I was listening to a recent Functional Nerds podcast (highly recommended) and one of the things they touched on was how we as artists/content creators need to “manage” our social media presence. All three participants agreed that for them it was necessary on some level to self censor. To the extent that I understood them, this means generally avoiding talking about things like politics and religion, or anything that would be offensive. John said that when he’s about to tweet a joke, for another example, he asks himself how likely is it that this will offend someone. Sometimes he tweets them anyway (Good on ya, John!). The exception, they agreed, would be someone whose brand is “I WANT TO OFFEND EVERYONE!”.

Listening to this came on the heels of talking to a dear friend who was afraid that what they were inclined to talk about (politics mainly, though also religion), if addressed in a way that was true to their beliefs, would offend potential audience members. They were concerned not only for themselves, but for a collaborative project they are involved in. Kudos to them for being concerned. My advice was something along the lines of “To thine own self be true” crossed with “Better safe than sorry”. That is, be yourself, but temper that with wisdom. The line is different for everyone I’m sure.

I have this side though. You’ve all seen it, or at least some of you have. It’s the one that screams “FUCK ‘EM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE!”. It’s constantly at way with my more prudent side, who occasionally manages to slam the filters shut when my friend Jon tells a dreadful joke to me in chat and I’m tempted to share it. Still, it’s there and I’m tempted to let it fly more often than not, the older I get. Jokes aside, I’m not afraid to share my political beliefs (which frankly I have the advantage of them being the popular sort in the artistic community) or my religious ones (not as popular, as moderate as mine are). I find myself asking the question, should I be? The cat’s out of the bottle, so it’s likely a bit late to even be asking the question, but for those fledglings out there, how much should we “handle” ourselves in terms of our image as artists?

Sound off in the comments if ye be not afeared.

10 thoughts on “Self-Censorship?”

  1. Authors, actors, musicians — we all set up boundaries for ourselves, and understand that in any given situations, crossing those boundaries could cost us listeners, readers, fans, and (sadly) friends. I try to keep my own beliefs be they religious, political, or sociological off the table unless I am truly moved to talk about them. I am a Christian. I tend to be liberal about some issues, conservative about others. I also do not make my social media discussion all about my beliefs, otherwise I become less about my work and more about my beliefs. I do what I can to make statements that I will not regret posting on my boards, but if I do, I will stand by my words. I will not try to make you bend to my will, but I will back what I say with facts. If I am wrong, I man up and I admit it. If I happen to prove you wrong, I hope you’ll have the decency to admit it too.

    But I will not cross those lines on a whim. When I am online I want people to know me for my content, not my opinions. When you cross that line, blurring the professional brand with your own personal one, you need to be sure it is the right time and the right place.

    Pick and choose your battles. Carefully.

    1. Thanks Sarge. I will say that things like my Tweet stream will always be about the total package. I’ve carved off various social media bits that give people the option of just seeing the writer side of me if that’s what they want. What do you think of that sort of “strategy”?

  2. I’d hardly call this “dreadful”


      1. me
        what’s the most dreadful joke i’ve told you?


        or lately
        they aren’t mutually exclusive i don’t suppose

        I wouldn’t post the pic of that Asian kid from this morning for example

        that’s “Dreadful?


  3. I’m an enlightenment guy, which puts me in a bit of a weird position when it comes to public airing of my opinions. On the one side, it means I have very strong opinions that I am prepared to defend with argument at the drop of a hat–on the other side, it means that I’m quite willing to change those opinions if I run up against a better argument (though, in practice, it usually takes a few times of running up against the same better argument).

    I’m not shy about being opinionated and ready to go to the mat for it either, which gives me a confrontational bearing that makes a lot of liberal-minded folks uncomfortable. I’m also not a party line kind of guy, even when it comes to the political and philosophical parties I identify with most strongly, so I’ve had problems from time to time where people presume that I’m an ally in a particular cause, only to find out later that I’m not wholly on their side.

    I’ve eventually settled on a personal self-censorship policy that looks kind of like this:

    1) I retweet and broadcast things I find interesting or important, even with I don’t agree with them, usually without comment. Enlightenment values require me to be as informed as possible about all sides of an issue I care about.

    2) I say whatever I want to, and I don’t really care who it offends. I like having disagreements that lead to discussions.

    3) I try very hard to stay out of political melodrama. I have found that even the wisest words injected into indignation orgies do nothing to stem the tide of bullshit. Unless called upon by obligation to get involved, I’ll try to hold my tongue till it blows over, then talk about the issues involved if it still seems important.

    4) If I do get involved, I will attack and parody (mercilessly) someone’s opinion, actions, and beliefs. I will not, ever, imply that the validity of a person’s opinion has anything to do with the worth or character of the person in question. I’ve got a goodly number of friends who hold opinions that are completely revolting and vile to me, but they’re good people. If they ask me what I think, I’ll tell them. But it really has nothing to do with my respect and affection for them.

    5) What you see online is an edited presentation–it’s a character I play. I’ve been around public figures long enough to know that anyone who goes seeking affirmation from the world is mortgaging their career, their identity, and their personal stability. I present the parts of myself that fit best with my stories and my audience. I also keep a lot of things private. Even the most ardent listeners and readers (who haven’t met me in more personal settings) don’t know whether I’m single, married, or somewhere in between. They don’t know what (if any) political party I’m registered with. They don’t know what I like to do in the evening, or whether I own a dog, or what my favorite food is, or whether I do anything besides writing, producing, and photography. They may be able to deduce some of those things, but their guesses are very likely to be incorrect.

    In other words, this isn’t personal, it’s business. The things I do and say online are done in the full awareness that the world is watching. Sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s nice to have the fence, but the simple fact is that, even if your persona is “The world can go fuck itself,” you’re eventually going to say something that will upset or offend someone who’s got no business being offended–because some people like being offended. So don’t worry about it, just expect it, and manage your presentation so that you know what angles to expect that kind of response from.

    Not sure if that gives you what you were looking for, but it’s what springs to mind 🙂


    1. Dan,

      I Know that our first online exchange displayed that confrontational side of you to a tee. It definitely made me uncomfortable (something I think you know, cause I think I told you as much), but I came to respect it. I could easily see that having gone another way though. I’m probably also guilty of assuming things about you based on this persona.

      So, I like your policy, but I could see it costing you a few potential “fans”. The nice thing is, you know that and are prepared to deal with that eventuality. I think that’s the key here no matter what your approach. Manage your expectations/realize you ain’t gonna please everybody..

      1. I don’t really worry about it, for the simple reason that it’s not possible to please everyone. Statistically speaking, most fans don’t really care about the opinions of their favorite authors–it takes a special kind of fan for that. Since I was a (very minor) public figure before I started releasing fiction, any fan who is so inclined can find plenty about me they might find offputting.

        On the other hand, between Apologia and Reprobates Hour and LinuxJournal and my blog and twitter, I do attract fans who like to play with ideas, and people who like to play with ideas are more likely to like the kind of stuff I write anyway. I trust the audience to find what they like, all I can do is put my stuff out in the mix 🙂


  4. It’s a fine line, like anything else it also is about the frequency of your posts. If all someone ever posts about is politics, you don’t really feel like your part of a conversation, but are being shouted about. Same with religion.

    Sure, they say never talk politics or religion, but if no one ever talked about them then bad things could happen. The SOPA bill was blocked because people talked about it, countless other bills and laws were changed because people talked about it. If we put our heads in the sand no one would be informed about anything.

    That all being said, it’s a fine line. I have had stray comments I’ve made about myself or my opinions turn into out and out flame wars on various social media platforms and other things go ignored.

    I try to post things that are positive, to add to the celebration of life (not being hokey here, I just think there is so much negative being thrown out there I don’t need to add to it) but it’s hard when you see blatant racism, misogyny, hatred, and other negative things being posted by a good percentage of people, you want to grab someone and shake them till they start using their brains. I try and refrain, try and stay away from the trolls, but at the same time I don’t want to stay idle, don’t want to pretend there isn’t ugliness in the world and I don’t want to let it continue.

    Then there is a trap, the trap of commenting on someone’s post who either really wants a discussion, a conversation (or just makes it look that way) and having it turn into a flame war by other people who don’t understand that people can disagree without it turning to name calling.

    1. I totally agree:

      Post positive things where you can.
      Don’t be a one note band.

      This is a philosophy I can get behind.

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