How Political Should Writers Be?

I was watching the Superbowl on Sunday with my partner and was happy to see a handful of the ads went beyond just being entertaining, but actually took a stance on important issues. Being the social media user that I am, I took to Twitter and tweeted my appreciation at companies like Audi, Airbnb, and Budweiser for making advertisements with themes such as gender equality, acceptance, and pro-immigration values. Before my first tweet took flight, however, I turned to my partner and said to her, “I guarantee I am going to lose a couple of followers.” And she immediately said to me, “You don’t want those followers, anyway.”

Now, I am a person trying to get into the business of entertaining people, and losing a potential audience is not really on my top list of priorities. And with all the recent controversy over political messaging, I had to ask myself: do I want to alienate people by showing that I lean one way in the political spectrum?

And the answer is yes.

Now, that might sound weird. I want to alienate people? I want to have a smaller audience because of my opinions? That is not necessarily the case, trust me. What I am saying yes to is being genuine.

But let’s take a step back. This isn’t just another decision that I am making. This is an opinion about an ongoing conversation, one that sparked my interest as recently as last week. The real question we need to be asking is: How political should writers be?

In a world where the most powerful politician on the planet has zero political experience, I think we can be as damn political as we want.

All slights aside, however, I think it is important for everyone to be vocal about their view on politics and social movements, especially those who have a public following. It is not for the sole fact that people know who they are following or interacting with, but there is a sense of responsibility that comes with having followers and fans. Let’s look at it from a different angle.

The company Airbnb, when the travel/immigration ban was introduced in the United States, said that they would reimburse homeowners who took in those affected by the ban. This was so much more than a marketing play - Trump won the presidency largely for rhetoric claiming that he would ban all Muslims from entering the country. To vehemently take the opposite side from the president, Airbnb was making a statement.

Take a look at the ad they ran during the Superbowl, too. They bought out the slot at the last minute, unlike most ads which were made months ago. The video, which is made up of images of their employees, highlights how important diversity and acceptance is to that company. It is almost the textbook definition of corporate citizenship.

And the idea of corporate citizenship can be applied to an individual, too. Take, for example, J.K. Rowling. This author, who I am sure needs no introduction, is unafraid to put her opinions on Twitter, especially when it comes to social issues such as gay marriage, gender equality, and other values important to her. Personally, it is inspiring to see large companies and prominent individuals take up these mantles and push for positive change in our societies.

But therein lies the debate. These are massive entities and individuals who not only have the faithful following to take these stances, but arguably are so large, so popular, that even the inevitable backlash from those who disagree will have minimal impact on them. But what about those of us who have 100, 500, 1000, or 5000 followers? Those of us who are just scratching the surface, or those who don’t have a claim to fame. If J.K. Rowling loses 1000 Twitter followers, she will still have 9.5 million more. If I lose 1000 followers, I will owe Twitter some accounts!

But I tweeted about it anyway. I made the conscious decision that being the true me, that not holding back on my values or compromising who I am is more important than followers, fans, or readers. It’s not that I don’t want people with differing opinions following or interacting with me; it is always important to see both sides of the coin. But I don’t want people following my account if it is not me, a true representation of me.

So the question was how political should writers be? And I think the answer depends on the person. If you lean to the extremes of the political spectrum, undoubtedly that will shine through. If you tend to lean one way or the other, don’t be afraid to have your voice heard. You may lose followers in the process, but I guarantee that showing who you truly are will be more appealing than trying to hide it.

Leave your thoughts on the subject down below! Do authors or celebrities have a responsibility to be political? Is being genuine the best way to go? When was the last time you followed or unfollowed someone because of a divisive tweet? Keep the conversation going in the comments down below, and I be sure to come back for Thursday's blog!