Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How to shoot yourself in the foot, twice, on social media

Politics has become a blood sport these days.
The idea that somone who disagrees with you is a dunderhead is one thing.
The idea that they are a bad person is entirely another.

In your social media wanderings be VERY careful about casting aspersions on anyone.
Particularly if you're doing so cause you think I'll agree with you.

I won't.
Not now.
Not ever.

And if you attack or vilify a friend of mine, even one I disagree with, and think needs a wet noodle to the noggin to dislodge a couple ideas I think are lunacy, our friendship trumps our disagreement.

In other words, never assume people who are disagreeing with each other are sworn enemies.  My best arguments are with sworn friends.

Vilify a pal of mine, include me in the tweet, and you are #blocked #ignored #forgotten.

My guess is that you don't want that to happen.
On the other hand, if you do want me to ignore you, that's the sure fire way to do it.

I value the civility we have here on this blog. I admire the restraint all of you show in keeping the conversation elevated, not descending to name calling or other forms of ad hominim attacks.

I am incredibly proud that "don't read the comments" is the LAST thing someone would say about our blog here (and I mean ours, yours, mine, all of us, even that rascal Felix Buttonweezer)

I loathe personal attacks.

Pretending everyone feels that way is a good guideline for your social media interactions.


Timothy Lowe said...

Much respect for that, Janet. Civil discourse is a cornerstone of any functioning society. Unfortunately, many have strayed from that, and with loud voices. It's going to take a lot of this kind of sensibility to turn things around.

Gary Stothers said...

Why would anyone pre-emptively burn bridges with negative comments? That's just showing a lack social savvy, not just online but in life.

As Momma used to say, "If you don't have something nice to say..."

french sojourn said...

Honorable Jet. Reid

I remember when I was younger, a lot younger, and I posted some comments on the Chicago Tribune Editorial section. I essentially attacked that upstart social clinging General Winfield Scott, of the soon to be defunct Whig Party. I used some pretty terse words that still haunt me today. Even though the innertubes and wires weren't around then, they are archived and will haunt any writers career forever.

As always, a timely post in these post uncivil war days.

Respectfully yours;

Brigadier General Felix "Huffy" Buttonweezer III

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Reason 738 why Janet is my queen forever.

I try hard to not engage in any of these toxic political discussions on social media. It’s a TERRIBLE venue for that sort of thing as the complexity of most issues are broken down into ridiculous memes and make it far too easy to dehumanize those who disagree. So no one is treated respectfully and are too easily misunderstood.

Anyway, love this blog and those who swim among us.

OT - so my kid tells me she is finally coming home from LA where she has been working on a film since Jan 1st. I got so excited until she told me by home she meant New York. How did this happen? I miss her so much,

Mister Furkles said...

You might add a corollary to that: When you are in an entertainment industry (e.g. fiction or sports) do not engage in political propaganda. ESPN, NFL, and the Olympics have lost many viewers in the last few years because politics is not escape entertainment.

I've dropped reading and viewing some I might even agree with, simply because they are not providing escape entertainment.

In fiction, you are in a business. Stick to your business: story-telling entertainment.

Colin Smith said...

It does seem as if many in our society have lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. People love their echo chambers where they only hear what they approve, so any dissenting voice is treated as abject heresy, an unforgivable straying from the norm, and the heretic deemed worthy of social death. I think if we're to regain any kind of civility back to our nation, it begins with learning to respect, even love one another, even those we might consider our enemies. We're never going to solve gun violence, for example, with violent hearts.

I agree with Janet and likewise applaud y'all for putting love of this little community ahead of personal agendas.

To what Mister Furkles said, I would add that writers are not above expressing their morals and politics in their writing. In fact, it's inevitable. It's when the message becomes more important and more obvious than the story that you run into problems. Yes, use the story as a vehicle for your POV. Indeed, the story is a great vehicle for exploring ideas. But for goodness sake tell a good story, one that even those who disagree with you can enjoy!

Julie Weathers said...


Thank you. I have to admit I was surprised when that happened, though I shouldn't have been.

Social media is a very sharp-two-edged sword. It can be used for great good. Look what JJ Watt was able to accomplish. Does anyone remember Sutherland Springs or Stephen Willeford? No? Do you know who David Hogg is? All social media.

I've spent some time on a website that is dedicated to harassing the sharque. I don't know what the person has against Janet, but she's serious about her vitriol. Then there was the guy who went after the agent because she rejected him at a conference. I think he finally took his horrific rants about her down. And, of course, there's the site that dedicates itself to discussing the mental health of Diana Gabaldon or lack thereof based on the horrid stuff she writes. I didn't spend much time there as it was so over the top, but I did correct a few things.

I think the sharque hunter is gone.

I have an on-going thread on the Litforum called Butt In The Chair. It's not much to speak of. It's simply a call to turn the hourglass and write. It's an encouragement not to give up and that you and your dream are important. I share some kind of inspirational quote. I try to do it daily.

People may or may not post, "I got in 300 words today!"

"I got up earlier than usual and didn't think I would get much done, but 1,500 words later I feel pretty good."

It's not a pat on the back, it's just an idea. Each of you has a sphere of influence. Encourage someone you know to follow their dream. Be a positive force.

That's what Janet does.

Stacy said...

I would not add that corollary, Mister Furkles. If there's one thing I've learned from this blog, it's that writers and entertainers don't set out to produce mindless work, even though they strive to entertain. And I think they have the same right to speak their minds as anyone else. Speaking your own beliefs and attacking someone else's--or the person--are two different things. That many people can't tell the difference is regrettable, but that doesn't mean entertainers of any stripe should be quiet.

Sam Mills said...

I'm all for people (famous and non-famous alike) standing up for topics they care about (if we leave politics to the politicians, they're only hearing other politicians!), but I would not wade into a public argument without some serious and unmistakably threatening lines drawn in the sand. Even then, it'd probably just be exercising my "report harassment" button...

(But then, I'm of the opinion that every form of art/entertainment is political, it's just that folks only call it the p-word when it doesn't reflect their own status quo. That's a whole other can of worms!)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

So much wisdom here. So much respect. And I appreciate these aspects of this blog just as much as the expertise on how to slog through the wannabe-published-author world.

It saddens me to see memes of political vitriol and bitterness coming from cousins who say they love me yet any of my viewpoints are vilified. If I speak up, respectfully, or direct them towards snope, I'm not heard. I no longer engage with them. It's a rough world right now. But I have hope that a less divisive and more robust, resilient community will someday come into being.

B said...

There's a huge writing community on Twitter, which I've weaned off over the past months. The main reason is I've been sorely disappointed by the behavior of some literary agents and editors from famous publishing houses on there. The other day, I witnessed an editor put up a screenshot of a private tweet from a writer, name and Twitter handle included, and proceed to rip them apart and make fun of them publicly, which induced several others to join in. There have been other similar cases where I was frankly appalled at their professionalism. As you know, those who speak the loudest make the most noise.

As a result, I have great respect for literary agents who are civil online. There's a list of well-established agents out of my reach (think the tiers of Holly Root, Janet Reid, Steven Malk) and I have never seen them behave like the above example on social media.

Hm, perhaps there's a correlation between decency and success? ;)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I aim for respect and compassion, but sometimes it's difficult.

I grew up in eastern Washington, which--for any of you who don't know--is very conservative. I went to university in Bellingham on the west side, which is about as liberal as it gets (it could give Portland a run for its money any day). I'm grateful that I've been around good, intelligent people I respect on both sides of the political spectrum.

Of course, now that I'm back in eastern Washington, people assume I'm conservative on every issue and berate 'whining, idiot liberals' in front of me every day. 'Smile and nod' gets me through a lot.

Stacy said...

My sentiments exactly, Sam. You said it better than I did--although I'm less resistant to weighing in on politics.

CynthiaMc said...

Let's try this again without the typos.

I try to stay out of the fray as much as possible. As Mama always said "Rise above it."

I'll discuss anything with anybody over dinner and a drink. It is still possible to have a civil discussion most days on the Wall Street Journal website and occasionally the New York Times.

There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak the truth in love. Prayer helps me figure out which is which. Hopefully sometimes I get it right.

Daddy's explanation for how to handle tough situations went like this: "Don't kick me when I'm down. Pick me up, brush me off, and set me straight."

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

The anonymity (safety?) of sitting behind a computer has created a new form of unpleasant interaction among we humans.

Way back when, I used to join equine welfare groups. YIKES! Talk about vitriol. I've left or blocked every single one of them. Don't read the comments, indeed.

This community is one of the very few I visit daily. I always come away uplifted, enlightened, or at the very least, greatly entertained. You all are the best. Janet, Thank you for all you do and all you give of yourself. Especially for creating the atmosphere that is this blog.

Claire Bobrow said...

Thank you, Janet, for an important post. And thank you Reiders - your warmth and wisdom are unparalleled. As Melanie said, there's always something enlightening or uplifting here.

Julie - I like your directive: "Be a positive force." It's not always easy, but it is essential.

Anonymous said...


Social media usage seems to be a popular topic this week. Hopefully, people will listen and learn a thing or two!

I try to put out there, what I'd like to receive back. And, I've got to admit, I judge people by what they post, and where they post it.

This blog's entire message board is typically full of people who are thoughtful and supportive and welcoming. Kudos to this particular echo chamber. :-)

Julie and Claire - I completely agree! I try to live by: Praise widely, criticize privately--(unless there's a need for escalation.)

I prefer to avoid politics, offering an olive branch to reasonable people on either side of the aisle (assuming they approach the aisle at all). But, I understand that some people have issues they feel strongly about. As long as their opinion doesn't denigrate others or turn into a personal attack, they're welcome to share them--in their own space. Just be wary of issues that might come with a backlash and be prepared for that eventuality.

Amy Schaefer said...

If you can't mount a persuasive counter-argument without dragging another person, you need to deal with the weaknesses in your own case.

Beth Carpenter said...

Well said, Janet. I saw that post and your reply. Bravo.

So many of our problems today seem to stem from seeing others as obstacles instead of fellow humans.

french sojourn said...

The sad thing is, I bet we all have 96-97 % in common in core values, but that three percent is what some people focus on. I have been estranged by one of my five sisters as her husband puts party ahead of family. I pray it's temporary, and I keep a light burning.

Although not perfect by a long shot, I ask we all be the light and keep holding out one's hand with an olive branch and a glass of red wine...well you get the idea. Cheers.

John Davis Frain said...

Hear hear! (Sorry, running to a meeting, but HAD to agree.)

And Hank, I'm with you. Might even be 98% in common.

Steve Stubbs said...

You wrote: "The idea that somone who disagrees with you is a dunderhead is one thing. The idea that they are a bad person is entirely another."

Since people here are confused about argumentum ad hominem, it might be helpful to say that it is a very popular way of trying to win when one does not have a case.

If someone says something that is based on inaccurate or distorted or consciously malicious disinformation (think Donald Trump and Russian hackers) it is one thing to say that person may be mistakenly relying on the word of Trump instead of the truth. It is another thing to say the person IS Donald Trump. The intent of argumentum ad hominem is to confuse people about the distinction.

A lot of people think Trump's tax cuts for the rich really are a "Middle Class Tax Cut." (Millions of people are going into debt to party on an expected windfal that will never arrive.) It is one thing to say such a person is honestly mistaken and might want to check the facts.

Calling aforementioned individual a dunderhead is on the argumentum ad hominem side of the line.

There was a fellow on 60 MINUTES recently who "hates liberals." The reason is, he expects to take his fortune with him when he dies, and resents the idea of an estate tax. That's his money. He scraped for that money. You're not taking his money.

Sorry pal, but the Grim Reaper cometh. That man is not a dunderhead. He is engaged in seriously distorted thinking. Hating liberals will not make him immortal.

His atittude is quite common among the rich. Mayor Bloomberg had an excellent response to that. He referred to a cartoon he saw somewhere in which a wealthy man is dying and his relatives were waiting "like vultures." The caption said, "I may not be able to take it wih me. But I can take the access code."

I love you, Bloomie. It is legitimate to question the message. It is argumentum ad hominem to ignore the message in order to obfuscate and question the messenger instead.

Unless the messenger is consciously engaged in an ongoing pattern of studied deception. Don't worry, Donald, I'm not mentioning names - Donald.

Colin Smith said...

Steve: Good etiquette on this blog is not simply about avoiding the argumentum ad hominem. It's also about avoiding topics that are potentially controversial and not relevant to the article, and not relevant to the purpose of the blog. Such topics might include, for example, the policies and mental health of the current President of the US, and the GOP tax reform (both of which are also, frankly, of little interest or relevance to our non-US readers). Neither of these topics pertain to the article, and, especially when presented with statements such as "Millions of people are going into debt to party on an expected windfal that will never arrive" in relation to the GOP tax plan, are likely to cause unnecessary displeasure among those who would take issue with that statement. Such a statement serves no useful purpose other than to draw dissenters into a heated argument over an issue that has no place being argued here. Indeed, I expect Janet would nip that argument in the bud.

Keeping civil discourse is pretty easy, actually. Stay at least within the ballpark of the topic, think how what you say will contribute to the discussion, and if you're going to say something that could be controversial, try to say it in the most balanced and humble way you know how. Don't state opinion as fact, and be open to hear opposing points of view. Oh, and don't talk politics. Unless Janet blogs on a political issue, there's no reason for us to go there in the comments.

Sound fair?

Joseph Snoe said...

You don't have to say much to alienate some people. The keynote speaker at the Southern Voices Festival made a humorous off-hand comment about someone in politics (I can't even remember the joke, but I think the joke actually was more about speaker than the politician as I recall).

What I do remember is the reaction of the two women next to me. They stiffened up, folded their arms arms over their breasts, and one of them said, "That's it for him."

P.S. - I got mentioned in a local newspaper. I was checking out the new releases in the library when the reporter asked me questions about the keynote address. The next day there was a lengthy article about the keynote address. At the very bottom was two paragraphs quoting me. It was kind of fun and kind of embarrassing.

AJ Blythe said...

I also saw the conversation on twitter. Was rather stunned at the response of the other party, but not at the classy way Janet handled it.

Yes, Melanie. People seem to think it's okay to say something from the safety of their computer they wouldn't say in person (at least, I hope they wouldn't)! Cyber bullying is a huge focus in Oz at the moment after the tragic suicide of a young girl. Like the #metoo movement, her way-too-early death has been the trigger for our community to stand up against inappropriate online behaviour.

Colin, totally agree with you. As a non-US Reider, when politics gets raised in the comments I skip.

John Davis Frain said...

I'll say this from my political soapbox:

No matter which country I decide to live in, if one of the parties makes a bold stand in their platform to outlaw synopses, I will strongly consider becoming a one-issue voter.

The economy? Healthcare? Taxes? Sorry, back seat. Nope, don't stop in the back seat. Get in the trunk where I can't even hear you anymore. Synopsis Ban has monopolized all my listening ability.

Rant over. Gotta go officiate some basketball where people don't hide behind anything to announce their displeasure! I WISH people had to text me that I suck. I bet 84% of them would spell horrable incorrectly.

Cheryl said...

I, too, saw that exchange, and I got the feeling it was someone trying to impress Janet by taking her side.

But that's only the kind of thing you can do if you know someone pretty well.

Which also reminds of an author I follow, who regularly engages in witty, sarcastic, sometimes insulting banter with his fellow authors who are also friends. A stranger/fan insulted him in the same kind of way and he smacked them down just as hard.

Don't mistake people you admire for friends, especially if they don't know you.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

John I can’t stand politics but I will campaign for the suit thar supports outlawing the synopsis. I will move to the country that has that candidate.

Otherwise it’s cute animals and writing and those who can help me navigate my way to publication.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

My head is spinning. Can't keep up. I don't know how today's topic could lead to American politics and stuff.

I don't know who Felix Buttonweezer is, what happened on Twitter and had to skim over most of the comments.I hope I haven't missed anything relevant for my interests as a writer or anything else really genius-like..!?

I appreciate the warning in the first comment=OP's=Janet's, because I, admittedly, also sometimes get engaged in things when they provoke me.
I'll try better!

Thanks AJ from Australia for your late comment yesterday. I saw it.

Lennon Faris said...

Ah, one of the many reasons I like hanging out here. This place isn't like any other blog I've found. Having a Shark for a queen makes for a good community!

Colin Smith said...

OneOfUs: See the Blog Glossary for more about dear ole Felix. :)

Craig F said...

I don't follow the twitter bird, so I missed the fun. I can pretty well understand because I have seen trolls of all persuasions and genders out there. It is easy to take the low road when hounded by trolls and become one. That is not good karma.

Politics. American politics have always been blood sport, even to gun duels. There is a small island almost under the St. Louis arch that is called Blood Island because it the designated dueling spot.

With a two party system, most voters pick the lesser of two evils. I don't remember when last I didn't do that. It also used to mean not to discuss politics at the dining table. That also means social media. The reason is because those on the edges of the political sphere are always the loudest.

I know people who believe the most outlandish crap because it had two million likes. I don't know what they will be capable of when they learn all of those likes came from Russian bots.

The political followers I know from other countries tend to laugh at us, even though it is looking like a death match from here.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Colin, thank you for the link.

So Felix doesn't exist IRL (see "IRL"? I keep learning from you 😀.)?

I can't believe that people on this blog have been talking in this kind of language since 2004 - WOW, I wasn't even born then, I suppose (just kidding).

This is all so... I don't know what it is, so huh.
CARKOON? Sounds like a place I should go on holiday to right now.

Believe it or not:
When I took a nap earlier (yes, I did, but not that I do that regularly, so no need to get green! ;) ), I dreamed that I dreamed about the Janet Reid blog!!

Surely that indicates a 'holiday' somewhere!?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Sorry, so late to the game.
Unfortunately, because of the enormity of talk that bombards us, from electronic screens and screams across the kitchen table, people feel disenfranchised, and so out of touch, they lash back to elevate their own sense of height above that which they they consider obvious lows.
As a child I learned that we argue to inform the other person of our views NOT to convince the other side we are right and they are wrong. And, that lesson was learned as a member of a family who discussed anything and everything at a very high decibel level on Nana’s front porch.
Why did we continue to associate with those who opposed us so vehemently? Why did we continue to respect those so obviously wrong, to our right?
Love you guys.

MA Hudson said...

I’ve unfollowed writers plenty of times because of their aggressive political stance. If they come across as narrow-minded and angry on social media then I can only assume they’re not going to be very empathetic in their fiction either.

Panda in Chief said...

I saw the beginnings of this conversation and thought, hmmm...I think I don't want to get caught in the middle of that, and I was pretty sure I kept my big mouth shut, but had to go back and check just to make sure. Whew! I'm pretty sure it wasn't me. What does that say that I can't remember if I was behaving badly on Twidder? Never mind. Don't answer that.

I reluctantly started talking about politics, because I was beginning to write political things in my cartoons. and it felt relevant and I tried to do it thoughtfully. But I've been trying reeeelly hard to keep my comments about the issue and not about the person. I don't always succeed and I try to stay out of the brawls.

All this is to say that I appreciate the high level of civility I find here. Thanks to all and thanks to Janet.