Sometimes I feel like I’m very harsh on authors for merely doing the same things everyone else does. Granted, sometimes it’s deserved, for being too pushy, or rolling out marketing techniques that were last employed by the Stasi or the KGB. Earlier this year, I did a pillory piece on authors who are so pushy that they end up alienating potential readers; set at a hypothetical party, with the reader as a bewildered guest. However, it’s not fair to point the finger of ire and bile towards authors alone. Therefore, inspired by this post, I would like now to expand the theory somewhat.
What if everyone behaved in real life like they behaved online?
Imagine you are walking down a busy city street. It is early morning. You enter a café to purchase a hot beverage. The barista hands you your cup.
You: I like your coffee.
Barista: Thanks. That’ll be 2.50.
You: It’s totally the best coffee I’ve had all day.
Barista: Er, thanks. 2.50, please.
You: But I said I liked your coffee. That makes it free.
Barista: No, it was 2.50 when you walked in here, and that hasn’t changed.
You: I have lots and lots of distant acquaintances I could tell how nice your coffee is.
Barista: And I have a boss who can fire me. Give me the goddamn 2.50.
You pay with bad grace and exit the café. On your way out, you make yourself feel better by stopping three potential customers to tell them how awful the coffee is. You take a selfie of you making a disgusted face and pointing back at the café. A little further down the street, you shout at the sky.
You: I’M TIRED. DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?
A random passer-by dressed head to toe in grey, face concealed by a hoodie, creeps up to stand behind you.
Hoodie: I hate you. You look stupid.
You: Excuse me??
Hoodie: Can’t believe you don’t even know what time it is. And you’re fat.
You: Do I know you?
Hoodie: No. Now go into that corner and die.
The stranger laughs out loud as they go. You feel shaken. You check yourself in a shop window, noting how scared you look. You take a selfie of how scared you look. Several friends of yours are standing on the other side of the street. You try to get their attention, but they act like they haven’t seen you. However, three complete strangers give you a thumbs up, and you instantly feel better.
You look left and right on your way further down the street, afraid someone else will say something nasty. You stop at the pedestrian lights, beside a lady wearing tartan trousers, talking to a man with a tattooed face.
Tartan Legs: I was born in London but moved here at the age of six. I experienced a traumatic event when I was seven. I’m a really talented actress but I gave up acting because I make a hundred thousand dollars a month now promoting haemorrhoid cream as this year’s make-up essential.
Tattoo Face: Wow, that’s really interesting, because I want to be a fighter pilot and can’t eat cranberries. Have you seen the way my sideburns have grown in the shape of Norway?
Tartan Legs: OMG truly amazing. Let me take a picture I might use at some point in the future without your permission. But now back to me. I don’t always get what I want. Does this mean I’m suffering from depression?
The lights go green, and you cross the road to the public park on the other side. You take another picture of your coffee, before walking past a homeless guy to throw it into a bin, untouched.
Homeless Guy: Hey!
You: Excuse me?
Homeless Guy: Did you just throw out a full cup of coffee there?
You: Yeah, so what if I did?
Homeless Guy: Maybe I could have done with it. You’re really thoughtless.
You: How dare you judge me! You don’t even know me.
Homeless Guy: But you offended me. Also my brother died in a terrible coffee-throwing accident so you’ve triggered that whole trauma.
You: I find your offendedness really offensive. In fact, I’ve never been so offended.
Homeless Guy: I’m way more offended than you are. And also, ‘offendedness’ isn’t a word, so you just negated your entire argument, by being too stupid to live.
You: Yeah, well, I don’t care! You’re nothing to me. And that newspaper you’re sleeping on shows just how bigoted you are.
You walk away. You will spend the next eight hours fighting with barely contained anger and thinking of better comebacks which would have verbally annihilated the barista, the hoodie, and the homeless guy.
Unfortunately, it’s too late to tell them, so you tell everyone else instead, substituting what actually happened for your new snappy dialogue. Strangers love your stories and give you a thumbs up, but your friends pretend they don’t hear you. You feel sad and lonely, but then another stranger tells you how funny you are, which gives you 2 minutes of happiness before you feel sad and lonely again.
That’s enough of that. I’ve just remembered this is December, which is far too early for the aching preachiness I will be no doubt unleashing on the world in January. Must get more Christmassy. I’m off to write a love song to a pudding. It’s going to have one hell of a chorus.