Perils of Social Media Engagement


Okay, I shouldn’t have done it. I know. But, sometimes, my passion for an issue overcomes my internal common-sense policeman and I get involved.

A short while ago, I posted a Tweet relating to Climate Change, an issue dear to my heart long before I joined Greenpeace in the 1980s. It reached some deniers on Twitter; I received a number of responses and, not surprisingly, a few insults from that particular group of nay-sayers.

And I responded.

I know.

I should’ve let them get on with their fear-driven tirades; ignored them. But, buried deep within me dwells an eagerness to employ reason, and I allowed it out for a few moments. I answered their objections to my post more in hope than expectation. The process grabbed my attention for longer than intended, resulting in numerous arguments and counter-arguments. I must’ve spent a good two hours in the involvement.

And that, really, is the point of this post. As writers, we’re often passionate about any number of issues. My own list includes the environment, injustice, organised religion, inequality, the current Brexit chaos in UK, and politics, among others. I generally address one or more of these in my stories, as most of us do, tackling themes that fire our spirits and motivate our writing. In short, expressing our opinions via characters and themes.

But it’s a mistake to get involved with such issues on social media. By which I mean engaging in debate, which invariably descends into mindless name-calling by trolls and garbled nonsense by those lacking the language to frame their thoughts. So, I generally restrict my activity to putting out messages, retweeting items that inform followers, and only occasionally following up with a comment. There’s rarely any danger in adding to comments agreeing with your point of view; it’s those who disagree who need care.

I suspect the combination of easy, often anonymous, platforms with the general disruption the world is currently suffering encourages knee-jerk responses. And, those lacking other means of self-expression often resort to insults, and even threats. People are understandably frustrated by the state of the world, fearful of the consequences of our general irresponsibility as a species, sick of widespread corruption in Big Business and Politics, and often disheartened by the failure of their chosen saviours to act on their behalf. It’s hardly surprising when tempers are lost, hackles raised, and explosions of bile let loose on anyone daring to question any opinion.

So, just a word of warning: if you want to get on with your writing, it’s probably best to glide over the turbulent waters of whatever social media you use and allow the trolls, preachers, non-thinkers, evangelists, and poorly-educated to indulge their anger and frustration, righteous or otherwise, undisturbed by your words of wisdom. Put it all in your stories instead. Subversion is a much more satisfactory route for expressing opinions.

24 thoughts on “Perils of Social Media Engagement

  1. I think the anonymity of social media frees people to behave in ways they wouldn’t if you were having a face-to-face discussion. Thus, the descent into mindlessness. I once posted a very thoughtful and reasoned response and the reply was: “I have your IP address now, and I’m going to rape your mother and kill your family.” So much for intelligent discourse.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As both a teacher and an author, I’ve schooled myself to avoid touchy topics. Occasionally I’ll find someone who is interested in honest and respectful discourse, but that’s rare. You are so right in this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Usually, I manage to hold back, count to 10 or 1000, depending on the level of my response, and either ignore or make some uncontrontrovertial response. Just once in a while, passion gets the better of me. Thanks, Noelle.


    1. I can understand that, Mick. But it’s a very useful tool for the author, so I try to keep away from controversy as much as poss. Just sometimes I let the emotion surface, like this instance. But, I hope, lesson learned. There is a lot of positive stuff on Twitter, but it’s the negative and stupid stuff, a la Trump et al, that gets highlighted, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It can be a difficult zone for anyone with any sensitivity. But there are safeguards to protect you from the worst. You can ‘mute’ and even ‘block’ those who tweet offensive material, so you’re no longer exposed to it. But, as a platform for increasing your author exposure, it’s pretty useful. The real danger for most users is the addictive quality; the desire to respond, retweet, etc. It’s a definite no-no for anyone without the necessary self-discipline!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. You feel it has real benefits for authors, then? I completed a short online course run by the British Library on social media for writers, earlier this year, and their conclusion was it was greatly over-rated. That was one reason I decided to stick with the blog and minimal Facebook activity.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. As with all social media, Mick, it’s dificult to determine how ‘successful’ Twitter activity is. I look at it as a way of getting my name out there; exposure, so readers know I exist. I can say that I’ve noticed on several occasions I’ve received sales notifications from Amazon following tweets about my books. But this doesn’t happen everytime, or regularly, just sometimes.
              It also introduces you to other writers and readers who participate. I use it to spread word of my blog posts, and those of other bloggers, like yourself: you may have had visitors to your blog as a result of my posting a link to your blog posts through your ‘sharing’ buttons. I currently have around 23k followers on Twitter, some of whom regularly retweet my posts and therefore spread the word to their own followers; some of these people have hundreds of thousands of followers, some over 1 million, so the possibilities are there. But it’s true that, in common with all social media sites, Twitter’s effectiveness as a marketing tool is overblown. They’re in business to gather new users and therefore increase their share of the online advertising money, so they’re bound to exaggerate their effectiveness, I guess.
              It all comes down to how much time and effort you want to put into gathering readers in a world where something like 70,000 new books are published worldwide every week. Like increasing your blog folowing, getting new people on Twitter takes time and effort. It’s up to the individual to decide whether that effort is worth it. And, of course, it’s up to the individual to determine how much they engage with other users.
              Hope that helps.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. That’s a lot of information, Stuart, which I need to digest. Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago a friend suggested I should be on Instagram and I got as far as having a brief look at the sort of posts people share (only a small sample, admittedly), and thinking a little about what kinds of posts I would put up if I did.
                Both platforms seem to be about short posts, which I suppose is one point in their favour since one thing I don’t really want to do is spend hours and hours on social media. I’m happy to give quality time to blogging – both following and posting – but Facebook gets a few moments here and there and I feel I’ve come to resent giving it even that much. Unfortunately, I think I’m quite old fashioned when it comes to this sort of interaction (what’s wrong with a nice quill pen and some good paper, anyway?) and more than a little self-conscious about self-promotion – something I’m perfectly aware I need to overcome if I want to sell books!
                I think I’ll have a proper look at the options in a month or two when my ‘retirement’ kicks in, and I have a bit more time!
                Many thanks for such a complete answer!

                Liked by 1 person

                1. We appear to be of like mind, Mick. I resent the time I feel I must spend on social media to get my name out there. I’m dreadful at self-promotion (I seem to do a lot more for other people!). But, because I do want more readers, I do what I can. I think you’re wise to take your time to decide on this: it can very easily consume a lot of your time. Instagram is supposed be the ‘coming’ pltform for writers, but I’ve never bothered with it. Goodreads, Amazon Author, Facebook (both personal and Author page), Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn take up enough of my time, even though I have most of these linked automatically to my website.
                  I’d rather be writing/reading/taking photographs/walking with my wife/living!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Definitely of like mind. I also gave up Google + and Linkedin because I felt they offered me nothing useful. Again, I spent time checking in there and it seemed I got nothing back. It’s possible, of course, I simply didn’t use them properly. Goodreads I’m happy with, but I don’t really expect much from it (perhaps that’s the secret!).

                    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now, I hate to contradict you, Sue, but I think ‘trolls’ and ‘mind’ in the same sentence may be considered an oxymoron!
      Thanks for your comment.


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