Friday, July 06, 2018

Social Media, the SCA and You: an editorial.

Ahoy, stormy seas ahead.
Social media exists. It is pervasive and has seeped into every cranny of our society. This can be seen as both good and bad, but it does give us unprecedented new ways to connect with people and stay in touch. In the SCA, that is fantastic for letting people know about events, classes, cancellations and helping people find the other folks out there that share their geekery for "Citrus in the medieval era" and "10th century cheeses from the Anglo Saxons". Or whatever floats your coracle...

These connections allow us a deeper level of play, association and collaboration than has ever been known in the SCA. We can coordinate remarkable things because we have so many ways to stay in touch. We can find new students and teachers for any topic. We can access information for research or watch a Youtube video of someone breaking down how a particular type of sword shot is achieved. We live in remarkable times and we will only continue to find new ways to connect as technology continues to advance and enfold us.

There is a catch to this though- it becomes very difficult to just be your best self at an event, especially if your best self is very different from you in the mundane world. You may play a Knight or a Laurel on the weekend, but if you come home and spout racist garbage or hate speech on your Facebook wall, everyone is going to know that Sir X or Mistress Y might not be the type of person they actually want to hang out with, in or out of the SCA.

You can present the most chivalrous face at an event, drip with courtly love, be kind to widows and orphans and hand roses to ladies. You will likely be adored for this behavior because it is our medieval ideal. However, if you come home and post up some more-than-slightly-racist meme or make a "joke" about the Holocaust... that is the thing you will be remembered for. You will be the Racist Knight or the Nazi Laurel. Ouch.

My cat problem is well known. I share pictures all the time.
I cannot later deny that I foster cats because I am
covered in them all of the time.
We don't get to turn off our SCA personas when we leave the event and have our mundane works and words entirely discounted in our game. That wall between persona and the mundane falls the moment you post something online where anyone can see it. It is there to be seen. That's why we post things online. This sounds obvious and redundant, but it is a key point of social media that a lot of people miss.

You post things online because you want someone else to see it, read it. and connect with you on some level. This goes for anything, positive and negative. You have to make a choice after writing or copying a meme to click on 'send' or 'post'. You have to take responsibility for that choice too.

In the wanderings through social media, the Law of Unintended consequences should be considered. Will your post make someone angry? Will your post hurt someone? Will someone share your post beyond the audience you intended? Will your words go farther than you meant them to? The answer to all of these questions, quite simply, is: YES.

A wise friend once told me to dance like no one is watching but write every email as if it will be later read in a deposition in court.

That seems extreme, but it is also entirely sensible. If you mix your real life, work life, political leanings, religious beliefs and SCA life online: People will get to know all of who you are in those arenas. They will see a bigger picture than what you generally present at an SCA event. Once that happens, there is no returning to your two-dimensional SCA persona that only exists one weekend a month and two weeks a year (much like the Reserves, in a way).

You are now a whole person to everyone who can potentially see your online postings. You are, quite simply, what you post because that is the way most people will interact with you and view you. Through this lens, try to look with the eyes of someone who does not know you and review what you have put online. Look carefully at what picture it paints and how it could be taken or misconstrued.

I'm not suggesting that anyone be politically correct; heaven forfend. Rock on with your bad self and post whatever your wee heart desires. If you want to push buttons and poke bears: go for it. It's your world, your oyster. However, remember that what you say, do, post and re-post will be seen. It will be shared. People will know you by your words and deeds before they ever meet you.

My reality is: don't post anything online publicly or on someone else's social media unless you are cool with your dad, coworkers, fellow SCAdians, colleagues, and former parish priest seeing it. That is literally a part of my public audience. If I want to share something with a smaller group, I use filters to reduce down the number of people who will see a post- sometimes to friends, or friends without acquaintances and sometimes to only close friends. Filters are your friends. No, seriously, filter your 'friends'. It makes a world of difference because not every conversation needs to be a public affair.
Look, it's me in garb. Anyone on
Facebook can figure out I am in the SCA

Nevertheless, if you put it online- be certain that you are comfortable having others view your post and respond to it. Because they will. Don't feign surprise and claim that who you are in the 'real world' and who you are in the 'knowne world' should not be mixed- because you allowed them to mix online.

If you have a single photo of yourself in SCA clothing or regalia, a work polo shirt, a club gathering, a religious event or any other aspect of your life on your social media, understand this: You are now a representative of that group. Your words, posts, and memes will be applied to that group and to you.

Unless you keep your worlds entirely separate- you will be known as a whole person with beliefs and jokes and troubles like everyone else. But that whole person can never be ironed flat again and slid back into the small, comfortable box that is one facet of your life. You have provided access to more of yourself and it will not be forgotten.

Choose your words with care. They define you and will linger in some internet archive forever. And if you do not use care, they will haunt you and be passed ahead of you to color the outlook of those you have not even met.

Free speech has consequences. Lots of them. No one will stop you from saying anything. However, maybe there are times you should stop yourself. If not, prepare to be judged.


“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

― Omar Khayyám, The Rubáiyát 

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