I’ve been writing for the Web for almost two years. When I started, I was an idiot. No, no. It’s okay, really, I was. I had no idea how the game was played. I didn’t understand there were rules, characters, roles, and territories. I had no idea that someone, anyone, might care if they disagreed with me. I didn’t understand about lunch tables or sandboxes. I didn’t understand it was, well, so ... high school.
If you’re new to writing for the Web or if you’re thinking about it, here are some types of people of which you might want to be aware:
1. The Drive By: This is the person who will go to the trouble to create a user name, password, and profile for the singular purpose of telling you how badly you suck. The Drive By has never commented on anything on the site before and they never will again. And here’s the best part about The Drive By: there are lots of them. Think I’m exaggerating? Take look around. The next time you’re reading a story that has a really negative comment, click the profile. I know, right? Who knew? Drive Bys used to drive me nuts. Now, I’ve decided that if my writing is so compelling as to move someone to action, I’m not going to complain about it.
2. The Handle: This is the person who chooses a user name as if they are going to chatter on a CB radio from the 1970s. You know, names like Brown-Eyed Girl or Play Misty for Me. “Breaker, breaker 19, I think we’ve got ourselves a Smokey up ahead.” “10-4 Good Buddy.” You know, if it wasn’t a good idea then, perhaps you should consider the possibility that it’s not a good idea now. And just like with CB chatter, most of the time you have no idea what the hell they are talking about. I’m sure it’s just me.
3. The Smokey: Speaking of Smokeys, this is the person who is the peacemaker. They see each side of the argument and insist on telling you so. Smokeys are hard to peg because they agree with whoever is commenting at the time. They are super conciliatory and yes, they drive me freaking nuts. Whenever I encounter a Smokey I can’t help but hear Rodney King’s voice asking, “Can’t we all just get along?” And of course, whenever one of my voices asks a question, I answer. And my answer is always, “No. We can’t. That’s why we are arguing.” Duh. Stop trying to be a fun sponge.
4. The Elmer Gantry: Yes, this person is the evangelist who tries to convert your wayward soul. If you’re an Elmer Gantry and you’re reading this, please don’t bother with me. Really. Really, really. I’m a lost cause and you’re better off moving along to lower hanging fruit. Unless you can walk on water while raising Ronald Reagan from the dead, you’re not going to make me a Republican. You’re better off just leaving my soulless, liberal ass to the Big Guy. He’ll know what to do with me.
This leaves me with my all time, super favorite, can’t live without them, wait for it, wait for it ...
5. The Gum on Your Shoe: Don’t you hate that? You’re flip-flopping your super-cute Yellow Boxes across a hot asphalt parking lot and it happens. Gum. On. Your. Shoe. You can’t get it off. You can scrape it, pull it, walk it through grass, and still it’s there. Goo Be Gone can’t get gum off shoes. You think it will wear off. Nope. You think it will get tired of being stuck to just one pair of shoes. Nope. You think it will get old and fall off. Nope. You think if you ignore it long enough it will go away. Nope. And it’s always on your cutest flip-flops. And such it is with this type of person. They attach themselves to your best writing and forever more, they are with you. After a while, you forget what it’s like to not have them there. I will say this about The Gum on Your Shoe, they are dependable and predictable. They can get an argument started on an otherwise obscure article. They can propel you to infamy and make a cell with padded walls look like a lovely vacation spot. They’re not your friend and don’t love you, but they will never leave you. In the words of the immortal Meat Loaf, “Two outta three ain’t bad.”