(Or, why I talk about the Minnesota Orchestra so much.)
I have seen several people referring to their political posts today as “obligatory,” and it makes me wince every time. Blogging, tweeting, and other social media posting is generally optional, folks. You don’t have to use social media to wish your cousin a happy birthday. You don’t have to use it to tell us what you had for lunch. And you don’t have to use it to talk about the politics of the day. All of those things are choices. Sometimes they’re really good choices, for various reasons, sometimes bad choices, but this stuff is far, far less obligatory than we’re trying to convince ourselves that it is.
My rules for how to decide when to make a political post are mine; they are not meant to be universal or to tell you when you should make political posts. But here’s what I do.
1) I ask whether I have something new to say on this topic, whether I have a pithy way to say things that are already being said on this topic, or whether I am just attempting to express some kind of solidarity. The last option gets the least weight, honestly: troops sometimes do want rallying, and choirs do sometimes enjoy really good preaching, but those things go lower on my set of priorities.
Some people do serve as sources of breaking news for their social circles, and so they relay things even when they don’t personally have anything to say at all. That’s not what I’m doing here. It’s a valid choice, it’s just not my choice. Occasionally I am emotionally overcome by something political to the point of posting, “aughhh” or “woooo!”, but usually I think it’s better energy allocation to do that aloud and keep working on other things rather than posting to social media.
2) I ask who I will likely be reaching with my actual post. Sometimes things get linked and passed around, either locally within a community or more broadly than that, but you can’t plan on that, and you particularly can’t plan on it if the people most likely to be interested and pass around your link have no mechanism for seeing it in the first place. So if my answer to the first question is that I don’t think people in Group A have heard this point I want to make, it doesn’t matter, if I have no way of getting Group A to see it in the first place.
3) I ask whether I have the time/energy to deal with the likely ensuing comments. Sometimes I’m wrong about how many comments a post is likely to get–but most of the time I post things where I don’t feel like I am going to have to watch things like a hawk lest assholery ensue. Most of the time if people post links, there would have to be someone in an epically bad mood for it to result in a jerkalanche. But some topics require a lot of moderation, and frankly there is just not that much Mris these days. A lot of moderation might well mean that moderation is the only thing I’m doing that day. Not a win condition.
4) I incline towards positive rather than negative commentary whenever I can manage it. This is not true of what I mumble to myself when I’m reading the paper (including the online version of “reading the paper”), and I don’t always succeed at it online. But I would rather be able to say, “X is good,” or even, “Y is broken, and X is one of my theories about how to fix it,” than just, “Y is sucktastic!” whenever possible. Some things just are sucktastic, and that’s worth pointing out. But for my personal skew, I would prefer positive/solvable whenever possible.
Which is why the Minnesota Orchestra stuff is a perfect storm. My likely readers are people who care about the arts, and about music in specific, and sometimes even about music in Minnesota in specific. But my likely readers do not seem to be people who are all up on the situation with the MN Orchestra, so I’m likely to be saying things that are new to them. Nobody is showing up to be jerks in the comments, and if they were I have fairly strong expectations that it would not be people with whom I have standing relationships, whose jerkitude would take more energy, more tact, more emotional engagement. And I do have a positive stance (Orchestra Good!) rather than just a negative one (Orchestra Board bad…but can freely choose goodness from here if it likes, so again: fixable).
See what’s not on the list? What’s not on the list is an assessment of how tragic or important something is. I do not make a policy of making some comment on every single thing I find important, and I have that policy in part specifically so that if I am exhausted or ill or distracted, nobody can take that as a definitive statement of priority ranking.
What’s also not on the list is whether someone on the internet is posturing about how people who have not made any comment on [insert important thing here] must hold that [insert odious view here]. One of my friends posted that this morning one of her social media acquaintances noted that he was keeping track of who was not posting about the events in the last few weeks that he felt were socially important, and was drawing his (unfavorable) conclusions about their views from their silence. But I will bet you money that this man has not been following developments in law and regulation of Bangladesh garment factories after the fire and posting extensively about that, or the rise of the right-wing in Hungary. Does that make me think that he is a callous jerk who does not care how many people die for his T-shirt, or whether fascism makes a terrifying comeback? No. It makes me think that time is limited and we all have to do what we can. And it makes me think that there is always, always something awful happening in the world, and if you insist that all of them must be mentioned in a particular way, you will run out of time for the fact that there is always, always something wonderful happening in the world, too.