In normal, polite conversation, people tell us that we should stay away from the topics of politics and religion. Does the same go for social media and blog discussions?
There are probably other topics just as controversial, but I think in most cases these topics come under the heading of politics or beliefs for shorthand.
This year the politics discussions will go into overdrive. In the last USA presidential elections political blogs did very well, both in terms of traffic and revenue. I expect this time round for it to be even more of a phenomenenenon.
If you are not a political blogger though, should you mention political opinions? What about if you have both political and non-political blogs, could this cause problems? Can your religious beliefs get you into trouble?
Politics is an obvious cause for friction, if you didn’t know better you would think friction was the whole point. People make all sorts of assumptions about a person once they discover they lean left or right politically.
Religion is politicized more than ever now. If you believe the media you would think that religion is politics.
But, you might think, aren’t we supposed to let our readers in on a bit of our personality? Didn’t you say we should paint a picture of ourselves being three dimensional human beings? There is the problem, many people see their politics, and certainly their beliefs, as being core to who they are. Should you hide this part of yourself?
How Much to Share?
I think it comes down to how you work, what your goals are, how open you want to be, and how forceful you are in your opinions.
If you are a freelancer or a consultant, I would caution against risking losing work through expressing your opinions off topic from your business blog. By all means have a separate blog where those opinions are discussed, but know the risks if your leads follow you around and find something they vehemently disagree with.
Openness is a two-edged sword. Sometimes you can share too much and put off the very readers you were wanting to get closer to. Again, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. If someone is so intolerant that they boycott you because of a privately held belief then you might not want them as readers, but on the other hand if you are beating people over the head with it I can fully understand why someone might be put off.
In most cases merely mentioning something will not do too much harm but getting into a heated argument almost always causes lasting issues. Polarizing an audience can be a route to success, but it forever labels you, and the internet has a long memory. You might find in a job or media interview it comes back to haunt you.
The way I deal with this stuff is to mostly keep it to myself, which you might think is the cowards way out, but there are some things I don’t think I need to share. Having said that some people have made assumptions anyway based on innocent things like newspapers I mentioned, my clients and who I write with.
I asked for peoples experiences on the subject over at Twitter, here are two selected replies. First a great quote from Lyndon:
lyndoman Talking politics and religion in a commercial blog is like trying to diet whilst ingesting large amounts of Ben and Jerry’s. You think it’s a cool thing to do at the time, but in the end you always regret it.
Then I asked Muhammad if he received negative reactions because of his religion/politics:
msaleem does getting called terrorist on Digg and my blog, multiple times count? 🙂 Cost of doing business?
Over to You
Do you mention politics or religion in your blog or social media conversations?