I ask myself this question a lot. I know I should be blogging so I have a track record of engagement with social media. I should also be writing just for the sake of writing – wherever it might be. And I definitely have opinions. So what’s the problem?
I think – in fact I know – it’s that opinion thing that’s giving me pause.
I used to blog pretty regularly about politics on a now-defunct MySpace blog. It’s not just inactive. It’s gone. Deleted. Erased. I’m sure if someone wanted to find evidence of my liberal leanings they could use the Way Back machine and find something incriminating, but thanks to my uber-common name and my thorough deletion job, they probably won’t find it in blog form.
Why was I so intent on erasing my point of view from the web? Because I’ve read too many horror stories about people being fired/never hired due to someone stumbling upon an errant blog post or tweet. Just today Salon posted a story about CNN’s Octavia Nasr whose tweet about the death of a Hezbollah leader got someone’s panties in a wad, and just like that – her 20-year career is over.
Now I know I’m no Octavia Nasr. But her firing should give pause to anyone who writes for a living and also engages in social media. It should also make us ask “why.” It’s not as if journalists never had opinions before social media came along; England’s press, for example, has always been pretty open about which publications lean which way. And here in America, where our media claims to be impartial, it’s common knowledge which papers are likely to endorse Republican points of view and which will back Democrats. So why does it come as some big surprise when someone in the media speaks their mind?
I think the answer to that question is a lot more insidious that it looks on the surface. Because while social media has given people more freedom than ever to express themselves, it’s also given those in power more opportunities to punish dissenting viewpoints. Just imagine if Winston Smith had had a Twitter account … Big Brother would have nailed him that much sooner.
Of course we don’t live in an openly totalitarian society. But when people are getting fired for off-hand remarks about people they admire … when web site after web site cautions against posting anything on your Twitter or Facebook feed that might be construed as controversial … when opinionated people like me can’t even blog because they can’t think of anything bland enough to guarantee that it offends no one … the warnings to watch what we say and think are loud and clear.
I hope I can come up with another post soon, because as a marketing professional/writer I know it’s imperative to keep up with social media. On the other hand, I like being gainfully employed, and as a worker bee/cog in the wheel I just don’t know if posting every thought I have online is such a great idea.