Why I Battle With Expressing My Opinion On Social Media
Journalists are people, too.
September 19, 2017 at 3:02 am
When I wake up in the morning, I follow a pretty regimented routine. I pull my eye mask off my face, and allow in the abrasive sunlight that reminds me the four of five hours of sleep I did get are over. I press snooze, and allow myself to adjust to the morning for Apple’s annoyingly odd nine-minute respite.
I then check my messages, responding back to the people I like a lot, welcoming in the day to the people I love the most, and putting everyone else on “do not disturb.”
I check my emails, and see that Old Navy is having a sale, Reformation isn’t, a local garden club wants me to write a piece about their next event and the CNN says the world is ending.
Then I hit my social media. Instagram comes first. I celebrate my mediocre double-digit hearts on a photo of my dinner from last night, and skim past Instagram models, MUAs and bulldog puppies.
Next Facebook. Truly this is just friends and family, like the discount, but without getting anything bad memes and posts by favorite teachers from back in the day.
The last one I hit is Twitter though, the social media I’m constantly at odds with. Twitter is the most explosive of the platforms. Celebrities brutally call out fans. My favorite bloggers, podcast hosts and personalities openly state their bold opinions from their politics, to their thoughts on the new “queso” at Chipotle. Politicians make late night official statements (see White House).
Some mornings, a little future media mogul Kathryn chats with me as I scroll through my feed.
“You see how these people have a personality? They express who they are? That’s how you make it in this business.”
“Oh, girl, that is funny. Tweet that shit.”
“I love her tweets, retweet it. Naw, you know what? @ her while you’re at it.”
“Sexism, Racism, Homophobia and other forms of bigotry are flat wrong. Who can blame you for calling it out? Morality isn’t political, right?”
She’s fun. She’s woke. She’s excited about this new world of social media expression where you can be political, witty, deep, funny, vulgar or whatever makes you, you.
It’s on Twitter, she thinks, people are the most real version of themselves, and that’s what makes it amazing.
Other mornings are different though.
Some mornings, a little anxious black journalist Kathryn starts shouting in my ear. I hit the retweet button, and then quickly tap it again undoing my action.
“That was too political.”
“What if someone saw that?”
“That was vulgar.”
“You want to keep your job, right? Keep that shit to yourself.”
“Don’t use that kind of language.”
“You want that next job, right? Then just retweet the puppy picture and keep it moving.”
“So what if you believe that? You don’t get to have personal beliefs. You’re a journalist.”
She sees how certain people in the media can lose, whether it be their peace of mind, or their job, just for expressing their personal opinion on their personal accounts. She says pay your dues and get the big-girl job first, and then maybe you can tweet whatever you know. She also looks at Jemele Hill and says the big-girl job still won’t protect your opinion if you lack a certain level of privilege. She sees Hill call the President a white supremacist, and watches the subsequent calls for her to lose her job. She watches Kaepernick kneel in a quiet protest against the current state of America, and notices he’s seemingly black-balled from the NFL.
She remembers Trump calling then President Obama “the founder of ISIS” and creating a birtherism movement, and in turn, becoming the next President himself.
It’s on Twitter, she thinks, people are the most real version of themselves, and that’s what makes it dangerous.
She’s terrified I’m writing this right now.
It’s funny how many of us in media have dueling versions of ourselves, duking it out every time we lift a finger to post.
In the wake of what’s been occurring with ESPN’s Jemele Hill, I started contacting my friends in the media world: bloggers, journalists, personalities. I asked them how they view their ability to exist in the social media universe. Most were women. Most were of color.
Some said they were not willing to stay silent on issues that effected their community and other minority communities. They agree with fun me: morality shouldn’t be a political issue. If my posting for, or against, those types of topics causes you to pass me over, or fire me, I didn’t want to work for your company anyway.
Others state they keep their profiles private, and often have multiple accounts. Personally, I have a Facebook and a Twitter for Kathryn Williams the journalist, and then accounts for me the regular black 20-something human. Is expressing my opinion on Colin Kapernick or DACA worth me possibly losing my job?
Is not expressing my opinion on Colin Kaepernick or DACA worth me betraying communities who need a voice like mine, like ours?
A friend of mine expressed it very well as we were going back and forth about this.
“Personally, Twitter is where I go to be my black ass self and laugh and learn. But when I think about the possible ramifications of me tweeting something about how white people suck, even though it's 100 percent the way I feel, it makes me want to censor myself and make sure everything I say and do is palatable,” she said.
Here’s the question: where is the separation between the journalist or member of the media, and that person as a person? Will we always be required to keep our personal opinions and thoughts dormant for people to feel comfortable? Will media companies stand up for their employees, and say “no, not everyone that works for us is of a hive mind, and they can speak for themselves without representing our company”?
A known registered republican journalist who is good at his job, can still accurately report that a democrat did something right, and the other way around. I hate country music, but I can tell you that “Before He Cheats” was on my song list for the longest time until I ran out of space on my iPhone. I don’t like guacamole, but my cousin makes a batch that I actually don’t mind stomaching.
When will we do away with this fake idea of impartial journalism and realize that everyone is partial about everything, even a little bit, because they’re human?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, and unfortunately, until we start getting definitive answers, many of us will continue to toe the line of our social media interactions, fearing the repercussions of something as simple as our personalities.
When I wake up tomorrow, it’ll be interesting to see which one of me will be tweeting.