Writers, Politics, and Social Media

 In June, the New York Times ran an article  (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/29/books/review/david-lynch-elin-hilderbrand-best-seller.html) that started, “Though it probably gives their publicists heart palpitations, some best-selling novelists are choosing to enter the political fray on social media.” It went on to site Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and other best-selling authors. I wondered how mid-list authors who aren’t already on the New York Times best-sellers list were handling the same dilemma, so I asked my talented writing colleagues, the Miss Demeanors these questions: Are you giving your publicist/publisher palpitations by making political comments on social media? Whether you have decided to jump into the political waters or sit on the shore, what was the basis of your decision? If you’re neck deep in political hot water, do you have a strategy for containing your involvement? Do you fear offending readers? If you’ve chosen not to enter the political conversation on social media, do you have concerns you may be criticized or that? Michele:            When I was an adolescent, I angrily challenged my father about why Americans seem to stand by silently during the Holocaust. He tried to explain how communications were different then and how later many people were horrified by their own ignorance and apparent indifference. That conversation lingers in my mind and is the reason I will speak about issues that affect the rights of human beings, especially children, on social media. I try to limit my comments to substantive conversations. Jabbing at someone’s hair color, etc. does nothing. I also try very hard to actively listen to what others are saying. I think the reason we are having so much discord today is because we don’t really take the time to listen to each other.  Cate:I have lost followers when I have posted political opinions on Facebook.  However, I think some issues (such as separating little children from parents seeking asylum in the U.S., the need for gun laws that prevent people with histories of violence and mental problems—often reported to police by family members—from legally purchasing semi automatic weapons, and the importance of having a functioning fourth estate) are too important not to say something about. Some things go beyond politics and are about who we are as human beings and who we hope other people are too. And silence can be interpreted as tolerance of things that are dangerous to our kids or flat out in humane.  Paula:I do a lot of social media, but I stick to what interests me: books, writing, writers, publishing, literature, dogs and dog handlers, cats, wildlife, nature, yoga, the art of happiness, and to a lesser extent, architecture and interior design, as we’re remodeling an 18th century Colonial.I try to avoid politics, simply because for me it’s a rabbit hole I choose not to go down. I’m at my happiest and most productive when I’m calm and rational, and calm and rational do not describe the current state of political discourse. I’d rather read The Paris Review. Tracee:I agree with Cate, that surely there are many things which are beyond politics and in the realm of humanity. Unfortunately, in today’s environment, any comment about the news of the day will likely fall into the realm of politics. So be it. That said, I don’t think of my online profile as a place for politics writ large. I do comment occasionally and I’m sure people can suss out my affiliations and beliefs if they care to. I have a deep distaste for the politicization of everything. In the past how someone voted didn’t put them in a friend or foe box and I think this is dangerous and the political noise shuts people out to the words of those they feel are in opposition. I’d like to believe we can share beliefs and values and not always agree. Although I am am beginning to think that is nostalgia talking.  Robin:I actually raised this with a publicist not too long ago. I do step into the fray on Twitter, particularly around issues involving cyber security matters in a post-2016 election world. I watched the run-up and see the aftermath happen in real time (I was one of many, many people who helped try to stop it before, and rectify it after). What I continue to find surprising is that I gain followers when I shoot my mouth off (via keyboard). The only followers I’ve lost have been bots. The publicist said what people are probably reacting to is my authenticity. So, do I go on long tirades? Not on Twitter, no. But, I’m not going to stay silent about human rights abuses, or keep certain bits of knowledge to myself if sharing can help keep people safe, or at least raise awareness. But it is a very conscious balancing act. Susan:I’m very active politically in person, but I tend to tone it down a bit on social media, mainly because I don’t think it does any good. Twitter has become so strident.  It’s much more exciting to me when I connect with someone from a different part of the country and a different background and I can feel like maybe by having a conversation, I can influence her opinion. Vote by vote.  My minister always says he’d rather make a friend than be right, and I subscribe to that. Susan Alexia:I try to keep my politics to my personal page. I use my author page to share news about topics related to my books (at least tangentially), promote my books and fellow authors, and share information about conferences and literary news. I’m used to compartmentalizing my life because my day job has certain limits on what you can and can’t do. My political views are personal so I feel my personal page is the place to express them. I also keep the politics to the personal page because my posts are limited (not public). Not because of fear of offending anyone, more out of fear of bringing the extremist whack jobs out of the woodwork. I’ve been (unpleasantly) surprised by some of the views expressed by people I thought I knew. I want to avoid the social media crapshow many people find themselves mired in. It’s counterproductive. When I find myself getting angry at the way the world seems to be moving, I can let off some steam on my “friends only” personal page then try to live a life that leaves the world a little better than I found it. I am so impressed with the intelligence, insight, and thoughtfulness of my fellow Miss Demeanors! Nice to hang out with smart women.Michele  

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