This year’s mental struggle is brought to you by the issue of expressing opinions online, specifically on Twitter. It also has the distinct honor of having gotten under my skin the most, more so than almost any other issue.

It’s tough because, on the one hand, I really love being opinionated and expressing it, especially on political issues. One of the best parts of being informed, to me, is forming a unique, thought-out opinion to share with others. It helps the public discourse and my own ego, so it’s a win-win. So having a great platform like Twitter to do that on should be a blessing.

But on the other hand, anyone can list all the risks with sharing opinions on Twitter. The biggest one is obviously fear of offending someone, whether it’s a flock of Internet trolls or a future employer. It can get so bad that, despite the Internet being framed as a great platform for debate, people are less likely to express opinions online than in person, especially since many have gotten fired for their tweets.

Plus for myself, being in a top communications school majoring in online journalism and all, sharing opinions becomes an even touchier subject with an extra layer of stigma to overcome. It’s certainly justified, but I think it’s also overblown in many cases.

In my opinion (ha ha), while people need to be careful about tweeting opinions, it’s also something to embrace as well, even in a journalism-related major or any media field.

Why should we tweet opinions?

This can all apply to anyone, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s look at this from the perspective of journalists (or anyone working online). There’s actually some good arguments for expressing more opinions on Twitter.

 Image via Kooroshication/Flickr
Image via Kooroshication/Flickr

The biggest one, for me, is that brand and personality are becoming a lot more important for digital success. Being an objective, “view from nowhere” person is needed more on a case-by-case basis instead of constantly. There’s already so much raw information online, people frequently need to mix in some personality, otherwise readers will look elsewhere. As bad as that sounds, people can still inform others accurately while being seen as a trustworthy and enjoyable source, as long as their opinions are shared moderately.

Plus Twitter, at its core, is a tool to create conversations with others. For me, a vital part of this is being comfortable expressing personal views on issues. If you don’t, then it’s not a conversation, it’s just a one-way transfer of info. People don’t go to Twitter for that, they go for engagement and connection. If you don’t do that, why are you on Twitter at all?

Okay, so how should we do it?

Good question, size three header. Even though I advocate sharing opinions on Twitter, I do acknowledge there are several rules to follow to do it well. By “well,” I mean in a way that won’t anger employers or *** off some of the many Twitter trolls (see below).

 Image via Rosaura/Flickr
Image via Rosaura/Flickr

While there’s a lot of discussion and debate about how to do this, I have a few standards I try to abide by:

In Conclusion

To me, many are unnecessarily afraid of expressing their opinions on Twitter (or just online). While I understand these concerns, I don’t think their arguments are strong enough to overrule expressing ANY opinions at all. For journalists, if done right, sharing some opinions is an important part of doing well on Twitter. For non-journalists, not doing so is missing out on one of the biggest things Twitter has to offer.

We should be cautious about being opinionated on Twitter, but not paralyzed with fear either. Otherwise, there’s no point in using it, now is there?

Cheers, Max A