I write for a living. I write online for a living. I write online about many very personal aspects of my life for a living.
But I don’t write about politics, particularly with a presidential election looming.
There are a lot of reasons for this, and most of them boil down to “I don’t wanna.” I feel like political opinions tend to be deeply personal and—for a lot of people, particularly people with whom I don’t agree—not necessarily based on facts, but on feelings; and I’m not in the business of trying to change people’s feelings. Also I dislike the kind of debate that tends to turn ugly and rarely actually changes anyone’s mind. I’m comfortable chronicling my day-to-day life, but I am not comfortable laying bare my political beliefs, essentially inviting people whose beliefs frighten me to attack my position.
I’m a wuss.
Okay, I really am kind of a wuss when it comes to public political debate, but I’m also someone who lives and works online and isn’t interested in being branded as an extremist.
Now, I’m not saying that discussing politics online is terrible or a wrong move for anyone. Heck, there are plenty of writers whose bread and butter is political debate. But when your business isn’t political writing, but you want folks to view your online presence and hire you for a variety of projects, it’s probably best to lay low when it comes to charged debate about our country’s political health.
Seems like a pretty straightforward position, right? But it’s not quite so easy, when I’m online every day, for most of the day, and political ranting is everywhere. Right now for most of us Americans, this isn’t just a timely topic, it feels like tensions are running higher over this election than any other one I can remember. Maybe this is my memory being faulty, or maybe the availability of social media channels makes ranting and spewing “facts” (whether factual or not!) to thousands of your closest friends too easy and inviting. I don’t know. I just know it seems to be everywhere.
Here’s what I do:
I continue to not blog about politics. Personal choice, of course. And maybe not the right choice for everyone. (Also, one could argue that I’m blogging about politics right now, but I’m not getting into my personal beliefs, so I think I get off on a technicality with this one.) My blog, for me, is not a political pulpit.
I try very hard not to engage when I see political discussion. Will I discuss politics with you in my living room? Absolutely—come on over. But if I’m not going to write about it on my blog, I probably shouldn’t be getting into discussions about it on your blog, either. Just not my style.
When I do engage, it’s on a closed channel. I might discuss something on Twitter, on my private (locked) account. Or maybe on Facebook, where my privacy settings are pretty tight. But even then I try really hard to just walk away.
I only engage with people I know in real life. If there’s anything I’ve learned about the connections forged online, it’s that real and deep and lasting relationships can be made, but more often than not, you don’t really know exactly what you’re dealing with when engaging with someone you’ve never met. The corollary to this premise is that Crazy tends to go from 0 to 60 at the speed of light, so you can’t predict when someone is going to lose it online. On the rare occasions when I feel the need to comment on a political discussion, I make sure it’s someone I actually know face-to-face before wading in. That not only makes it less likely to result in someone losing their crap on me, it’s a good way to make sure I don’t say anything I wouldn’t say in polite company, too.
I remind myself it’s temporary. Some days it seems like everyone has completely lost their mind, and no one will ever care about anything but politics ever again. It’s not true. The election will come and go, and people will still talk about politics, but hopefully other stuff, too.
Now, let’s talk about something else.