Tuesday, January 27, 2015

To be or not to be ... silent

You can't open Dramabook, without seeing someone mad about something. That's a bit of the price for freedom of speech. So, I try to Big Picture it. We've all heard that the best way to stay friendly with people is "don't talk about religion or politics or sex."  Oops, well, the sex part doesn't always count with romance authors, right? (Please say right!) But what about the rest? Or maybe seemingly harmless topics?

An author I follow shared that she was donating some proceeds to an animal shelter. I thought that was great! The person who was upset that the shelter didn't include horses, didn't think it was so great. The author responded professionally that it was a shelter she was familiar with, and while it was unfortunate that it didn't include horses, that was where she wanted the money to go.

I couldn't fathom being unhappy that an animal shelter was getting help. But someone did.

It really got me thinking: is there ever a time when an author should take a side on a controversial topic? And no, I'm NOT talking about the everloving Oxford comma debate!

My basic assumption when I follow an author is to get information about her books, appearances, giveaways. Did I mention...her BOOKS! I love being in a circle of people who also follow an author because we share the love of her stories and characters. That's what an author wants too. And appreciates.

Some authors share information about their families or personal situations, to varying degrees. I've found myself praying for authors with health problems or difficult situations. But, I've also seen other people say to authors, "you shouldn't put your baby in that position so soon after eating" or "why is the dog bed so small when that dog has clearly outgrown it?" So, basically readers are putting in their two cents instead of just quickly scrolling by what is meant to be harmless sharing.

It's difficult to find that balance as an author. You want to be likeable and maybe even funny. You want people to smile when they see your post. You don't want to alienate readers because READERS ARE AWESOME!

Some authors support a certain side in politics or gun rights (or homeschooling or breastfeeding, etc.).  I see heated discussions on those pages. I've seen readers claim they will never read the author again. With other artists, musicians for example, I just like what I like. I don't care about their personal beliefs (and admittedly rarely know what those beliefs are).

My current goal is to try to avoid controversy. I doubt the author who helped the animal shelter thought that there could possibly be any problem with it. I have strong beliefs and respect that others may too. But I've rarely seen social media garner any thoughtful discussion of significant topics. For me, that's something you do when you sit down with someone.

What about you? Is there a line where an author should speak up? Are some things universal?


Meda White said...

Great post, Ali. I dislike controversy and try to avoid it when I can. Hubba-luv, who doesn't do social media, is always flummoxed when I tell him about something like the animal shelter thing you mentioned. He just shakes his head. I guess things like that surprise me because mama always said, "If you don't have something nice to say, keep your mouth shut." :D

Ali Hubbard said...

I'm right there with you, Meda. It seems really personal too...like something your sister could say and it would be ok. But, odd from a stranger.

Cari Hislop said...

Great question! It goes to the heart of the problem of social media. That person who whined about an author choosing to support an animal shelter that doesn't help horses...how narcissistic is that? I've been to a number of animal shelters over the years and I've yet to find one that does have horses (no doubt because their care is so expensive and specialised). It's borderline insane to even suggest that other animals shouldn't be helped (for any reason). But we seem to find ourselves in this ocean of voices all screaming that their perspective or values are the best...sadly many people have no ability to appreciate or value another person's perspective or values. This causes deep polarisation (hence the advice to not discuss politics or religion). I think Social media has a lot of positive aspects, but the negative ones are really unpleasant. People who are stressed or closed minded can and do vent at strangers or friends and they think it's acceptable because they only comprehend their perspective anyway. Those other people are just "dumb" and need to be put right. Or whatever! I went off Dramabook years ago for a number of reasons, but mainly to avoid Drama from old acquaintances I had good reason not to trust or want in my life. The strangers were fine! It was the people I actually knew who were my problem! As an author I have my blog (which I haven't been great at keeping up this past year or two), but I've never had any people rant at me or be rude (and I started my blog in 2008). If someone goes to a blog it's like going into someone's house...you're a guest...but I think part of the problem of Dramabook is that it's like driving down the street and looking into other people's windows (yes I do that - it's fascinating), and as we drive by we shout out a hello (if we know them) or if we're thoughtless we may be tempted to shout a rude comment on their choice of garden ornaments because we're just driving by and we don't know or care if they love their garden ornaments. We think they're rubbish and we think we have the right to tell them so we do. I suspect it's human nature to want to blurt out our opinions (like small children do), and sadly many adults these days act as if they never left the terrible twos!

The only thing we can do is find our individual Social media comfort zone and stick to it. I always use my real name to avoid the temptation to be rude (because on a bad or hormonal day I'm as thoughtless as an angry hornet and I know no one should have to put up with me being a wench). I can't do Dramabook or Instagram etc no matter how many extra readers it might find me. For me it's too stressful so I don't do it. It would just suck away energy I would otherwise use to write. It's tough. As you pointed out with the author involved, the best thing to do is always be polite no matter what (easier said than done). Avoiding controversy is not a bad goal! We should all be able to value each other, even if we don't share the same values.

Ali Hubbard said...

Cari! You have such a thoughtful response on this topic! I love how you compare it to driving through a neighborhood. It's so much like that.

And, yes, we have to all find our comfort zone. Occasionally I find myself wondering if we just argue more now than in the past...or if it's just more visible. My parents had friends with different beliefs, and it anything, they joked about it. But there was always a "my opinion does not have to be your opinion" feel about it.

Even reading back over my post, I mentioned prayer, which some may take as offensive. So, when I get to that point, I really just want to focus on my books.

Louisa Cornell said...

I always try to remember these words :

"Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to read or your mother to see."

Period. Never discuss religion or politics. Period.

Cari hit the nail on the head. A huge part of the drama on Facebook is due to the narcissistic society we currently are made to suffer.

Twenty or so years ago some psychiatrists got together and told parents to allow their children to think the world revolves around them. That their opinions are to be voiced no matter what. That everyone receives an A on every test or assignment because otherwise children's feelings might be hurt. In the process they have created a generation or two who think their feelings, when they have them, are the only ones that matter. That other people don't have feelings. That the world owes them attention and the best of everything whether they deserve it or not. Facebook shows those results in all of their selfish, self-centered glory.

All we can do is create an atmosphere of class, fun, honesty and appreciation around us. The world will keep spinning whether we or not. :)

Cari Hislop said...

I thought your comment about prayer was lovely. If people take offence at how other people innocently and kindly live their lives...they are seriously messed up. I pray for the whole world. If they don't like it, too bad! ;)

Louisa, I totally agree! The social experiment has proved to be a resounding failure. Not allowing children to fail or understand that failing is part of the learning process is evil. How do we learn to pick ourselves up off the floor if we're never allowed to realise we've actually fallen onto the floor? And that whole teach to the lowest common denominator...where did that come from? It's like everyone must now be beaten down into the least person they can be (all the while enduring rhetoric that they are brilliant and perfect). You couldn't make it up!

Ali Hubbard said...

Louisa - I couldn't agree more with you on way to keep things professional and the social experiment. I'm always the "mean mom" with my daughter, because the real world/real boss won't care how she feels. They will care how she performs. So, when she doesn't do something well, I don't make excuses for it. Silent lunch because you "just forgot your homework?" Oh well. That's the rule. Don't forget it next time. I think it also helps develop mental strength too. You've got to be a little tough in this world and not let things bother you that shouldn't. You've got to be able to work toward common goals with other people, even if things aren't perfect. Understand what the "big" things are. Whew! I digress!

Great comments!