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The Rules of Going Political on Social Media When You’re a Budding Journalist

By Kelsey Mulvey

We’ve always been told to never discuss politics, but in 2018, how can you not? From a polarizing presidency, to #MeToo and Times’s Up, to last weekend’s March for Life, there’s a lot to talk about. And thanks to social media, we have the unique opportunity to use our status as Edsters to bring light to these issues.

Still, talking about politics on such a public platform is nervewracking. Can it affect your career? How do you handle criticism and clap-backs? To help, we asked two politically savvy Edsters for their tips on navigating social media’s murky waters.

Below, what you need to know before tweeting a take on the latest hot-button issue:

DO use your platform for issues you believe in

“I’ve always been outspoken on my beliefs, especially when it comes to reproductive rights, intersectionality in feminism, LGBTQIA+ rights, and wage equality. But after this past election, the stakes felt higher. So much of my writing (which typically tends to deal with sex and relationships) suddenly became political, whether I intended it to or not. I felt it was important for my readers to know where I was coming from when it came to these topics, and Twitter felt like a very natural place for that to happen.”  — Maria Del Russo, beauty, sex, and relationship writer 

DO your research

“Always check your sourcing and dates. There’ve been times I’ve posted articles on newsworthy events, only for someone to point out that the article I posted is from four years ago and therefore isn’t relevant. Similarly, if a website or publication isn’t well-known or you’re not able to clearly find how someone got their information, avoid posting it. If you’re wrong about an event or realize your tweets were unintentionally offensive or misleading, delete the posts and then clarify why you deleted those posts.” — Lily Herman, contributing editor at Refinery29

DON’T feel pressured to have an opinion on everything

“I tweet about a variety of issues, but there are some topics where I don’t feel informed enough to give a “take.” In those cases, there’s a great opportunity to share the work and thoughts of other people who are talking about that topic much more eloquently than you ever could. It’s also okay to just post that a news event has happened.” — Lily Herman

DO review your company’s policy

“A digital media brand should have a fairly straightforward policy when it comes to personal social media accounts, but it’s always a good idea to double check about general best practices. Adding a disclosure is very important, especially if you are a public face of your brand, and you should do that regardless of whether or not your company expects it. This not only protects them, but it protects you, too, because you can track which ideas are yours and which are coming from your company.

I also always say it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. If you’re passionate about something, and there doesn’t seem to be any rule at your company against tweeting about it, go for it. If your company calls you out, apologize, and ask if you can help in evolving the brand’s social media best practices.” — Maria Del Russo

DON’T steal other people’s takes

“Yes, there are times when people will have similar views on a political topic or event, but it’s obvious when something doesn’t sound like you. If you got that work from someone else, retweet that person and give them credit.” — Lily Herman

DO read both sides

“Do your due diligence. If you see something catching buzz on social media, but it’s a topic you’re unsure about, read both sides of the issue. Don’t just add your voice without first educating yourself on the issue. That’s how people get into trouble.” — Maria Del Russo

DON’T forget to shake off the haters

“Don’t be afraid to use the block button. It’s your best friend. Don’t engage people who are outwardly hostile — they aren’t worth your time. And learn when to walk away from a situation. You’re never going to evolve everyone’s opinion, so know when to bow out.” — Maria Del Russo

Kelsey Mulvey is a New York-based writer and editor. She has written for several publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York, LuckyMag.com, Business Insider, Apartment Therapy, NYMag.com and Wallpaper.com. Check out more of her work at KelseyMulveyWrites.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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