Sunday, January 15, 2017

Being A Twit

Okay, so the title of the post is a bit misleading since this is about both Twitter and Facebook, but I couldn't find a pun to make about Facebook.  Anyhoo...

Social media continues to pervade our lives.  It's everywhere and nearly impossible to escape.  As writers, it can be a useful tool for marketing.  We get to describe our work in order to gage interest, build an audience, and let that audience know when we're coming out with new stuff.  That said, it can also be a dangerous trap of our own devising.

I've previously described that we, as writers, need to keep our personal views on controversial subjects out of our work.  In light of this past election, it's even more vital we do so.  Most of us have strong opinions about recent events, but as the vote totals show, we're roughly a 50/50 nation, and each side feels steadfast in their the point of cutting people out of our lives if they don't support our side.  I may think that's petty, regardless of who you support, but that's still a fact of life in this polarized age.  By injecting our personal views about this candidate or that, we risk alienating half of our potential audience - not the best way for a new writer to build followers.  Yes, rare people like Stephen King and JK Rowling can give out what they think without repercussion, most writers simply don't have that luxury.

Prior to around 2000, that wasn't really an issue.  Blogging was fairly new, and social media was non-existent.  Now, however, we all feel like we can put anything out from the comfort of our keyboard.  Problem is that it isn't only the side we agree with that sees it.  People on every side love to troll through the internet looking for outrage.  It takes only one poorly worded tweet or a viral Facebook post to irreparably tarnish what half of people think.

I have strongly held opinions myself, and I voice them a great deal on Facebook.  However, my feed is private and not visible to those I don't know.  I promise that at least half of you would turn me off forever if you knew what I wrote on there(probably more than half...I can be quite annoying).  We've all heard stories of one ill-advised tweet, even made in jest, ruining people's lives.  Remember, Twitter and Facebook don't provide body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc, so people will read it in whatever voice they want to, and these days it seems like that voice is a super-serious one.

In this perpetually offended age, remember your audience is more diverse than you think.  Michael Jordan recognized this in 1990 when he was asked why he wouldn't endorse Harvey Gantt against Jesse Helms, and he responded with, "Republicans buy shoes too."  If ideological purity is what you want, then by all means, piss off half of the audience, but just know that you won't have as wide a reach.  Also, you'll eventually piss off those on "your side" too.  Is that worth your own self-righteousness?

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