September 26, 2017
Zadie Smith ignores the internet; probably won’t read this
by Stephanie DeLuca
Zadie Smith, author of the acclaimed novels White Teeth and On Beauty, has added her name to the list of writers who snub social media and the internet. Covering a recent live event of Smith’s, Alison Flood over at the Guardian reports that Smith told New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, “I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Instagram, I’m not on the internet, I never hear people shouting at me.”
Smith claims that eschewing social media gives her the ability to “retain the right to be wrong,” and to ignore all those people who disagree with her opinion. As Claire Fallon reports at the Huffington Post, Smith has some seriously strong feelings about controversial, well, feelings:
“I want to have my feeling, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s inappropriate… I don’t want to be bullied out of it… I understand it’s important to be appropriate in public life, in social life, in political life,” explained Smith. “But in your soul? No, this is a different thing… I do want to kind of protect instincts, feelings, inappropriate feelings — which I have all the time, all kinds of inappropriate feelings about all kinds of things,” she said. “I want to protect that part of myself.”
If we read between the lines, it seems, perhaps, that Smith is saying she has some really unpopular, controversial opinions and she doesn’t want to be called out publicly for them. But if you want to position yourself as a critic, an arbiter of what’s culturally relevant to society, then it’s important to listen to the opinions and ideas of other people, even if they happen to be in disagreement with your own. We all have the right to be wrong, but for a person who spends some time telling others they’re wrong to insulate herself from criticism is… not necessarily a great look.
Zadie Smith has offered some searing cultural commentary; hers is a voice we’re lucky to have. But like anyone offering the public nuanced opinions on controversial subjects, she might do well to make herself more accountable, rather than less. Feedback—even negative feedback—can be an important part of developing nuanced opinions. Sometimes, it’s good to listen to the critics. Don’t @ me.
Stephanie DeLuca is the director of publicity at Melville House.