Why Silence Is Sometimes The Best Answer

Racism. Misogyny. Threats and bullying.

Sometimes we wonder: why are we on social media at all? We’ve all heard the stories or been targets ourselves of online bullying, trolls, threats, and even stalkers. Is it worth putting ourselves out there if this is what we end up with? I don’t know. I have my days just like you. For me, the good outweighs the bad, but I’ve had to develop some new rules.

You may disagree and that’s cool. That’s one of my rules: disagree all you want. I don’t have to force you to agree with me. ­čÖé

Let’s deconstruct, from the author marketing perspective:

We Can Agree to Disagree 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again): if you are an author selling a book, talking about politics and religion is fine if you are willing to risk polarizing and losing potential buyers. If you’re cool with that, fine. It’s your dime.

Most people disagree┬áon these issues — they are right, you are wrong. And when you get into heated discussions, particularly on sites like Facebook, where there is little space limitation, tempers flare and arguments can go from polite discourse to flame war in a flash. That said, [share ]I believe compassionate discourse is critical to moving society forward[/share]. [share ]If you follow me, you know that I encourage people to discuss and disagree![/share]┬áHarmony is great and all, but it’s rare to have similar viewpoints from such diverse populations and that’s awesome. We can learn so much from each other if we’re open to it.

Accept that if you do open your social media up to conversations of this nature, you either need to:

  • agree to disagree by giving people the space to discuss hot-button topics, and be present in guiding and monitoring the conversations,
  • or you need to avoid them and stick to cat videos.

It’s like inviting folks to your home for a party and then getting into a fist-fight. Nobody will come back and not only that, they will tell everyone they know to avoid you. From a sales perspective, not very smart.*

(*I use my personal author platform to discuss difficult topics like sexual assault, rape, feminism, and race. I know I tick people off, and I accept that. To me, having these conversations is more important than not having them. It’s a conscious choice. However, I keep them polite and on-topic.)

Use Your Inside Voice 

Too many discussions go from polite to foul in a snap. I have friends on Facebook who have turned on and blocked other friends this week for disagreeing with them on Ferguson, Walmart, Ray Rice, even on cookie recipes. Many heated topics right now. If you are threatening others, using bad language, or being rude to people on social media, chances are they will block you. If you’re cool with that, fine. Again, it’s your author platform, and those are your readers that you are losing. Your choice.

Remember, nothing we do is in a vacuum. Even if you think nobody but your friends and family reads your wall or timeline, think again.

  • Publishers are watching.
  • Agents.
  • Readers.
  • Book bloggers are telling book tour companies to ban certain authors.
  • Reviewers could be removing you from their ‘favorite author’ lists.

Not because of your beliefs — nope.

Because of your behavior and your language. I’m watching it happen as I write this. Come on, guys: be professional. Don’t hurt your chances. Say your piece — this isn’t Big Brother. But be polite! This is business.

The No Troll Policy — Using Silence

I used to think that I had to have the last word, that I had to correct that troll, or convince him (usually, for whatever reason, it seems to be a guy with me) that I’m justified in saying whatever it is I’m saying. But you know what? I have every right to say what I want to say, just as they do. I have nothing to prove to them. So, rather than waste my time, I block. Not because we disagree — again, I encourage polite discourse and disagreement — but because some people are downright rude or threatening.

On sites like Facebook or Google+, where I may be in a group with someone, I may not block — I simply don’t respond. Guess what? Just because someone makes a comment doesn’t mean we HAVE to like it, or even reply. We have the power to not respond! I know that sounds silly, but it took me a long time to get to that point. We, especially women, feel compelled to be polite, to reply because someone has spoken to us. That’s what good girls do.

In the case of rudeness or trolls, I’m not ignoring them: I’m choosing silence as my response. There’s a difference.

dalai lama

Sometimes, I even delete their comments! Yep, I do that. It goes against my nature to censor people — after all, I am a writer here — but I needed to lay some guidelines down. [share ]If people can’t respect me, they don’t deserve my respect either.[/share]┬áThere’s a pure simplicity in that which appeals to me. While I believe that being polite has its merits, I also believe that my author platform belongs to me. My platform, my rules.

So there you have it. Agree or disagree? What do you do in these situations?

Top photo: unsplash.com
Bottom Photo: smartrebrander.com


  1. Courtney Killian on November 30, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    I never thought about publishers looking at my Facebook timeline, but it make sense. Just like potential employers can, potential publishers, agents, etc. can, too.

    I admit, I have fallen in the trap of getting angry and fighting back with people that were being immature (I know, I was immature with the fighting back as well), but that was a few years ago, and I would like to think that I’ve grown since then. I’ve definitely learned that silence is better than fighting. It saves a lot of anger and helps to keep me on the market!

    • Rachel Thompson on December 1, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Courtney. We all fall into that trap — I have, too. Sometimes, something strikes us and boom — there we go, getting sucked in. And to be honest, sometimes we are advocates for issues and it’s worth it! And that’s okay.

      Pick your battles, basically, right? Just err on the side of caution and as always, be polite. It’s possible to argue with someone in a constructive manner and not a destructive way.

  2. Single Mother Ahoy on December 1, 2014 at 1:26 am

    It took me a long time to learn this lesson, but you’re so right. Not just in terms of social media, but generally – sometimes people are just out for a fight, and you won’t convince them of your point of view/opinion/whatever so it’s best to just not respond to it.

    • Rachel Thompson on December 1, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      Hi SMA and thank you for reading and commenting — convincing takes a lot of effort and really, is it worth it to anyone? Sometimes I get authors telling me I need to convince them that social media is worth it for their platform. Nope, ain’t got time for that, as people say. Find someone else. I’m too busy helping people who want my help!

      And that’s what it comes down to — be open, or don’t. It’s a choice. Thanks for your insights.

  3. Ruebi on December 1, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I was once told that “you can’t argue with stupid”…So it’s best to take a deep breath, have a cup of tea, and realise that you can’t win every fight.

    • Rachel Thompson on December 1, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      Absolutely, so true. And really, when did winning become so important anyway? That competition — it can be healthy, but in can also be toxic. Thank you for reading and commenting, Ruebi!

  4. Jessica West on December 3, 2014 at 6:26 am

    This is exactly why I’ve backed off of social media so much. I’ve reached a point where these conversations affect my emotions, and not in a good way. I’m going to focus on family and writing for a while and keep my head down. Silence is, at least in my case for the time being, the best answer.

    • Rachel Thompson on December 8, 2014 at 8:54 am

      You’re absolutely doing what’s right for you, Jessica. If it affects us personally, we need to walk away, or at least back off, as you say. I agree, by blocking (or not engaging), that’s my way of backing off.

      As my friend says, not every tweet or FB post needs a reply. We feel compelled to answer, but let it sit and then decide: is it worth the time and effort, or emotional investment? If not, let it go. Refocus, as you say. Very smart.

  5. Paula Margulies on December 7, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Great post, Rachel!

  6. Terry Tyler on December 8, 2014 at 5:13 am

    You’re so right, with all of this. I used to be less aware of how public Twitter (my main social network) is. I used to argue with people. If they were bolshy, I’d be bolshy back, and I’d speak my mind about stuff. Not politics or religion, but other stuff. I used to be rude to people who sent me spam, now I just advise them that it’s not a good idea, and if they are rude back then I just tell them there is no need to be so, and block them. It’s hard, though, as I am a naturally ‘call a spade a spade’ sort of person, hate gushing and pretend ‘nice’, and never want to seem ‘vanilla’, but am learning to smooth my edges down a bit! Once you block someone, it’s amazing how quickly you completely forget their existence – like, in about 5 minutes. That’s why it’s best just to block, rather than bite back!

    • Rachel Thompson on December 8, 2014 at 8:52 am

      so true, terry! in fact, 9 out of 10 times I don’t respond to the spammers anymore. I work really hard to educate folks to help them, but I don’t want to be preachy. If they don’t like my words, they can unfollow. The spammy thing is annoying, so rather than be annoyed, I block their existence from my life. It’s much easier than getting down in the mud.

      That said, sometimes someone is so egregious I feel the need to say something, if for no other reason than to stand up for my rights! And that’s okay — it’s my blog, my twitter, my facebook. My platform, my rules. I own that. We all should. xx

  7. Garry Rodgers on January 25, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Rachel, Just picked up this piece on Twitter. Good stuff & good timing. I have a lady writer acquaintance who just sent me this message “I have this pervert who won’t take “I’m married” for an answer no matter how rude I am. Any suggestions?” You must get these creeps. How do you handle them?

    • Rachel Thompson on January 25, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      Hi Garry! That’s why the BLOCK button is our friend. Pervs don’t deserve engagement from us. Block and move on.

      Tell her not to engage him any longer, simply block his sorry ass. ­čÖé I also recommend using Privacy Fix (it’s an extension on Chrome) to check her vulnerabilities on her various social media and other channels and sites. If he knows she is on Twitter, for example, he’ll likely seek her out on FB, G+, etc., so she should proactively block him everywhere.

      hope that helps!

      • Garry Rodgers on January 25, 2015 at 6:52 pm

        Makes sense, like you always do. Just cut him.

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