June 19, 2018

The Role of Self-Censoring

I know that many of you are going to laugh at this, but seriously, I delete more than I post. That is, I can’t begin to count how many times I have written a Twitter or Facebook or LISTSERV post that I have never posted. There are several reasons for this, and in this post I will try to identify as many as I can remember. I suggest that you inspect your own posting behavior along these lines:

  • What you were going to say didn’t really amount to much. Yes, I know that that your verbiage sounds so witty. Mine does too. In point of fact, mostly it doesn’t. Or at least not as witty as I/you think it does. Often the universe can get by without it.
  • What you were going to say is trying to be funny when it may be taken the wrong way. Humor in writing is difficult, at best. You may think that you are being ironic or sarcastic, but that can be quite difficult to detect as a reader.
  • It’s late at night, and your judgment is really not at its peak. No, seriously, it isn’t. Go to bed and see if it is a good idea in the morning.
  • What you were going to say is best said in some other way or some other venue. Not everything belongs on Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes you need to take the time to write in longer form, as in a blog post or an article.
  • What you were going to say is off-topic for what people expect to hear from you in a particular venue. This is one that I don’t always do a good job of following, but I try. My LinkedIn contacts tend to be other library professionals. Therefore, I probably should keep comments on politics out of LinkedIn. However, my Twitter audience is more diverse and more likely to be amenable to comments that show my personality (at least it is a more informal venue). So perhaps political comments would not be completely out of scope there.
There are no doubt more that I have missed, so please feel free to add them in a comment below. After all, we’re all continuing to learn the best way to interact in all of these online communities, so I can learn just as much from you as you can from me.
Photo courtesy of Caryolyn Tiry, CC BY-SA 2.0 License
Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Steven Schwengel says:

    Knowing your strengths and weaknesses in writing also plays a part self censoring…

    Generally, when having to write anything that is going to be read by a significant number of people, sitting on something for a day or two, and then sending it out is ideal for last minute tweaks or big reality checks on the meaning of the message… What may seem relevant or funny today can be really obtuse tomorrow.

    But the flip side of that is re-writing something or overthinking a piece is that it later turns into a garbled mess. It is kind of like a pitcher in baseball overthrowing the ball and losing command of game by trying to hard and essentially throwing batting practice to the opposing team and then losing the game…

    Generally I wonder if people are more lenient towards those holding an opposing viewpoint of a social media poster or blogger (no flame war to materialize) for those who post frequently (multiple times daily or daily) vs those who post infrequently (maybe weekly, bi-weekly or monthly).