Writing has always been an escape for me. An experience of pure joy, honesty, relief or inspiration. Ever since I was a little girl who would get carried away writing stories in school, to feel so proud when the teachers would tell me how imaginative they were, to hear them read aloud to the class as examples; writing has always been a good thing to me. A necessary and wonderful thing which shaped me into who I am.
With the technological developments that have happened since I was much younger, and sharing your writing with the world being such a normal thing now, it was kind of obvious that I’d delve into blogging I guess. And as much as I love it, even more than ever; today I wanted to talk about some of my worries about writing.
I don’t have anywhere near the audience of some people, obviously. I’m just a girl from Liverpool who sometimes has some people follow her and keep up with her blog posts. I know that, I just needed to say that before I go into this next part okay? I’m not trying to suggest I’m some bloody superstar over here, LOLZ. But lately, I’m more aware of what I write about, and the people who are viewing these words all across the world. I was recently featured in my local paper, and my old co-workers got in touch with me to say they’d seen it. I share my blog posts on my Facebook, where family and friends can click and visit this blog any time they like. I have almost 10,000 people following me on Twitter, and almost 5000 on Instagram. When a new blog post goes live and I promote it on these social accounts, I can see the numbers going up. I can almost feel the eyes on my blog in those moments.
This is a fantastic and amazing thing, something that continues to inspire me. After all, it’s what I want… isn’t it?
However, as time goes on I’m seeing more and more reasons to be ‘careful’ about what I write. I read books such as Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ and I feel the sudden power behind each tweet, each blog post, each word I type. For anyone who hasn’t read this book, I thoroughly suggest you do. It’s a fascinating, thought-provoking and powerful read, even more so if you are a blogger or someone heavily active on social media. It’s honestly been one of my favourite reads of the past year or two. I read it last year when it was released (and I got to meet Ronson at a book signing, he’s one of my heroes!) and I haven’t stopped raving about it since. But anyway, if I had to sum up what it was about, I’d say it’s about the power of words, and how much they can have an affect on people… whether good or bad.
I see others writing about taboo subjects, or sharing their honest opinion on an issue and being torn down for it, or being applauded and admired in the thousands. It’s a scary thing to witness, and I’m sure even more intimidating to experience. In fact, to quote directly from Ronson’s book when talking about the aftermath of someone publicly saying something ‘wrong’ and being torn down for it, he says…
“A life had been ruined. What was it for: just some social media drama? I think our natural disposition as humans is to plod along until we get old and stop. But with social media, we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high drama. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. It’s all very sweeping, and not the way we actually are as people.” (So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson.)
He’s talking about the fact that there are people out there whose lives have been actually ruined from sending one wrong tweet, or making one mistake. In a lot of the examples named in Ronson’s book, it’s from people who have done something relatively ‘wrong’ or questionable, yes. But these people are then demonized and seen as monsters even if that isn’t at all true. Their whole character is judged based on this one mistake made from one single moment of their lives, forever affecting them. There was a woman called Justine Sacco who made a crude joke on Twitter once, trying to poke fun in a cynical and sarcastic way at white American privilege; but came across racist. Many people didn’t understand the joke she was making, and attacked her for putting out what they thought to be an ignorant and racist message. Within hours of the tweet, it went viral. Justine Sacco was on a plane at the time and had no clue the world below her was erupting into a mass frenzy. When she landed, she discovered thousands of abusive tweets sent to her, horrifying threats to her life and violent images aimed at her. Her family and friends were all trying to contact her to find out what was going on.
Justine Sacco lost her job, and her life was basically ruined because of one tweet. I’m not saying it was right of her to tweet it, by the way. But after looking into this and reading so much about it it seems that it was just a bad, inappropriate joke gone horribly wrong. And yet it changed her whole life. It’s absolutely astounding to see the power our words can have, especially on social media.
Now, that’s an extreme example obviously. But even in the blogging world, the world I’m active in all the time, this online community that grows bigger every single day; I see it happening. There are people who do something wrong, or even people who don’t; and they are called out for their words or actions. They can suddenly be the next piece of gossip, the next social media drama, the next person to be torn down and publicly ruined.
This terrifies me, I hate it. Should I censor myself now? Should I think before I write about anything opinionated? Should I steer clear of anything that could bring negativity towards myself, even if I believe in it?
To be completely honest with you guys, I’m finding those questions really hard to answer. I want to write freely and never hold back, but there’s also that terror of being the next person attacked. And it really is like an attack, don’t you think? To be clear here, I’m NOT saying that those who do something wrong, or spout vile words or dangerous ideas shouldn’t be called out. I know in fact how important it is they they are, whether to create a discussion, or educate, support others, or show that we won’t stand for this shit. I know, I get why it’s important to do that. But it’s terrifying to watch if so many people get involved, and so many are attacking one person. Whether this person is wrong or not, I’ll admit this ‘pack mentality’ that we can see sometimes, really scares me. There are those who genuinely want to make a difference, or stand up for something they believe in. But there are also others; those who see this from the sidelines and jump in, eager to seem on the ‘right side’ and just dying to be involved, to feel superior and validated within this mass of people.
These things all make me question the content on my own blog, and sometimes I’ve found myself holding back. I promise you all, I’ll try not to; and I’m already keeping this promise by even writing this post, because I’m already worried how it will be perceived by people. The people who stand up for others, the ones who call people out on their wrong doings, the writers that share their honest opinion without fear holding them back – you all inspire me. Even if sometimes you clash with each other. You’re each doing something brave and I respect that.
So yes, if someone is spreading vile and oppressing views, they should certainly not be tolerated. But I’d love each of us to really take a moment too, and think about how we deal with that. Perhaps we can create a discussion rather than jump in attacking them, perhaps talk to them privately, perhaps we can educate them in some way. Or perhaps, sometimes, it may be better if we see plenty of others already jumping in, we should stand back? If you have nothing new to add to the discussion, maybe don’t do so just to be another one in the crowd.
Today I simply wanted to share these thoughts and worries with you guys, in the hopes it might make one or two people stop and think about the power words can have. They can be used for good or bad, and they can also be taken the wrong way. It’s worth thinking about.
If you bothered reading all of this post, thank you. It truly means so much to me.
And also go buy Jon Ronson’s book because it’s amazing.
*Any items sent for review are written about 100% honestly and in my own words. Sometimes collaborative content and partnerships with brands will appear on this blog. Affiliates links are used throughout this blog.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.