Imagine, if you will, the following scenario. A good friend of yours from the online world has just announced that they are launching a book. When they announce this (they hadn’t given you advanced warning) you look at the title and you get a sort of sinking feeling. Although you hate to judge a book by the title alone, you fear that your friend might be putting something together more for the online impact rather than to do something that they feel strongly about. As a friend and as a supporter of this person, you want to be loyal. What exactly does that entail?

I fear that in the online world, especially where big personalities are involved, the tendency is to equate loyalty with straightforward, never-ending praise. In fact, this expectation seems to be as much on the part of the “big name” as on the part of any respondents. Offering a correction often garners a “You’re a hater” response. Noting that the project may not be in the best interest of the person may earn you the title of “disloyal,” “thoughtless,” or “tactless.” Given these risks, why not err on the side of what we call loyalty? 

I would toss out there though that sometimes, loyalty means being honest with the best interest of the person you’re talking to in mind. This does not mean that I’m granting all trolls a free-for-all, but it’s like Carol says all of the time – if you have a giant piece of spinach in your teeth, don’t you want someone to tell you? If you are coming up with an idea that may fall flat, would the loyal friend not put up the stop signal and say, “I think you should reconsider”? If you are not doing your best work, would not the loyal friend say, “Hey man, I think you can do better!”?

The online world is a tricky place. Every day, with everything we put out here, we are opening ourselves up for criticism. It’s a risky business. Because of that, I think we would all prefer that our friends simply rubber stamp everything that we do. There are plenty of people who will not. But I am not sure this is the best way to move forward. I am not sure this is the best way to show friendship or loyalty. If everything is rubber stamped, no compliment has meaning. If everything is always great without a second glance, there’s no real reason for the first glance.

What do you think? How do you handle loyalty online? Do you expect your friends to support you 100% no matter what you do or do you prefer to get 100% honesty even if it’s something you might not want to hear? I’d love to hear your thoughts.