Social media, with their instant communication, relative anonymity, and impatience with subtlety or complexity (why use a paragraph to express your thoughts when you can use an emoji), fuel this polarized, oversimplified discourse. And sometimes we authors find ourselves caught in the thick of it.
Most crime writers I know lean towards the progressive end of the political spectrum. I realize this is an oversimplification, because even the "spectrum" is multi-dimensional, but in general our exploration of interpersonal struggles and our quest for social justice in the stories we tell, together with the empathy we develop as we step into the shoes of many different characters, leads us to a nuanced and tolerant understanding. As many scholars have observed, the less a person knows about a subject, the more certain they are. Conversely, the more a person learns about a subject, the less they "know".
Sometimes we're not even aware of the political biases in our books, and we're surprised when a reader expresses their disapproval. Some readers go so far as to say they will never read another book by us. No writer wants to lose readers, but after a brief period of soul-searching, most of us dust ourselves off, shrug, and carry on, muttering privately that the reader probably wouldn't enjoy our next book anyway.
Socia media are a different story. As the recent horrific murder illustrates, social media have a dark, unpredictable side. Writers often have an eclectic mix of friends from around the world, some of whom we've met only casually through conferences and book events. Often a joy of reading has brought us together. With all of them, we writers enjoy sharing book talk and other thoughts of the day, including political opinions, without expecting flame wars, name calling, or unfriending. We react like anyone else; sometimes we block, unfollow or unfriend, sometimes we just delete the comment, sometimes we engage the commenter in a discussion.
But sometimes we feel a twinge of alarm. Social media trolls can be more that just a nuisance; they can be threatening and dangerous. Public figures can be the targets of extraordinary, unfiltered hatred, so much so that some have shut down their accounts, changed addresses, and retreated from the public eye. The more public and outspoken we writers become, the more vulnerable we are to this fringe element. Not just ourselves, but our families. Most of the time, it's all sound and fury signifying nothing, but it only takes one person ...
This should not, and will not, shut us up, but it does give us pause. Who knows where I live? Who knows where my children go to school? What invisible bear might I poke simply by creating this story or posting this opinion? I'd love to hear what others' thoughts and experiences have been, and how they have handled it.