6 Ways Being Snarky Will Come Back to Bite You… Hard
December 28, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park
First of all, I want to wish everyone a happy holidays. I hope that everyone had a great time celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa with family and friends. This is usually the time of year where we all spread the holiday cheer and show love to those around us. It’s a jolly time where we have giving hearts, pretend to like each other, and live in harmony.
But before you start seeing rainbows, butterflies, and Care Bears, I want to stop there. The topic of my post today is actually quite the opposite of the scenario I just described. It’s about being snarky and overly critical for the sake of attention – and how it can come back to bite you if you’re using it online.
In case you’re not familiar with the term “snarky”, Urban Dictionary defines it as “any language that contains quips or comments containing sarcastic or satirical witticisms intended as blunt irony. It’s usually delivered in a manner that is somewhat abrupt and out of context and intended to stun and amuse.”
I’m talking about the people who publicly insult others and put them down for the sake of humor and attention (i.e. the high school bullies who pick on others and pull pranks to look “cool”).
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going for the “holier than thou” stance here and I know that being snarky works extremely well online. In fact, just a few days ago, I came across a post by Nickycakes called the Top 10 Worst Make Money Online Sites of 2008. It got a ton of comments and even managed to go hot on Sphinn. I admit that it was actually very witty and funny, but obviously it had to come at the expense of people who were probably not amused by the insults.
There are a few bloggers out there who take the snarky and cynical approach and do extremely well for themselves (e.g. Maddox of The Best Page In The Universe, Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins, and Steve Hodson). However, it’s not for everyone and comes with a lot of negatives.
Looking at it from a business perspective, being snarky is not a wise decision especially if you’re building a personal brand and online business. It’ll come back to haunt you big time. How? Below is a list of the negative consequences that come from being snarky online – whether it be on your blog, in chat rooms or forums, or in everyday life events.
1. You make enemies
Obviously insulting others is a surefire way of making enemies – which isn’t a good thing in the Internet world. If it’s bad enough, one person could wreck havoc to your reputation and spread the word about how bad of a person you are. Sure, you might have benefited from making snarky remarks with links and exposure, but at the end of the day it’s not worth the potential for disaster. Everything you do online counts towards your reputation. Just one bad word or one sour relationship could ruin everything for you.
For example, take a look at Vic Franqui from Blogger Unleashed. He openly lashes out at fellow Internet marketing blogger Caroline Middlebrook for being “fake” and crushes the dreams of a new blogger. He has a cultish following of people who enjoy this kind of stuff, but he’s making a lot of enemies in the process.
2. You put yourself in harm’s way
What goes around comes around, right? The anonymity and the distance that comes with the Internet makes it easier for people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do in person. For example, you might cuss someone out or embarrass someone online but not dare do the same in “real life”. However, what you may not realize is that your online actions have real ramifications. For example, plan on attending an industry conference? I’m sure it’ll be super awkward if you saw that guy you completely insulted on your blog last month. Not only that, but it’s pretty easy to find out where someone lives by using WHOIS data (although hopefully it will never come to that). Scary, eh?
As an example, Jon Fisher of the Wicked Fire Affiliate Marketing Forums is notorious for his snarky comments and in-your-face style. He’s developed a reputation in the industry because of it, but he’s had to pay for it in the form of enemies, lash back, and even seize and desist letters.
3. You isolate yourself – no one will want to get close to you
If you’re in the habit of insulting people and making jokes, it doesn’t matter who – you do it anyway. Your “followers” will think it’s funny and laugh with you but at the same time they know that you could easily turn to them to be guinea pigs for a joke. Because of this, most people will avoid getting close to snarky people like you. You might get attention and exposure but it’ll be difficult for you to gain friends and develop meaningful relationships in the industry.
4. You put yourself up against higher standards
Making sarcastic remarks and putting people down should mean that you’re better than the people you’re insulting, right? You can’t make a joke about the flaws in a person and be guilty of the same things. It just doesn’t work. Because of this, you need to hold yourself to higher standards in order to avoid appearing hypocritical. Being snarky is stressful and takes hard work – why not just play nice with the same amount of effort?
5. You limit your audience
If you take the snarky approach on your blog and are relentlessly sarcastic and pessimistic, you severely limit your audience. Sure, there will be people who like your style and find it amusing, but in those cases your blog becomes nothing more than entertainment.Readers may enjoy your personality and tone but probably don’t expect much from the content of your posts. If you’re looking to become an authority in your niche and be perceived as an expert, being snarky won’t help.
6. You will alienate your readers – they have to pick a side
Finally, picking fights with others alienates your readers and forces them to choose sides. Sure, a lot of people might enjoy the drama and take part, but some may want to stay out of it or remain neutral – which causes them to avoid you and your site altogether. In the end, no one wins. You’re left with an army of opposers and enemies and people who no longer care about you because they’d rather not put up with the drama.
If you remember, Google spam engineer Matt Cutts surveyed his blog readers about whether or not he should out SEO Aaron Wall about the other side of his anti-Google story. In the end, Matt decided against it, but imagine all of the public drama that would have ensued if he decided to go the snarky route. Readers would have had to choose between Aaron and Matt – which would have been damaging for the search industry as a whole.
As you can see, being snarky comes with a lot of negative consequences that just aren’t worth the short temporary benefits. Sure, we might lose our tempers once in a while and make some comments we regret later on (even nice guys like Rand Fishkin can be snarky at times), but as a general rule of thumb it’s always better to be helpful, unique, and interesting rather than rude and insulting for the sake of attention.
What’s your take? ::ducks from all the snarky people reading this post::If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.