Monday, October 15, 2012

Controversy and Social Media

A few weeks ago, an e-mail group I belong to got into a discussion about authors including personal information and/or opinions in their social media. The discussion was primarily centered on Facebook, although the issue carries over to other social media such as blogs, Twitter, etc.

Most everyone agreed that posting a little personal information - mentioning pets, children, hobbies - could be a positive thing. Readers enjoy getting to know an author as a person.  But the group was split on the subject of authors expressing their opinions on more controversial or divisive subjects, i.e. religion or politics.

Those who thought authors should refrain using their social media as a "soapbox" reasoned that doing so could antagonize half their potential audience, resulting in lost readers. One pointed out that, as authors, our social media sites were places of business and therefore not the proper setting for presenting personal opinions. 

It was also noted that a better place to express our opinions was in our writing (stories, books, etc.) where controversy could actually boost sales.

Others felt that, as artists, we had the right or even an obligation to speak out.  A few said they liked having a social media platform to express their opinions on all kinds of issues.

Overall, those not in favor of expressing personal opinions on controversial issues outweighed those in favor about two to one.  I was in the majority on this one. I enjoy sharing personal/family items but I keep my opinions on heavy social issues off my blog.

What do you think? As authors, what should be the role of your social media sites?  As readers, do you want to know how authors feel about controversial issues?  Would it impact your interest in their work?


An offshoot of this group discussion was the question of personal vs. professional Facebook pages.  That will be the topic of my post next Monday.

Quotes of the Day: (some differing points of view)

"If you're going to say what you want to say, you're going to hear what you don't want to hear.” 
― Roberto BolaƱo, The Insufferable Gaucho

"Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.” ― Mark Twain

“When we have to change an opinion about any one, we charge heavily to his account the inconvenience he thereby causes us.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“It’s a fact that you’re going to have a different opinion or view on certain topics or issues. You need stand your ground by sharing your view.” ― Michael Barbarulo: Author God's Healing Hands: Allow God To Reshape Your Soul

40 comments:

Tara Tyler said...

no comment.
just kidding! i think it depends on the personality and what you want to get out of expressing your thoughts. you will get a reaction whether a loud argument by those who love to argue or silent opposition and possibly loss of fans, but also possible gain of others. regardless, we will be judged.

i keep my mouth shut on big issues, usually. then i dont ruffle feathers & people can like/not like my work based on the work. great quotes!! happy monday!

Cate Masters said...

I avoid outside issues and stick to occasional personal sharing (dog pics, etc). It's a murky area to delve into politics and controversy unless you're whip smart and eloquent, but even then it's a waste of time. Everyone is rooted in their own opinions and an author is unlikely to convince anyone to jump sides.

Maria Zannini said...

I won't discuss politics--though sometimes I'm tempted to tell the loudmouths to shut up. LOL.

They are so frantic to make you see their way, that they come off as hysterical nut cases.

I just want to know what my friends are up to. This is why I friended them in the first place.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

When it comes to politics and religion, no matter what you say, you will immediately alienate half of the readers. While we should take a stand on what we believe, I think it really hurts us in the long run. I've stopped following certain authors because they were so vocal in their political beliefs.

What comes to mind are actors who use their Oscar acceptance speech to go on a political rant. Can't stand that!

LD Masterson said...

Tara - I agree. No point in ruffling feathers Happy Monday to you, too.

LD Masterson said...

Cate - And I've never claimed to be either whip smart or eloquent.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - Well, I'm trying to be non-confrontational so I'd ask them to shut up...please. :-)

Julie Dao said...

Politics and religion are troublemakers. And baseball. There, I said it. :D But seriously, everyone has different opinions and there's no point in polarizing your readers when social media should be a tool to promote your writing. I think that it's okay to share your beliefs but not to dwell on them or try to force your opinion on others.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I with you in the majority. I'm friends with a couple of authors on facebook who have filled their posts with some really vicious political attacks on certain candidates not to be named here.
I have the TV for that garbage.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I haven't a problem with sharing some personal things to give something of my personality and for readers to find common ground. I'm still very careful as to what I share. I don't publicly get into discussions about religion or politics.

Of course I have opinions on a great many issues but those are private discussions for friends or family. The problem is, and many forget, once it's in writing it's there forever.

I guess as an author or a businessperson doing business online, the question would be, what do you want associated with your name? Your products or your opinions?

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'm one of those who never brings up any tricky topics, but I'd hate to prescribe that for every author.

But when I've come across authors who are very vocal about different beliefs they hold (as a reader), yes...it does affect the way I view them and their books. Since I want to escape with reading, that's not what I'm looking for!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm from the majority that says fun personal items are fine but the heavy stuff just alienates friends and readers. I've unfollowed quite a few folks on Facebook because their rants annoy me. I respect their freedom to voice their opinions, and I exercise my freedom not to listen. :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Agree with Elizabeth and Patricia. And I just don't tackle those topics. (Although I'm not afraid to voice my faith in God, I just state it as a fact for me when I do.)

nutschell said...

I think it's okay to share a little bit about your personal life--especially when it affects/influences your writing somehow. :)

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Linda G. said...

I once had somebody say to me, "You come across as very open and sharing on your blog and Twitter, but when it gets right down to it, you really don't give away much about yourself."

I said, "Thanks. I work hard on that."

Guess you might call me a gregariously private person. ;)

LD Masterson said...

Julie - Wow, I never thought of baseball. But I guess you're right. I'm not sure I could buy a book written by a Yankee fan. (Go Red Sox)

LD Masterson said...

Susan - Wouldn't it be nice if there was a law that all political conversations (ads, tirades, etc.) had to be about what someone was for and not what they were against?

LD Masterson said...

Sia - Very good point.

LD Masterson said...

Elizabeth - It's difficult to separate what we know about an artist from how we feel about their work.

LD Masterson said...

Patricia - Absolutely.

LD Masterson said...

Alex - I'm quite open about being a Christian but I won't get dragged into "we're right and you're wrong" religious debates.

LD Masterson said...

Nutschell - I agree.

LD Masterson said...

Linda G. - That's a very good skill to have. I can stay away from the controversial stuff with ease, but when I start talking about my family, especially the grandkids, I get carried away.

LD Masterson said...

Diane - I'm sorry, I missed your comment earlier.

The Oscar speech is a good example. There's a time and a place for everything and that's not it.

Amy Jarecki said...

Hi LD - I popped over here from Patricia Stotley's blog, and so glad I did. I have to admit that I use social media and my blog to promote other authors and my own writing. I use it as a motivational tool. I also think that I would lose potential readers if I "ranted" about my political beliefs (for instance). So--I choose to leave that to others, and focus on what I do best.

Write on!

LD Masterson said...

Amy - Thanks for coming by and for Following my blog. I was trying to follow you back to your blog but can't find the link. If you'd like to leave it here in a comment, I'll follow you home.

Maryann Miller said...

I do sometimes go into a general political rant, but aimed at an incompetent government system not a particular party.

One of my writer friends, Ginger Simpson, started a blog specifically for her commentary about politics, etc. That seems to be a good alternative for folks like her and me who have a hard time keeping quiet about some things. LOL

Sarah Ahiers said...

In general i'm a "keep my mouth" shut, person. But there are a few things i will talk about, usually things i feel very strongly about (like people's basic rights being violated or changed etc)

Carol Kilgore said...

I don't share either. At least on most of the heavy things.

Jemi Fraser said...

I'm not much for controversy in any place, so I definitely wouldn't engage in it on social media. I try to remember that everything I say online might be read by my kids and my students - but I'm pretty even keeled on most things anyway :)

Lydia Kang said...

I think it also depends on why you are using social media. As a writer, I know half my readership will be upset if I voice political or religious opinions, so generally, I don't. Once in a while, something slips out, but it's not the norm for me.

LD Masterson said...

Maryann - I know I couldn't maintain another blog but that does sound like a good solution.

LD Masterson said...

Sarah - It's a fine line sometimes, isn't it?

LD Masterson said...

Lydia - I think that's the concensus of the commenters here.

Stephen Tremp said...

I try to keep my FB account free from political and religious viewpoints. I do have to let loose once in a while though. Its a free country. But I try to keep the rants and raves off my FB wall and focus on positive stuff.

Liz Fichera said...

I try to focus on the positive. The world is already awash in so much negative.

LD Masterson said...

Stephen - Positive stuff is always better.

LD Masterson said...

Liz - I agree.

Although the thought just struck me - how often is one person's positive another person's negative?

Mike Keyton said...

The problem with expressing your views openly is that you can be dragged into tribalism. Some people don't know how to debate without getting personal ie unable to separate the person from the argument, and so for the most part it's just not worth the trouble. I'm never afraid of expressing my opinions but I don't feel obliged to express them.

LD Masterson said...

Mike - Well said.