Last week, I did what I occasionally have done before, and posted an unsolicited opinion on this blog. It happened to concern contraception. It might best be described as primal scream of frustration over the current political climate in my beloved home country and adopted home state.
It was just one of those days.
Generally, my posts are viewed by friends, family, and others in the Foreign Service community. A popular post might get 150 views, total, and a few comments, mostly from other FS bloggers.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, last week I learned what it means to “go viral.” I hit the Publish button and WHOOSH! That one post registered over a thousand views in the first 24 hours. It has continued to get a several hundred views per day, nearly all through Facebook shares.
So, that’s how social media works! It was a fascinating (and slightly freaky) thing to watch. Of course, I wouldn’t have a blog if I didn’t want people to read it. I just wasn’t expecting them all to read it this week, lol.
There were a lot of comments on the post. Mostly positive, but a few negative.
One woman described herself as a grandmother from “the original bra-burner, pre Roe vs. Wade, pre oral contraceptive era” and not only on the same page as myself but “completely beside” herself with anger.
Another was highly critical and quoted my post extensively on her own blog, on which she describes herself as “a repentant religious feminist who now embraces the beauty, wisdom and gift of women as women embracing who God created us to be.”
I have some more thoughts on the whole contraceptive/women’s health issue that I will share in follow-up post in a few days. But I thought I’d post now about what I’ve learned in the last week.
First: if you want attention, write about something that affects everyone.
Corollary: if you do write about something that affects everyone, expect to get attention! That may include being quoted, linked to, or “reblogged.” Let’s face it: once it’s out there, it’s out there. So, be sure you are comfortable with that (I am).
Since you never know which post will get widespread attention, consider each and every one to be “public.” So, it’s been said before, but respect privacy.
Of course, that has to be balanced with the fact that we’ve all known so many people in so many countries, and we can’t necessarily go back, find a person we knew twenty years ago on the other side of the world, and get them to sign a release.
My post originally named the Zambian woman that I discussed. A commenter was critical of that, and rightfully so. Of course, I wasn’t expecting thousands of people to read about her! I changed “Beatrice’s” name to an alias, and will be careful to use aliases in the future, when I mention people I have known in our years overseas.
That’s the balance I’ve now settled on between respecting privacy and being able to write about what is, after all, the story of my life. Lesson learned.
Write from your own experience, but also write to a wider audience. Step back and consider whether your meaning will be clear to someone who doesn’t know the Foreign Service lingo or culture. Spell out acronyms, for example. Be specific. Confusion is never a good thing.
Which leads to my next point: always be very, very clear that you are writing in a personal, unofficial capacity. And remember that most people read fast and don’t always see the fine print!
I was startled by a comment on my post which indicated that the commenter thought I was discussing foreign policy, and/or was a Foreign Service officer. I thought I had made that clear with the disclaimer in the footer on every page of my blog, by the Who Am I page, and by the first few sentences of the post.
This had never been an issue before, because everyone who read my blog was familiar with the Foreign Service universe and understood the distinction. But, evidently, I had not made it clear enough for the general public.
Fortunately, one of the advantages of blogging is that you can change things after publication. So, I went back and made a couple of small edits to the post which made it clear BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that this is a personal and unofficial blog by an individual who happens to be married to a Foreign Service Officer. Whew.
So, it’s been an interesting few days, and I’ve learned several things. But it’s all good.