That Old Chestnut: The Internet and unsolicited advice

Disclaimers don’t really cut it on the web, do they?

I’m not talking about the professional kind, which are good, proper and helpful. The “by the way, these are my words not my employer’s” sort and “oh, this is my client” type are super duper. It’s the personal kind that are awkward. I suppose they’re not really disclaimers at all, but I think of them in the same category of “by the way, here’s something you should know”.

I’ve learned the hard way that if you just say something publicly* – on a Facebook status, for example – you get a barrage of advice, solicited or not. I’m not a fan of locking comments, even though that’s exactly what it avoids, because that also prevents the nice, private, supportive types from being able to comment. So I add in a point, sometimes at length, on the lines of: “this is a statement, not a question. No advice needed, ta.”

This, as I am often reminded when people go ahead and unleash their ‘helpful’ honesty anyway, is pointless.

So I have to examine my motivations. Why do I want to say it publicly in the first place? I guess it’s so that I can share something I’m excited about with my community of friends, but I suppose part of me also wants to share it as a broadcast, not a conversation. I’m happy to absorb the support and goodwill, but when someone challenges me (even if I’m completely 100% sure I’m right), it’s annoying and I just don’t want it.

Obviously that’s only the case in a very small number of posts. Most of them are open to challenge every which way. And maybe it’s an English thing; you just expect people to know which areas they should refrain from pelting you with advice about (like, say, childbirth). Though the Greek part of me laughs with unbridled scorn at the idea that people you’re close to would, you know, keep their opinions to themselves. After all, if your close friends and family can’t give it to you straight…

I always roll my eyes a bit when people don’t realise that what they say online is in the public domain, and yet here I am hypocritically expecting to be the exception to the rule just because I asked nicely.

Yep. Alex, you’re just going to have to suck it up. If you broadcast it, replies will come. Remember that.

*I only have friends and close colleagues on my Facebook profile. It is otherwise locked down for a reason, which is that it’s nice to have a closed community sometimes. Twitter and this blog are public; knock yourselves out.

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2 responses to “That Old Chestnut: The Internet and unsolicited advice

  1. I just wanted to say that I love this post. Unsolicited advice is my number one pet hate about the internet right now: it annoys me even more than trolling, but because I know it’s generally well-meant, I’m resigned to rolling my eyes, too. I’ve learned that I can’t say ANYTHING – at all – online without people trying to offer me advice about it, and often the disclaimers just go ignored, too. I know it’s one of those things you have to expect when you write online, but boy, is it patronising!

    • It is indeed… and the thing is, it’s fine when it’s someone you’re close to. Occasionally there’s an exchange of “you probably already know this, but…” which I totally don’t mind, and am probably regularly guilty of! It just seems like the world and his wife can’t help themselves…

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