Public or Private?

So. I’ve got this blog thing that I write every weekday (more or less), and I typically share it on a few social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and tumblr. Now and then I’ll post something to Reddit if I’m particularly proud of it, or if I feel like it pertains to a specific subreddit. But I don’t do all that much to promote the posts. Sometimes Facebook picks it up in its algorithms, and in that case the posts do quite well. Sometimes only a few people read them. But I like to write them, and so I keep at it.

In other words, the main reason I write this blog is (honestly) that I enjoy doing it. I started it back in 2007 as a way to have a web presence should I ever become published. Now I’m published and I realize a web presence doesn’t really do a whole lot for me, but I keep at it anyway. Go figure.

I make my Facebook posts public by default. I’ve had it set to that setting for years, and I rarely regret it. Why public? Well, for one thing, I’d like my posts to be shared easily, and that’s difficult to do when they’re “friends only.” For another, I would rather not just write to a group of friends who all agree with me. Often I write opinion pieces, and for that I’d like people with differing opinions to read what I’ve written.

And it almost always works fine. But now and then it breaks down, mainly (I believe) because online etiquette is still evolving. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and the responses were varied enough for me to accept that even if I find something wrong online (responding directly to posts by strangers on Facebook), enough people don’t that it’s something I need to accept. So I can’t just assume etiquette will keep people well behaved.

I suppose if I were dealing with inflammatory remarks on Facebook every day, I’d eventually just throw my hands up and make the posts private. I write for enjoyment, after all. I don’t mind honest critique, but spiteful or mean comments aren’t called for ever. And yet sometimes that’s just what I get, almost always from people I don’t know. Just this past week, I had a thread erupt on Facebook over (of all things) my post defending political correctness. A friend of a friend came in and called me a bigot, hater, and a hypocrite. I saw that Friday afternoon, and it kind of ruined my evening. I had to figure out how to respond, if to respond, and to ask myself if the person had a point.

And then it turned out the person was just making an attempt at a thought experiment. (It’s complicated. Read the thread to make sense of it all, but please don’t resurrect the debate. It’s all turned out well enough, and I’d rather not revisit it.)

In any case, after the mental turmoil from that post (coupled with many mean-spirited remarks from strangers over the last year or two), I seriously debated just making the posts private from now on. And I still might at some point, but for now, I’m keeping them public. Why?

Because the people who get upset the most at my points are people who have read them and disagreed with them. Vehemently. And frankly, those are the people I’d like to read them the most. Not people who are going to smile and nod and high five me for a great post (though who doesn’t love a high five?), but people who disagree with the argument I’m making. I’d love for my words to change some minds now and then, and how can they change minds if the minds can’t have access to them?

And for every one person who reads those posts and gets so incensed they have to write me a nastygram, I have to believe there are a good number of people who read the post and are on the fence about an issue. And if my post causes them to rethink things and end up coming around, then I believe the nastygrams are a price I’m willing to pay.

There’s also the chance that I’m wrong on a topic, and a reader out there who disagrees with me or is better informed can set me straight. It’s not like I’m always right or anything.

So the posts stay public. Though here’s hoping the thought experiments and nastygrams stay few and far between . . .

Happy Monday, all!

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