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October 15, 2012 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

Why My Status Updates Are Unpopular

One of my friends gets tons of Facebook love. She posts witty comments along with funny pictures of her kids and stupid things her students say. Winning combination.

At one point, she posted a few links about politics. Her “likes” dropped to one or two.

Now, Dean Wesley Smith has admonished writers not to bother promoting themselves (yay!) and said, in passing, not to write about politics on social media.

I’m going to have to disagree, respectfully, on the latter point.

Of course I know most people go on Facebook for entertainment and connection. But I still post sometimes about the earth, animals, and oppressed people. Even if no one “likes” it. Even if no one comments. Even if I lose “friends” over it.

Why? Because I don’t believe I’m here just to sell books or get “likes.” I want to leave the earth a slightly better place, if possible. So yes, I post about my kids sometimes, because I love them and their beautiful faces brighten up my newsfeed. However, if I’m going to take the time to write or post, I will occasionally point out injustice.

Because I can. Because I’m lucky enough to live in a society where I can speak out.

I will point out that it’s possible to be political and entertaining. The Bloggess gets up to 2 million visits a month, and when she’s comparing male vs. female body bag costumes, y’all, she’s really pointing out the double standard, but it’s funny right down to the comment about a sexy ramen noodle costume.

On my much more modest scale, one of my FB posts started off, “At the risk of becoming the crazy rhino lady, I’m posting another petition…” My witty friend commented, “I will sign the petition. But in exchange, I want you to change your name and profile pic to Crazy Rhino Lady.” (I did change the picture, but could not figure out how to change my name—maybe Facebook doesn’t let you do this anymore?) And we all had a good laugh, and maybe a few more people signed the petition.

I admit, when I read about Ai Weiwei, for example, my first thought was, Why don’t you keep quiet? It would be so much easier. You could just do your art and enjoy your international success without getting harassed, detained, imprisoned, etc.

But then I decided that while the majority of any population goes along with the status quo, there will always be some dissidents. There will always be some people to whom popularity without morality, without justice, is a hollow victory.

I’m no Ai Weiwei. But I do care about what’s right. In the emergency room, if I wanted to do what was easy, I would just hand out antibiotics, narcotics, and sedatives to anyone who asks. Instead, I have to spend my time explaining why those things are not always in the patient’s best interest.

And I will continue to speak out on social media.

It’s really no skin off the reader’s nose either way: you can click a few keys to sign a petition, or you move on to your other millions of Facebook friends who commiserate with you about how work sucks but your dog is awesome!!!!!!

Win-win.

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