by Holly West
This is my semi-regular plea to authors (and everybody else) about writing political or otherwise controversial posts on social media. Please think before you do it. Hell, sometimes even thinking about it isn't enough. Maybe you should just not do it at all.
Awhile back, someone I know to be an avid reader tweeted, "I liked my writer friends a lot better before twitter." I'm paraphrasing because I can't find the exact tweet, but it was a reference to authors who post about politics. I feel similarly about Facebook and a few of my relatives, so I understand the sentiment. Who doesn't?
But what really prompted me to broach this topic again was that over the last year or so, I began following an author whose books I like on social media. Said author has never been particularly shy about writing political posts, but with the primary season upon us, those posts have really ramped up. They're increasingly vitriolic, and while I suspect this author believes the commentary to be thoughtful and well-considered, it's only convinced me that he/she is somewhat of a tool, and not a tool in the useful sense. At the very least, my respect for the author has diminished considerably.
Yes, I realize this post is somewhat passive aggressive in that I wouldn't say any of this to the author directly. And yes, I know that I'm free to unfollow or unfriend. But this post isn't so much about me being annoyed as it is about how authors choose to use their social media accounts. We're told constantly we need to have a presence on social media, which requires effort. Taking the time, even if it's minimal, to cultivate a social media presence only to turn around an alienate your audience is counter productive. I've done it many times myself.
We're not out there trying to be jerks, we just don't realize the negative impact such posts can have. It's too easy to post one's opinion without really thinking about how it can be received.
I said earlier that I've enjoyed this author's work in the past, so I wouldn't say that my new impressions will prevent me from buying future books, though I might think twice. But what about the author who I might not have any experience with beyond annoying social media posts? Even if I wasn't an author myself, as someone who loves books, it's not inconceivable that I might cross paths with someone on social media whose work I'm not familiar with, who I'd first get to know through social media. Call me immature and small-minded, but I probably wouldn't buy their books if they're constantly posting about politics. I have too many other choices.
When you post about politics and other controversial subjects, you never know who you might offend. And sure, I get that you might not care about offending others. Sometimes I don't care either, especially if a particular topic is important enough to me. But the Internet world we all inhabit is an increasingly chaotic and negative space, and I try not to add to the noise.
Before you write such a post, I urge you to think about it. What's your purpose? Are you trying to convince others to see your POV? Chances are, that isn't going to happen. Do you have some anger or frustration to vent? Maybe go for a walk instead. Do you just need a little reassurance that there are others out there who feel like you do? Trust me, there are plenty of them. But there are also a lot of people who don't feel like you do and they aren't aren't interested in your diatribes. Or mine, either.
<Sigh.> Something tells me it's gonna be a long, hard road to November.