Facebook and Twitter don’t have a total monopoly on social networking. There are many different social networks to be found for a wide variety of niches. There are lots of online writing communities out there, and they often include critique groups. If you’re a writer, it can be beneficial for you to join these networks or groups, but there are some disadvantages you should keep in mind, too.
In an online writing community or critique group, there aren’t always real-time discussions or meetings. Oftentimes you send your work over to another writer, and then you patiently wait for a response (and vice versa). You never can be sure exactly when your reader will get around to critiquing your work, and sometimes they may never respond. Most the time participants are reliable, but some are only there to receive feedback and aren’t interested in returning the favor.
Theft and Plagiarism Concerns
When you send your writing to someone else, they have a full-text, typed version of your work. It’s incredibly easy to copy and paste on the computer. Once you’ve sent your work out, you have no way or guaranteeing that you can maintain its integrity. While many people aren’t scammers, there are many who won’t hesitate to put their name on your work or publish it elsewhere, and you will have no control if they do. Perhaps more common than word-by-word plagiarism is idea theft, in which another writer will use your ideas or even the entire premise of your work in their own writing.
You can’t view your critics face-to-face, and you have absolutely no way of knowing who they really are. They may tell you their experience level as a writer, for example, but you can’t be sure they aren’t lying. In essence, you’re asking a total stranger to critique your work, and you have no idea whether they’re even remotely qualified to do so. Because you’re biased, it can make it difficult to determine when someone’s critique of your work is justified, or when they’re just making novice or shallow observations.
Harsh or Improper Criticism
We know from the epidemic of online bullying that online people can be particularly cruel. You’re able to say things by typing them that you’d never say to someone’s face. This makes some people feel it’s okay to be cruel or rude when critiquing someone else’s work, and it can be quite upsetting. On the other hand, they can deliver any type of criticism, such as criticism based on their personal preferences, with no other group members to remind them or call them out on their impropriety.
Finally, writers are notoriously shy, even reclusive, people. Of course this often isn’t the case, but many writers do follow the stereotype and prefer to be alone, or they may feel uncomfortable in social situations. Talking to other writers and forming friendships with them online may seem easier, but it’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction and the socialization that would come with joining a local writing critique group.
Alayne Valentine is a writer and literature student who has lots of experience writing in online writing groups. She loves to blog and often covers anything from the best creative mediums to using grammar checkers.
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