After being on social media for over a decade, I’ve decided to take stock of what I’ve learned, and determine how I want to conduct myself in the future.

THE HISTORY

When I started my publishing pursuits over ten years ago, writers were told we had to build online platforms to sell books. We needed social media followers, engagement, thriving virtual communities.

I, like most writers, struggled to accomplish this. I noticed some built their audiences on controversy, on having their finger on the pulse of current events, taking one side or the other, gaining followers via shock value. Admittedly, I tried this tactic. I blasted my Facebook feed with opinions, tried to get people to think, to engage, to debate.

THE FALL OUT

Now that I’ve experienced the fall out of such tactics, my advice is: Don’t do it. Avoid controversy in your online life, otherwise, you will lose potential readers and worse, you will lose friends.

For example, I know a writer whose books I will not read simply because of their bad attitude and insensitive online comments. A more public example is J.K. Rowling. She has so much money and fame that she can afford to lose half her audience, but most of us aren’t that blessed.

OUR STORY WORLDS AS GIFTS

As writers, we may not see our work as such, but a well-written novel is a gift to those who choose to read it. The worlds we create provide our audience with comfort, a place to rest in this crazy world, a distraction from darkness and evil. They can provide camaraderie, familiarity, and healing.

When we post about divisive topics (at best) or act like online trolls (at worst), we defile our fictional worlds. We snatch the gift from our readers hands, tarnish it, spoil the magic, remove the veil of safety we provided. We injure the part of our audience’s psyche that was immersed in and comforted by our fictional creation. They feel hurt. Betrayed. And justifiably so.

I believe creatives have a greater responsibility when it comes to expressing our opinions. No, I don’t mean that because we have a platform, we must use it to spread our politics. I mean, we have a responsibility to protect our story worlds, first and foremost. If our opinions and politics might hurt those worlds, we should seriously consider keeping our mouths shut and letting others do the talking for us.

On a more personal level, taking sides on divisive topics online will cost you friends. Are you okay with losing friends for the sake of expressing your opinions? Do you have the emotional fortitude to withstand the losses? As for me, the answer is, no. A resounding, no. I don’t. I learned that the hard way.

Words can’t be taken back, especially words inscribed on the internet. But we can learn from our mistakes, move on to greener pastures. Forgiveness is available. New beginnings and fresh starts are possible.

SOCIAL MEDIA CODE OF CONDUCT

To make sure my online interactions remain healthy and “on brand”, I’ve created a Social Media Code of Conduct. This document will be an addendum to my still-to-be-written business plan. It applies to all of my social media interactions, posts and comments, business and personal. It is as follows.

  1. Do not express political opinions.
  2. Do not express opinions about divisive current events. A mention is okay, but do not take sides.
  3. Do not discuss religion.**
  4. Before posting anything online, ask: Is it loving? Is it kind? Does it strengthen, encourage, support? If the answer is no, do not post.

** I will discuss my religion, framing my statements in the most edifying and loving ways possible. However, I will not comment on other religions or the religious/spiritual beliefs of others.

Those are the rules and I’m sticking to them. If I don’t, feel free to call me out!

Jessica T.