Julie D. Andrews

Should You Talk Politics Online?

If you feel so compelled, let the cannon loose.

Where I live, in the United States, we are free to voice our opinions -- a constitutional right, as you know, nonexistent in some distant lands. But before you dive fist-first into your keyboard and unleash your most impassioned political yelps, remember: Twitter is no secret pocket notebook.

And online musings are no pencil etchings. Once posted online, your thoughts will be searchable -- and findable -- for all of perpetuity.

Can you handle that? If so, carry on, but keep in mind the following:

1. Remember: Politics are personal

Political issues are never not personal. They are charged with emotion. And they strike dead-center at some people's inner core. Air your political views, and people will make assumptions about your character based on them (fair or not). Your friends' and acquaintances' perception of you may change -- for better or for worse.

When you take a personal stand, there will always be someone else waiting on the sidelines to challenge you with opposing views or who may take your beliefs as a slap in the face. So have your say, but be prepared for the sting of backlash.

2. Anything you say can and will be used against you

This phrase isn't just for law enforcement. Before you hit "Submit," keep in mind that everyone you know and don't know may see your post. Would you air this opinion on the elevator on your way up to the office? To your grandmother? At the softball game among peers you know little about?

You will become your words in the minds of those who read them online. So be sure you would feel as comfortable talking about your views out loud as you are putting them online.

3. Your name is not anonymous

I never read "anonymous" comments or take them seriously. As a reader, these comments carry no weight or merit for me. It's far too easy and cheap to cloak your name and say whatever you want, in whatever tone with whatever criticism. You had an opinion and you wanted to voice it, right? Stand tall. Spell out your name. Take a seat at the table among others who are wearing nametags and willing to listen, potentially learn and definitely engage with you -- not some faceless moniker.

4. Don't dish what you can't take

I am not one for vitriol. The point is lost on me. And I detest cantankerousness for the sake of it. This, however, does not seem to be the prevailing norm online. Thus, you can hope for -- but should never expect -- a civil response to your posted beliefs. You are putting it out there. In doing so, you are inviting comment, be it praise or ridicule. It's one wild, wily, sometimes battering conversation out there. Politesse is too often lacking. And only you can decide if you can take the heat or not.