There’s always someone. You’re FaceBook friends with him because he’s your third cousin one removed, or you follow her on Twitter because you love her books. But here’s the problem: They’re into politics. Really into politics. And more importantly, you disagree with every single thing they believe in. You don’t want to unfollow/unfriend them because you’d still like to interact with them, but something has got to give before you smash in your computer screen.
What’s a girl to do? Well, outside of taking a deep breath and striving for Zen, not much really. But what you can do is not become like them. Which brings us to the third installment of our Girlz Guide to Social Media series:
How To Have An Opinion About Politics Without Alienating Your Followers
(Or Coming Across As A Giant A**hole)
The thing is, if you’re using social media as a writer, chances are you’re doing it to make connections with fellow writers, interact with agents and editors, and learn about the industry. The focus should be on writing. But you can’t connect with people if you don’t let some of your personality show through, too. Some people recommend staying away from anything even remotely controversial and to not touch politics with a ten-foot pole. Personally, I think it’s artificial to never say anything about politics if that’s part of who you are, but there are ways to do it that aren’t alienating, or, well, you know. Dickish.
Here are some quick tips for sticking your toe into the murky waters of talking politics without damaging your brand:
- Moderation. If writing is your focus, then politics isn’t. The end. Keep political status updates and tweets to no more than 10% of your total social media presence. (Yes, I just made that number up, but it seems reasonable, right?) That’s one in ten. More than that, and your focus is slipping.
- Facts. Check them. Nothing gets my bile burning faster than someone I disagree with spouting off on a political rant about things that aren’t even true. There are a lot of handy-dandy graphs and figures floating around on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. Check the source, because for all you know, some nutter in a tin-foil hat made the graphic with absolutely no factual basis. If you can’t find at least something to back up the numbers, don’t share, reblog or retweet.
- Talk about the issues, not the idiots. There’s so much temptation to label the people who disagree with you as stupid, foolish, sheep-like or intent on destroying the country. I have a fair number of friends who are on the other end of the political spectrum from me, and by talking with them (not at them), I’ve learned that they all have the best interests of the country in mind, they just think we should take a different path. They’re not stupid. They’re not evil. We simply disagree.Try making your statement more about, “I believe ______ about _____ issue,” and less about, “ALL PEOPLE WHO DON’T BELIEVE _______ SHOULD DIE AND STOP DESTROYING AMERICA!!!”, or, “I CAN’T BELIEVE THOSE F**ING IDIOTS ACTUALLY SUPPORT THAT NEO-NAZI FASCIST [insert politician’s name here]!!!”
This is not to say that you can’t use snark or wit – just don’t demonize or demean the opposition. Even beyond the fact that some of your potential readership might include people who disagree with you, it’s really the decent thing to do.
I truly believe that by keeping a close eye on the frequency, accuracy and vitriol of your political statements, it’s possible to both express your opinion and keep from alienating your readership.
Now if only my third cousin once-removed would get the memo on this…
(Special thanks to Elizabeth Michels for swapping blog dates with me while she’s out of town, and for letting me chime in on this series. You’re the best, EM!)