Thursday, February 8, 2018

Sherlockian public figures

Our fairly new ability to broadcast to the world is changing us a bit as Sherlockians, I think.

We've all become public figures.

Where once becoming a Sherlockian public figure meant getting a publisher or event-planner to like your words enough to get in the journal or on the program (or becoming a publisher or event-planner yourself),  now all you have to do is sit at a keyboard and start connecting with people.

At what number of Twitter followers or Facebook friends do you become a public figure?

Hard to say. In the snail mail era, most publications never topped over a circulation of two hundred, and our weekend conventions never left the lower hundreds level as well. Now, after tweeting for about six years, I've got over five hundred followers, and as Sherlockians on Twitter go, that's not a number worth bragging about. A lot of Sherlockians have broken the thousand mark and gone beyond.

So, once you become a Sherlockian public figure, which posting on social media makes you, like it or not, do you have to start restraining your opinions?

I ask this, not after a firestorm blow-up, but after just watching a little exchange between two definitely public figures of the Sherlockian world where one almost imperceptively boxed the ears of the other over what seemed to me a harmless expression of an honest reaction. Yes, I know we've come to be wary of "honest reactions" any more, but this was no trollish jab or even rage against a particular fiction. Just a small, curious, "not as excited as I used to be" comment.

It made me a bit sad to see a legitimate question get shut down, because it wasn't just an "I don't like this" but an opening to talk about a part of the Sherlockian experience that we don't normally talk about. And it went silent because of just the mere possibility that it might have implied a negative view of someone else's Sherlockian work.

Which brings up the question that will come to haunt anyone on social media who has a heart:

Are we required only to praise everything produced by fellow Sherlockians who are below Steven Moffat level?  And even when going off on someone at the Moffat level (or the Rob Doherty level) should we still hold back because they still have fans who might really be bummed out (or come after you) if you strike a nerve?

On public forums, as public figure versions of ourselves, we need to be kind, we need to be thoughtful, but at the same time, we have to be honest. It's a tricky tightrope to walk, often requiring verbal skills that are beyond our reach. And as much as we carefully avoid stepping on toes, there are toes out there so already inflamed that a vibration on the floor three feet away will cause a reaction in their owner . . . and nobody expects that reaction.

So, do we go "Damn this political correctness!" and charge into public spaces like bull in a china shop (or more currently, a paid provocateur from an unfriendly faction)? Do we just go silent? Or maybe just write what we can in these public spaces, and then try to get out and talk to some other Sherlockians one-on-one and try out some opinions in situations where you understand exactly who you're dealing with and can't help but know them as a person? And keep trying to figure out which tactic to use with which opinions, and what to follow up with when it all goes south.

Life, be it Sherlockian life or just the struggle to survive, has never been easy on an ongoing basis. You get good moments, sure, but the rest, ya gotta work at, every damn day. And once you realize that we've all become public figures out here on the web, that's just one more hungry wolf we have to deal with that, thankfully, isn't actually as bad as an actual hungry wolf.

(Please don't bring back hungry wolves. I like making it across the parking lot to my car without getting eaten.)


  1. So does this mean you'll be deleting all of your BSI-bashing posts? ;-)

    1. I'd hate to ruin this record of my evolution. And my Sherlockian criminal record is probably not getting expunged any time soon. "I may be on the side of the angels, but don't think for one second that I am one of them . . . yet."

  2. Thank you for this post, Brad. I look to you as a beacon of reason and kindness in the online Sherlockian world. I do so much better talking to Sherlockians in person. There's a lot of communication that happens in tone of voice, posture, etc. And it's a lot harder to dehumanize someone who is sitting in front of you being very human. Keep on fighting the good fight and being an open-minded person.

    1. Thank you, Tassy! Looking forward to hearing you in person in August!