Over the last year, I’ve seen a rise in “unpopular opinion” posts, especially within the belly dance community, a community I both belong to and hold dear. These are posts in which the writer posts an opinion that goes against what they perceive (or want others to perceive) as the “popular” opinion. Writers are leveraging these posts to garner attention to their own social media accounts and to gain followers, attention, or the like. After all, there is no bad press, right?
Case Study: Bright Helen
For those of us in the belly dance world, we recall a recent “unpopular opinion” post from a dancer who called herself Bright Helen. Bright Helen attacked dancers who did not fit her ideal of what a dancer should look like in a very pointed post. The majority of folks condemned her behavior, but there were those who praised her. Regardless, curious onlookers flocked to her page to see the original and subsequent posts. This drove traffic to her website and festival page as well.
Bright Helen is not the only one. Many posts attacking a style often paired with a specific dancer’s video, costuming, or condemning social media posts of others claiming these things are bringing down the art form (Really? One person has that much power?) are seen across dancers pages and in almost every group.
Why is it that we seem to be attracted like a moth to a flame to this drama? I’m not in behavioral science and that’s a post for another day. What I am concerned about is what these opinions do to the community and dancers at all levels.
Who Gets Hurt?
Newer dancers scour the web looking for other dancers to befriend and look up to. Everything is shiny and exciting to them. These dancers are information sponges, soaking in everything we put before them. They post pictures in their new costumes, post their practice videos proud of their progress, join groups, and repost pictures, videos, etc from their favorite dancers. They are social media junkies. When another dancer comes long and berates them or their posts indirectly by posting an “unpopular opinion”, it devastates them. They feel as if the whole community is looking at them and laughing.
Established dancers have invested many thousands of hours (not to mention dollars) into their art. They have thoroughly thought through and cultivated their image and brand. Some are pioneers in social media, in fusion forms, and in transforming our dance. They are also the target of these trolls who demean and diminish their hard work through “unpopular opinion” posts. These are human beings. It’s incredibly hurtful (and rude).
Why are we posting things that deliberately cause others pain? I can’t answer this. I think this is something that each dancer needs to consider for themselves. Why are you posting something designed to condemn or make fun of the actions of another person? What is the point of this? If it’s attention that you’re hoping for, why not invest in and excel at your art?
How Do We Combat This?
Since what seems to drive these individuals is attention, I vote we give them none. See an “unpopular opinion” post? Keep scrolling or “hide” the post from your timeline. Life is too short to give this negative person any more of your valuable time. Believe them when they show you who they are. Vote with your lack of attention. Remember, even negative attention feeds the beast.
Post what you love. Post your accomplishments, no matter how small. Take pride in your hard work and find others who are supportive of you. Be a light in this dark world, and if you find yourself upset, find another outlet than attacking others.
Now, I’m not talking about not calling out unethical, bullying, or dangerous behavior. Have at it! Do so in a manner that is helpful to the community.
Your words have weight and value. Do not devalue them (and others) through negativity. Use them for the betterment of the community. If in doubt about your actions, test them accordingly: Is the action I’m “calling out” physically or emotionally hurting others? Is the topic a matter of life or death? If the answer is no to either of these, or if you have to justify your yes, answer the following: What is my actual intention of this post?
If you’re still having trouble. Feel free to send it to me. I’ll gladly talk it over with you.
With a new year fast approaching, now is a good time to take an active role in shaping our community for the better. To quote a good friend, “It’s just belly dance. It’s not like we’re curing cancer.”