In Part I, we established that authors are not only safe to discuss politics, but are expected to actively take a stand. We also addressed strategy and optimization for readers and writers (and right-brained types in general).
I like to think of this part as “How to Not Lose Your Shit.” Enjoy!
Keep Your Cool
I’m sorely tempted to insert a meme here about people who get into fights on the internet, but I won’t because 1) I don’t want to get sued for using someone else’s image and 2) I live with one of those people. (For real. It’s ridiculous.)
That said, if you’re trying to be as efficient as possible (making the most impact while preserving your sanity), do not feed the trolls and there are trolls on both sides of the aisle. Twitter is an amazing place these days to get real-time news and analysis, usually before the major news outlets. The other day, Lamda Legal had the text for an Executive Order on Twitter before it landed on any major news sites (but I did have to go digging for it on Lamda’s website when it should have been on the front page ASAP. I digress).
While Twitter is amazing for getting water-cooler gossip at lightning speeds, it’s also a cesspool of baiting, flaming and instant gratification. That last part is dangerous when it leads to rumors and assumptions. Before you retweet or give someone your two cents, stop for half a second to verify and/or do a self-check.
First, is the source credible? Is there merit or is it likely fake news? Don’t become part of the problem by retweeting something that—while interesting and outrageous—is as fake as my red hair.
Second, are you helping or hurting the cause by sharing that information/sentiment? What will you accomplish? Think of the original intent of the tweet. Perhaps someone posted an eye-popping graphic explaining what is now considered a pre-existing medical condition, and you think it’s a great representation of the material. Take a second to look at the graphic. Does it seem legit? Check it against other sources explaining pre-existing conditions. Yes, it takes a minute but it also makes you look credible.
You discover that the graphic contains some crazy shizz but after poking around you discover it’s actually true. Great! Retweet it with a comment. (No one likes an RT with nothing additional. It makes you looks like a bot, but that’s another post.)
After you’ve RT’d with a pithy comment, you get an inflammatory reply. If it’s from someone you know, tread carefully. Be diplomatic (“they go low, we go high,” remember?) If you must engage, stick to facts. Real ones. No alternative ones. Or, ignore them.
Speaking from experience, refrain from telling someone or even insinuating that their opinion is wrong. They may be wallowing in the wrongishness of their wrongdom, but that’s the nature of opinions. Everyone gets to have one. (Yes, just like assholes. You were waiting for that, weren’t you?) When my ears begin ringing, that’s when I know someone’s gotten under my skin and it’s time to back away to check myself. Yep, before I wreck myself. It’s funny, but it’s not. I think I spent all of November, December and January in a constant rage complete with upset stomach, muscle aches and headaches from stress.
I also live with someone who’s easily wound up, except he doesn’t take a minute to calm down. He charges full-speed ahead to prove people wrong, insult them, etc. It’s amazing that he has any Facebook friends left because he’s gotten into online arguments with, like, everyone and their mother. (Not kidding. He’s argued with his friends’ relatives, too, and anyone who comments on his argument.)
However, he’s taught me some good lessons. Maybe these are old news to you because they’re common sense, but I’m a somewhat introverted writer and confrontation has never been my forte. I’m guessing the same may be true for you.
First, if you must argue with someone, don’t make it personal or emotional. You know when your mom gave you the stink-eye but didn’t say a word? It’s like that. No one every changed someone’s opinion or world view by yelling and name-calling, but facts have a way of worming their way into the subconscious. Yes, we’re in weird time where facts aren’t valued as highly but eventually, reason will prevail. (It will, dammit.) Specific, targeted actions are even more effective.
Here’s an example to show you what I mean.
The details are fuzzy, but a kid alleged that he’d been encouraged to kill himself because he’s gay. I can’t remember if it happened at school or on the job. In the article’s comments, a man suggested it was fake news and the alleged victim was making it up for attention. The person I live with, we’ll call him Handsome, got into a comment exchange with the guy. Then he calmly clicked over to the man’s public profile, saw where he worked, and sent an email to the management asking them if this man’s opinion also reflected that of his employer. When he let the man know what he’d done, the guy went ballistic and accused Handsome of “hating on” him. Handsome laughed and pointed out the irony of victim-blaming (hating) and then complaining of being hated on. Handsome got a reply email from the man’s employer, who said they would be investigating. Last he could tell, the guy not only deleted his comments, he shut down his entire profile.
One down, a couple million to go.
Another time, there was a woman who unsafely passed a bicyclist and then pulled over to yell at the man, emphatically giving the finger and further threatening the man, who had done nothing but ride his bicycle according to state law. Turns out the lady was a prominent business owner in her community. The man captured the whole thing on video and the lady was quickly identified. The cycling community is really tight and they look out for each other. They flooded the internet with bad reviews of the lady’s business. She had to close.
Turns out, holding people accountable for their words and actions is much more effective than yelling until you’re blue in the face. Adapt the above examples to fit your situation.
Have other suggestions and examples? Please share them – we need all the help we can get! Next time we’ll discuss ways to get involved in the resistance.