Last week, we covered how to set boundaries between your public and private identity and the politics of replying to positivity. This week, we’ll add three more major tips in navigating the craziness that is being accessible on the internet for your creative works.
Sometimes people don’t like having boundaries set, and demand your attention in spite of them. Sometimes people track you down to platforms you’ve previously determined as private. Sometimes the internet is a dark and scary place, especially for women, people of color, and the LGBT+ community. Do not feel bad about blocking hateful or demanding people, or about muting their words. It doesn’t make you weak or thin-skinned, and it doesn’t make you ungrateful. It makes you a person.
Imagine someone walking up to you on the street and screaming obscenities straight into your face- would anyone think twice about you walking to the other side of the street? Walking in the other direction? Running in the other direction? Of course not, and it should be no different on the internet. There’s a great Ashley Judd TED talk about online harassment that I encourage you check out if you’re ever for a second worried that you’re the problem. You’re not.
Don’t be careless
While you don’t owe yourself or your identity or your time to anyone, remember that as a public figure your words inherently hold more meaning and weight in our culture. It’s much harder to make mistakes when your words are broadcast to strangers on purpose, and that’s a responsibility you should take seriously.
Some general tips to not be careless on social media or when meeting fans/followers/audiences in person:
- No half-baked problematic satire. Especially if you’re white or cis or some other group with cultural privilege, don’t carelessly tweet things to be “edgy” that you haven’t thought through. Just because you heard a comedian say something along these lines doesn’t mean that you can spend two seconds writing and sending out a tweet that will be received as positively.
- Don’t misgender people. If you need to use a pronoun to describe someone whose gender you aren’t sure about, don’t. Use their name, or err on the side of neutral pronouns like “they/them.” An accident for you could be incredibly damaging to the person whose identity you didn’t care enough about to figure out their most basic identifiers.
- Don’t mock fans in an attempt to be casual and flippant. It’s fine if your online persona is aloof or irreverent, but don’t expect all of your friends/
- If you’re sad or angry, wait an hour or eight before posting. Everything you post publicly is a reflection on you for people who’ve never met you, fair or not.
- Change your password frequently.. The internet is an amazing place, and it’s also terrible. Don’t be careless.
Learn to apologize and mean it
Have you ever met someone who liked apologizing, or doesn’t mind it? Don’t lie to me- no you haven’t. As a public figure and especially as a leader, humility and the ability to genuinely apologize is paramount. I, for one, am terrible at apologizing and admitting fault, because it was ingrained early in my life that to admit that I did something wrong was to admit I was a failure and not to be trusted. Of course, if you do it right, that’s not how that works.
Some advice about apologizing:
- Do it because it’s the right thing to do, not for forgiveness. Trust me, people can tell.
- “I’m sorry you took it the wrong way” is not an apology, because you’re essentially putting the onus of resolution on the person you’ve upset.
- An excuse is not an apology. Pairing an apology with an explanation is fine, but only if it makes sense and can paint a fuller picture of the circumstances. A good example of doing this badly might be, and I’m just spitballing here, blaming Ambien for your racism.
- Try pairing your apology with an action plan for the future. “I’m sorry I was late for set today- in the future, I’ll make sure to leave a bit earlier and check train delays beforehand so I can plan ahead instead of being caught off guard.”
- Actually try to enact your action plan, whether you mention it or not. Your apology is meaningless unless it is accompanied by action and a concerted effort to never have to apologize for the behavior again.
Everyone makes mistakes, and I certainly don’t subscribe to the militaristic Tumblr mantra of “Problematic in The Past = Problematic Forever.” However, if you’ve done something worth apologizing for, do it. It’ll suck, and it’ll be embarrassing and maybe even shameful, but you’ll have done the right thing for the universe, for your fans, and for yourself.