-promotion is sometimes the key to getting your message and name out there. But what about all those useful things you read that inspired your posts?

Sharing, as they say, is caring.

If you don’t take the time to at least offer something useful outside of your own writing, what do you think your connections will think? They’ll think it’s time to walk away from your selfish ways and start promoting others who are more reciprocal.

Because making things happen online is all about scratching each other’s backs. If you never extend your arm, why would you expect them to do that for you?

4. You don’t act genuine, or, you’ve got two personalities.

A certain level of professionalism in all of your online correspondence is never a bad thing. We leave our imprint on the world with the words we use in any given situation – our blog posts, forum posts, group chats, social media conversations and more.

But that doesn’t mean you should become someone else entirely. Just be you!

If “you” is a jack-ass then that’s what I expect to read in your posts. Don’t be flowery and shiny in your posts and a snarky bastard in your conversations.

That’s how you lose listeners.

And there are listeners, readers, even for a snarky jack-ass. People who relate to your voice will read.

You don’t have to connect with everyone. There are far better ways to engage than to be fake just to reel people in.

There are way too many internet trolls out there already, don’t be one of them.

5. You have no connection to what you’re writing.

It’s important to learn new things and experiment with new writing styles. We writers love to dive in and do research then report on our findings.

However, if you don’t care about your article, have no real interest in the subject matter and only write it in order to stay at the top of search engines, your words will feel impersonal and cold.

And like Goldilocks discovered, too cold is yucky.

If you don’t know enough about what you’re writing then do more research. If you don’t care about what you’re writing then write something else.

It’s more likely people will listen if they feel you have a true connection to the material you’re sharing.

Bottom line?

Listen to your readers. Engage in meaningful conversations in comment sections or forums. Actually read what other people write and congratulate them for the hard work that went into creating that post.

Listen to their words, appreciate them, and they’ll do the same for you.

We’re all out here trying to fill the internet with better writing so remember – no one ever got anywhere on their own. Help them and they will in turn help you.

Image courtesy Victor Habbick on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sign up for my monthly newsletter here for more fiction and self-publishing tips. You'll get a copy of my eBook Does My Book Suck? - a self-publisher’s guide to finishing your book - free just for signing up!