Right. That’s it. That’s me done with Facebook and Twitter. Let this blog be a warning if you try to engage with social media.
Do you engage? Daft question – you’re reading this on Facebook or Twitter, so you’re engaging. But to what extent?
I see quite a few people on FB explaining how they’ve joined a particular group, apologizing for the fact that although they read posts – and occasionally ‘like’ something – they don’t regularly write comments or offer opinions. In other words, they don’t add to ‘the conversation’.
And there’s nothing wrong with that because engaging with social media can upset your whole day. As it did mine this week.
Many authors use FB and Twitter for marketing and promotion of their books and so long as you don’t do what’s technically known as ‘dropping links and running’, there are groups for authors, bloggers and reviewers that are supportive, encouraging, interesting and fun to be part of.
Not having time to connect with dozens of FB groups though, I choose to look regularly at a handful that are specifically for writers and bloggers. That way, I know there will be items of interest: an author I know has a new book coming out; a blogger friend has reviewed a novel; someone has been awarded a literary prize…
I write blogs too (like this one) which I post on FB and Twitter via the website I run with my co-author, Sue Featherstone.
These blogs cover a variety of subjects, some serious (the importance of good grammar), and some playful (knee socks are the next best fashion trend), but which I hope have relevance to readers. They generate ‘likes’ and responses that are nearly always positive.
There are FB and Twitter threads satirizing or putting a new spin on a particular subject or issue – and I enjoy reading them but tend not to join because I can’t think of anything witty, satirical or clever enough to add.
There are threads where thousands have something to say and I wonder if my little contribution will have any impact at all – and if it won’t, is it worth posting?
And then there are threads where someone puts forward a controversial proposition (think Brexit and Coronavirus) and hundreds pile in – many of them ill-informed and some downright nasty, which leaves me feeling slightly queasy.
Who wants an argument?
I don’t enjoy direct engagement in an argument – be it on social media or face-to-face – because, frankly, I’m not good at it. I can always think of a smart reply but not until several hours after the debate has ended. And because I know that if I gave a knee-jerk response at the time, my comments would be just that: something thrown out with little thought or judgment.
So it was against all my own rules of argument that I engaged in a FB thread this week.
But I did it with the best intentions because a FB friend of my friend, Jim, made the claim on Jim’s timeline that ‘journalists and journalism are rarely unbiased, in some cases they can be out and out misleading’, and I felt I had to defend the trade I’ve worked in practically all of my life.
I responded by saying the comments were insulting to the many thousands of journalists who spend their working lives doing their professional best to report the truth about situations – whether on a local, national or international basis.
I explained that I had to defend the many professional, hard-working people I had met and worked with in my journalistic career – many of whom put their private lives on hold and/or in danger to bring news and information to the masses.
Job done? No, of course not.
Jim’s FB friend responded by saying: ‘If you think all journalists are lily white in their reporting strategies, then you are entirely deluded.’
No, I hadn’t said that – and what’s more, I don’t think that. I’m realistic and know there are some journalists who are not so much ‘lily white’ as grubbily grey. But now Jim’s friend was imposing her own ‘reporting strategies’ on my words.
She then told me: ‘If you insist on seeing insult where none was intended, I wonder how you can remain impartial on other much more important issues.’
But if no insult was intended, why write an insulting comment in the first place? And if you are going to use a broad brush statement such as ‘journalists and journalism are rarely unbiased’ why not qualify the accusations? Sure, some journalists are biased, but professional journalists working for media outlets that uphold standards are trained not to let their bias influence the reporting of the facts.
And now, because I’ve defended my trade, Jim’s FB friend is wondering how I can remain impartial on ‘much more important issues’. Which is fairly insulting.
So, my engagement with social media leaves me accused of:
Probably being out and out misleading
Thinking all journalists are lily white
Insisting on seeing insult where none was intended
Accused (possibly) of being impartial.
Although I was dismayed, I determined not to engage further. Jim’s friend had clearly not read and understood my comments and you can’t argue with someone who can only hear their own voice.
Like and trust a journalist
Jim very kindly put in a good word for me, letting his friend know that he liked and trusted me as a journalist, and that her comments were misjudged.
She responded by telling Jim not to be ‘precious’ and to get off his ‘high horse’.
Well, I had to respond to that, didn’t I? I told Jim he’d always be precious to me and that I’d hold the reins while he dealt with his friend’s clichés.
OK, I didn’t entirely mean what I said at the start of this blog – but it’ll be some time before the ‘Engaged’ sign goes on again.