Thursday, November 1, 2012
A "Beautimous" Thing About Social Media and Politics
The "beautimous" thing about social media is that we control it ourselves. It's not a democracy and we can pick and choose who we want as friends. And that means that other people can pick and choose whether or not they want us as friends.
Pardon my "beautimous" title, but we've been without power since Monday and living on a generator thanks to hurricane Sandy. Most of this section of PA and NJ are without power, so there's not much to do but watch TV...for those of us lucky enough to have generators. Last night TV was so boring I wound up watching a Honey-Boo-Boo marathon. So that should tell you the kind of mood most of us are in around here.
This morning while getting gas for the generator I saw two women almost get into a fist fight over who was in line first. Had I not been waiting for an hour because there's only one gas station open I would have found that entertaining. But people are on edge; it's been stressful for some and overwhelming for others. No one's in the mood to play.
My literary agent friend in NY, where they got hit even worse than we did by Sandy, has power in his apartment, but no power in his offices and his associates can't get to work because they live in New Jersey, and all public transportation is at a stand still. He's not in a very good mood, and he typically has a very long fuse and suffers fools a lot better than most people I know.
Yesterday he e-mailed me a story about something that happened to him on facebook that made him livid. He saw a woman, a little known author with a small press who worked as a journalist for an even smaller publication, post something political. According to him, it was one of those vicious political updates we've all grown so used to they are almost invisible now...usually posted by some fanatic who never actually does anything more than rant on social media. I don't mind smart political posts by anyone about any candidate. I welcome them because they inform me. My friend Jill on facebook is always posting about politics and her posts are smart. But those who post too much rubbish on either side of the political spectrum are hidden from my news feed never to be seen or heard from again.
My agent friend posted a comment on the update he saw yesterday, which isn't something he normally does. But the dumb status update by the woman author was related to Hurricane Sandy and he's short on patience because he's experiencing the aftermath right now in New York. This woman author, who lives in a place that hasn't been affected by Sandy, replied to his comment with another snarky comment. He replied back, and then she continued to challenge him.
He ultimately wound up unfriending and blocking the "idiot." He has a photographic memory and claims he can remember almost every name he's ever come across, especially author names. And now this woman author who was ranting on facebook about politics will always be the "idiot" who pissed off a prominent NY literary agent who was only trying to be nice to her in the beginning by pointing out a fact.
On a grand scale, that's probably a small thing. And the "idiot" author probably doesn't care one way or the other, nor does she even realize he blocked her and will always remember how rude she was. But do it often enough and more people start to remember you. And those people will tell other people, and so on and so forth. And before you know it, you become known as the facebook "idiot."
I've seen it happen so many times I can't count them. I've blocked and unfriended people for less and they probably don't even know it. And I have a very long fuse. I can't take a lot and overlook a lot and make more allowances than most people I know. Under normal conditions I think most people feel the way I do. But screw around with stressed out people after a major storm like Sandy and you're taking a chance. As I said, the "beautimous" thing about social media is that people can cut you off, without looking back, faster than you can post another political update on facebook.
I will never understand why some authors, especially those who don't have great sales and don't write political books, are willing to take the chance of pissing anyone off with their political rants. I would think after working so hard on a novel, and working even harder to get it pubbed, they would want their names to be associated with that novel, and not associated with politics on facebook. But what do I know?