This will be on my can’t-sleep-at-night regret loop for a while. And it’s exactly the sort of fuck up I’m constantly telling my kids can happen. We tell them, “The Internet is INDELIBLE… it’s written with a Sharpie… you can’t take it back… it will haunt you forever. Words are powerful and permanent and can be misinterpreted.” And then we screw up, ourselves.
Well, I did.
Admittedly, I might have been looking for a shout out for my fundraiser. I’ll be honest about that. We had fantasies we could get this SUPER FAMOUS FABULOUS actress/author as our keynote speaker for our annual gala, but she was busy with a book tour. I’d known that for months. But maybe she’d be free next year?
We’re trying to raise big $$ here for a program that is doing great things. Three Steps to Success students got full-ride scholarships this year! I’ll climb the rafters and tweet at celebrities to champion this nonprofit and the accomplishments of the students it serves. When our whole community is involved, this wraparound care of programming begins to feel and function more like family. Spreading the word is how we get more people into our orbit, and social media is supposed to be a useful tool for that. So when I saw that our unavailable book tour babe was going to be speaking with another of my favorite writers, I thought… ooh what fun! But what I wrote was this:
“We were trying to get G for our fundraiser, but looks like it’ll be more fun (for her) with you in LA! Have a great evening!”
Or something like that. Without any context for tone, those parentheses are tragic. It was perceived as snarky: “Y’all suck because instead of headlining my teeny fundraiser, you’re being busy and famous somewhere else!” Which I didn’t intend. And the world famous author called me out for tweeting a manipulative guilt trip. Which is how it sounded to her in that moment. Maybe I need to use more emojis. The only worse response I’ve gotten on social media was when I admitted on Facebook that I don’t make my boys do chores. (They’ll do them wrong.)
Immediately, I was a terrible person– and suddenly there was tweeting proof of it. Disgruntled readers flocked to my “Asian by marriage” Twitter bio and didn’t read that as a silly quip encapsulating 16 years of wedded bliss, but proof of exactly what sort of tone deaf white girl I am. And attempts to clarify my BUT HEY I LOVE YOU GUYS WAIT WAIT WAIT explanations were read as lame and victim-y.
It’s really enough to make a girl want to log off forever. I mean, I’m a writer, dammit. Well, sort of… in that I write stuff and sometimes people read it. I should be able to make my words plain. I’m going to have to ask the teenagers how they navigate this land mine of wordsmith-ing every single day. The very idea that we expect them not to screw up is ludicrous.
An easy remedy is to stop tweeting @ famous people. Or use emojis that convey “Yay, everything!” Either one. Probably I’ll do what I keep telling my boys to do: proofread every email or message as if it were being read aloud to the entire class.
Also, apologize when we forget to do that. The great writer forgave me… I think. Hard to tell without emojis.
ooh I feel for you. I can totally see how easily this could happen – and how surprising it is to actually have author tweet you back! I think you handled it really well though in this follow-up post – and good luck with fundraiser!
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