God, I can’t stand this call-out culture.
Every little thing someone says, writes, puts online gets shut down and shamed almost by default. Sometimes the calling-out itself gets vicious, accusational.
When someone calls out a group or idea, that’s ugly enough. But picking on individuals, I find does more harm than good. It silences people. In case you didn’t notice, that’s the opposite of what I’m about.
Most of the time, and certainly for the less enlightened among us, I don’t believe calling out works as a tool for change either. Honestly, I feel it divides, polarises, induces shame and provokes defensiveness much more so than convincing people to come around to a point of view.
Yet it persists. And so, it’s the culture under which we have to learn to operate, whether we like it or not.
“Yet it seems like the more abuse I get, the more abuse I court – baring myself more extravagantly, processing opinions that I know will draw an onslaught – because, after all, if I’ve already adjusted my body temperature, why not face the blizzard so that other women don’t have to freeze?” ~ Lindy West
The toxic trend of online abuse and singling people out to shame them for getting it wrong means it’s more frightening than ever to publish. Just looking at this as a numbers game…
More people than ever before are able to access your work.
More platforms than ever before allow sharing of your writing, easily and for free.
More criticism than ever before can come your way.
Taking a step back and looking at what self-publishing, social media and online platforms really mean for raising our voice, you’d be within reason to call us crazy for wanting to put our writing out there these days.
But we can’t stop now.
It’s too late.
Besides, self-expression is an innate part of our humanity.
I believe an urge to express ourselves creatively is one of the core traits that make us human.
One of the reasons I feel that the call-out culture inhibits us so much is that we are intolerant of any criticism or discomfort.
Now that the barriers to entry for publishing are so low, almost non-existent, as writers, we don’t face the traditional pattern of facing several rejections before something is made available to potentially enormous audiences. Historically, if an author wanted to publish, self-publishing as it looks today wouldn’t be an option and the main route would be sending manuscripts into publishing houses and awaiting an answer. Needless to say, the rejection toughened up the author for when they finally made it through and released to a wider public.
This is why the answer to overcoming your fear of writing in the call-out culture lies in building your resilience, keeping yourself protected where possible, and being the change you wish to see in the online space, particularly when it comes to tearing people down.
Here are some ways you can buffer yourself from the blows, while continuing to be bold, brave and raise your voice.
- Practise publishing in your own space where you have full control before you move on to publishing elsewhere.
- Wait. Pause before you publish. Reread before you release. Edit before you post. Just take a breath and ensure you’re not writing reactively.
- Don’t publish raw writing or recent events you haven’t processed.
- Know the difference between writing and publishing. You can write for yourself to heal and throw ideas around. It doesn’t have to be seen by others. On the other hand, everything you post online is now publicly consumable and open to criticism.
- Be prepared for backlash.
- Accept that you’ll have to apologise sometimes.
- Make peace with the fact you won’t always get it right and that’s okay.
- Look at where you’re perpetuating call-out culture.
- Get a trusted editor or business coach to give you a second opinion.
- Protect your space. Decide on your boundaries and stick to them consistently.
- Come up with guidelines or policies for the behaviour you will and will not tolerate online. You get to decide what you are comfortable with when it comes to your communication and others’ interactions with you.
- Know that you don’t have creative control of anything you say to journalists. How many times have you heard someone say they were misquoted or taken out of context?
And if someone calls you out, explore what they’re saying before you reply. Know that defensiveness doesn’t do you any favours.
Proceed with grace.