Don’t Feed the Trolls and Other Good Advice

Andy Warhol once said that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” There’s some dispute as to who actually coined the phrase, since a photographer named Nat Finkelstein claims that he said it to Warhol previously, and the basic idea dates back to before the Elizabethan era, when the phrase was “nine days’ wonder,” to describe something that was interesting for nine days and then got boring. (I guess the slower news churn back then made for a somewhat longer stretch.) Thanks to the high speed at which information is disseminated on the Internet, though, that 15 minutes has become more like 15 seconds.

But most writers don’t want to be famous for 15 minutes or 15 seconds. Most of us would prefer lasting appeal to brief notoriety. There’s also a saying that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” and while that may be true in some areas of life, most writers would rather be known for their writing than for their bad behavior, or their participation in some scandal. (We can’t all be Lord Byron, after all, who was famously referred to as being “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”)

Unfortunately, scandals and bad behavior are all-too common perils of being a writer in the age of the Internet. No matter what genre or field you’re working in, it seems like not a week goes by without some grim spectacle being played out. We won’t name any names, in keeping with the theme of this article, but there’s no doubt that you can think of several recent examples without trying too hard.

“Don’t feed the trolls” is a common piece of Internet advice, and generally a pretty sound one. To paraphrase another modern aphorism, haters are, after all, going to hate, and there’s not much you can do about it, but you can avoid either encouraging them or sinking to their level. Sometimes you can’t avoid being drawn into the events that are happening in your field or genre—and sometimes you wouldn’t want to! But remember whenever you do, that most scandals or arguments are ultimately fleeting, while your work and your reputation are hopefully going to be around long after the 15 minutes (or 15 seconds) of whatever the latest kerfuffle is have passed.

“The Internet is forever,” as yet another saying goes, and anything that you say or do online may come back to haunt you down the road. So don’t be afraid to get involved or speak your mind, but try to remember to be respectful and professional and to avoid being a jerk wherever possible. It’s good advice anywhere, and it goes double online. If you want something more lasting than 15 minutes of fame (or infamy) then try to always put your best foot forward, whether it’s on social media, at a convention, or with a sharp-looking and easy-to-use website from us here at Clockpunk Studios.

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