I’ve been thinking about this post for several weeks now, wanting to present a coherent essay instead of a random assortment of thoughts. The truth of the matter is this has been on my mind for some time.
Back when I first began publishing original stories, I came fresh out of the spill-your-guts school of thought when it came to creating blog posts. I’d spent years on Live Journal, where the anonymity of a fandom name lent to the fiction that you could speak your mind because no one really knew who you were. Though I was always friendly and made sure interactions on my on LJ were polite as well, I was far more free with my thoughts than I probably should have been, even in an f-locked entry. When I made the transition to this website, the inclination to be too chatty and to overshare tagged along with me. In part, it was due to the freedom of sharing such thoughts after a lifetime of having to hide who I really was.
Social Media guru Kristen Lamb has written several good books on the subject and runs a blog well worth following. I don’t agree 100% with everything that she has to say, however, and early on when I read her strictures against being too political or ranty on your blog, I tossed away that nugget of advice. Basically, she said that unless it was part of your brand, then you shouldn’t overwhelm your readers with political commentary, outbreaks of religious fervor, details of your medical conditions, or too many fluffy kittens. And while it was possible to use your interests to drive traffic to your blog (say, for example, you were searching for the Holy Grail of Gluten-Free Baking–edible bread…), they should still be in line with your brand. Dressing up in leather catsuits swinging a flogger might not be the best image for an author of children’s stories to share.
I could see her point, and yet at the same time rejected it. Just because I’m an author with a product to sell, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have any opinions. Besides, how else do we change the world except by enlightening those around us? Maybe my viewpoint on a subject would alter someone else’s stance. Perhaps my struggle with chronic pain might help someone else who suffers the same. Who doesn’t need more fluffy kittens in their lives? At the time, I saw her advice as too limiting to myself as a person with interesting content to share. I didn’t want my blog to be ordinary or, God forbid, boring.
But my own opinion on this has changed over the years. For one thing, everyone seems to be so angry these days. Granted, there’s a lot to be outraged about. The political climate in the U.S. is so toxic right now that I have serious doubts we’ll ever recover, no matter who wins the Presidental election. People are furious, and rightly so, after spending a lifetime busting their ass only to discover the American Dream is not theirs to grasp. Many of my friends and acquaintances are one medical crisis away from total bankruptcy. State governments are overturning national statutes, passing unconstitutional laws, making discrimination legal in their region while making access to birth control and abortion nearly impossible. God forbid you be a single mother trying to make house and car payments on only one salary while raising your kids. My timelines are filled with horrific stories of yet another mass shooting or abominable crime, while nearly every week, someone within my social circle goes on a complete meltdown. These are things we should be outraged about, and open discourse on the subject.
And yet, lately, it has become too much for me. I feel like I’m on media and outrage overload. I’ve had to take breaks from social media altogether. A Sunday afternoon checking Twitter shouldn’t leave you breathing into a paper bag to calm your hyperventilation.
Author Heidi Cullinan recently posted an excellent essay entitled Pitching My Fork: Confessions of an Outrage Addict. I read it understanding how empowering channeling that kind of rage could be, and why someone might feel the need to shout their anger to the world–not only because they believed they were right, but because of the joy of cracking that whip, making people jump, starting angry dialog that you could continue to inflame or stomp out as you saw fit. I was relieved to realize on reading her post that I was not an outrage addict. I’m usually the person who sits back and shakes her head, waiting for the discourse to become more reasoned before weighing in with an opinion, if at all. People being attacked frequently become defensive, and say things without clearly thinking them through. People determined to be offended will see outrage in anything that is offered as rebuttal, and both sides continue to pour gasoline on the fire.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t get outraged, or that someone else’s outrage isn’t a starting point for education. But that’s not how it turns out most of the time, is it? Whenever I see the latest kerfuffle turn into WW3, I frequently remind myself of the old Polish saying, “Not my Circus. Not My Monkeys.” I post it on my social feeds when I’m tempted to wade into a confrontation that is not about me as a reminder to sit on my hands and keep out of it.
The problem is sometimes it is my circus, and I wish to hell the monkeys would stop fighting.
Recently a discussion on one of my groups came back around to the advice Kristin Lamb gave about not getting too personal or too political on your blogs. One of the group members responded much as I would have done five years ago, saying that anyone who met her would know she is a feminist and a GLBTQ ally and she didn’t see why she had to hide these things about herself. That meant sharing things that she felt was important, and not painting over her content to make sure it was offensive to no one.
I agree with her in principle. I do. And you will still see me post from time to time on subjects I’m passionate about. But I cannot live on a steady diet of outrage, and that seems to be the growing trend wherever I turn these days. This is not about maintaining a level of professionalism or presenting a generic face to an audience at large. This isn’t me pointing fingers at those who choose to not to censor their thoughts. I applaud those who can share their outrage with wit and humor. This isn’t about following the advice of wiser people farther along on the same path. This is about me controlling how much power I give to other people to make me upset. This is about me being known for the kinds of books I write, and not the ranty blog posts I make. This is about anger not being my brand. I will not give it that kind of power over me.