Two days ago, I sat staring at yet another harsh political tweet from a well-known author (who writes fiction, not political punditry.) I chose to follow that author months ago thanks to his very creative and likable online presence, but too often he'd upset me with statements demeaning some of my own views.
Wait, I thought. I have control over my Twitter feed. And I unfollowed him. The guy is a great writer and I hated to do it, but I'd reached my limit.
He's not the first person I've unfollowed for political bashing. Some weeks back, I went into my list and culled another author and an agent, both of whom had posted numerous incendiary tweets. I just cut a book reviewer from my Google reader for a particularly nasty statement (usually, it takes more than one), and can think of three more tweeps and two bloggers (none of whom follow me—I doubt very much that any of them are you, oh my friend) who have had me hovering over that unfollow button for similar reasons. Life is too short to spend it frustrated at people who treat others as if they're stupid or evil for having different beliefs and ideas.
Author Jody Hedlund posted an excellent piece on her blog last week, entitled Five Ways Authors Alienate Readers on Social Media Sites. It's not just authors, of course. It's also not just politics—that's referenced in her first point, but all of her points are absolutely correct, and number three is another serious frustration for me.
I highly recommend Jody Hedlund's post. Go read it, if you will, and then here are a few additional comments from me:
The worst thing you can do, in my opinion, no matter where you stand on the political scale, no matter what the issue at hand, is assume that everyone with heart or reason agrees with you (or your party, etc.) That is an incredibly arrogant and unjust assumption. For every time you do that, I'll find you someone with the opposite perspective who has a well-educated and reasonable, questioning mind, very real feelings, and true love for those around them.
Ms. Hedlund doesn't mention religion, but it has a similar effect to that of politics. It's possible to offend people either through overbearing religious comments or by making offensive anti-religious statements, both of which just sound stupid to those who disagree.
Dirty language is another big turnoff for some people—myself included, honestly. An occasional use of even the worst swear words will not upset me, but use a steady flow of them, and I just don't want you in my head. I'm sorry.
As for self-marketing: If you want to make a name for yourself through social media, join communities and participate. Do not push your book or website in every comment you make, and don't harass people into re-tweeting your promo posts. Those sorts of things are in extremely poor taste, and those who practice them make me feel as if I can't promote them because they'll annoy the heck out of all of my friends, too.
The snarky image is popular, but dangerous. If you choose it, know what you're risking.
Okay, I think I've ranted long enough.
Nobody's perfect, of course. I've learned a lot in my few years online, and can think of several statements I've made that I would phrase much differently or not say at all now. People usually deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Most of us enjoy knowing and working with people who are well-informed, reasonably open-minded, kind, clever and/or funny, pleasant, cheery, friendly, and other such things. The longer I'm online, the more I realize the importance of generosity in all human relations. Let's be the ones who keep the peace.
What makes you consider unfollowing someone?