A Writer's Choice: Politics and Social Media
Like many Americans, I awoke this morning charged by the results of the U.S. Senate election yesterday in Alabama. No, I am not going to rehash the politics, the results, or the implications. You have CNN, CBS, ABC, and FOX to do that for you. You also get to jump aboard social media. That’s what I want to talk about. Should writers take to their virtual pens and express their personal political beliefs on social media? Or should they contain their opinions where they can be conveyed privately? There is considerable advice on this topic, not surprisingly, much of it found on social media. There are experts who suggest that there is little to be gained and much to be lost when a writer tweets how she feels about a particular candidate or issue. They warn people will not buy your book, the buzz will be negative, and you will be buried with comments more hurtful than your worst review. Play it safe and restrict your Facebook comments to what you made for the dinner last night. Why invite disaster and undermine the work you have invested in your book? Why? Robert Stribley offered six reasons in his Huff Post article, “Why I Talk Politics on Social Media.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-i-talk-politics-on-social-media_us_587ceaa9e4b094e1aa9dc824 1. People do change their minds. 2. The value of expressing solidarity. 3. Some taboos exist for the wrong reasons. 4. Combatting misinformation. 5. Silence can be construed as acquiescence. 6. Change never happens without friction and disagreement. The last two reasons resonate with me the most. I’ve spent my entire professional life dealing with conflict between people as a mediator and a lawyer. While I will concede there is nothing more exhausting and depleting than engaging in conflict, the process is conversely awakening, energizing, and often enlightening. Without conflict, there is stagnancy, silence, and a complacency that can become dangerous. That my own silence might be construed as acquiescence disturbs me, particularly when I am able to communicate in a reasonably competent manner. I remember when I was in high school studying history asking my father how Hitler became so powerful that he could murder so many people without the rest of the world speaking out. He struggled to answer and I was still left wondering how an entire world remained silent. Whether a writer chooses to speak out on a single issue or has a platform filled with them, I don’t care. I respect his or her right to write wherever and whenever seems fit. I can make choices of my own. I can read or not read. I can respond or not respond. During the past presidential election, I read many Facebook posts that conflicted with my own personal political opinions. One particular poster was particularly condescending about those who disagreed with her, confident that she “knew better.” Apparently, she didn’t. While I was offended by her superciliousness, I respect and would defend her right to express her opinions. I never responded to her comments. Instead, I set forth my own. I have made the choice to speak publicly about issues I care about on social media. Does anyone care about what I think? I don’t know. That isn’t the point. The point is that I cannot be silent about matters that concern me. I will still tell you what I ordered for dinner at a restaurant and wish you happy birthday. But when I believe something is important to stand up for, you’ll see me standing. If I sell a few less books because of this, it’s worth it. What are your thoughts about expressing political opinions on social media?