Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.
Erin Bury, Community Manager at Sprouter, erinbury.com
I’ve been absent from my blog for a while. Actually, I’ve been avoiding social media in general lately.
This hasn’t been for lack of time; mostly it was because I really needed a break from all things “social media”. For some reason, the past few months seem to have been a particularly stressful time in my little online-community, and social media had become a haven for negativity rather than the positive and helpful tool that it really should be.
So I took some of my own advice: “Sometimes you need to step back to get a clearer view of the big picture.”
I refocused my energy on doing productive, high quality work, being an engaged and present parent to my toddler and wife to my husband, and siphoning any leftover energy into positive mediums like friendship and cleaning.
(Also, I focused on getting healthy since November and December have been super duper “sickly” in our house.)
I admit that I did do a lot of writing. Some of it, I will post to the blog. Some of it will likely stay hidden away, for my eyes (and heart) only.
The major problem is that a blog (and the internet in general) is just so “out there” for the world to see. And that is really hard for me to get used to.
As a former sociology geek, I am fascinated by social media and how it has become pervasive in our society. But the INTJ in me is extremely weary of it.
While there are some things I am comfortable talking about quite openly, I am- for the most part- an intensely private person. I have no problem sharing opinions and thoughts on a variety of topics, but I definitely keep my feelings and emotions very guarded.
Over the past few months, I have watched as a variety of topics that peak my interest (breastfeeding, municipal/federal/provincial/world politics, parenting, business, etc.) have exploded in near catastrophic amounts of online-drama, some of which I was directly involved in and some of which I was a casual bystander for.
This has been both fascinating and disconcerting to me. As a seasoned debater, I often asked myself: How is it that this discussion got so personal? Why are people unable to simply have intellectual discussions in which they agree to disagree and move on? Have we, as a society, actually completely lost the ability to engage in rational debate? If I disagree publicly with a friend on a controversial topic, am I directly calling into question my friendship or devaluing their opinion? And if so, why even bother engaging in social media at all, if you aren’t allowed to have an opinion of your own without being crucified for it?
It seemed for a while that I could do nothing “right”. If I posted something funny, it was misinterpreted as an attack. If i sent out support to one friend, another friend felt offended. If I discussed my opposition to the Edmonton Arena or the Occupy movement, I was automatically questioning the intelligence and reasoning behind those who supported it. Honestly, it all became too much.
I’ve never really been a fan of unnecessary drama.
So I took a step (leap) away and spent some time doing more observing than posting, more reflecting than engaging.
And what I’ve concluded is that, as wonderful as it often is, the Internet has created a world in which conflicting world-views collide with the force of a supernova. As boundaries have shifted, and cultures have become integrated with each other, the “bubbles” of the past are no longer, and many of us are feeling lost in a world that is so big and so different from what we understand that we struggle just to make sense of it.
Where- once upon a time, less than 20 years ago)- people mostly kept to their own socio-political group with similar financial, social, political and educational affiliations, we now have a mish-mash of all of the above.
Now, let me be clear: This is a wonderful thing!
It forces us to really acknowledge the diversity in the world, to learn to cope with it, and broaden our own world-view beyond what we have “always known”.
However, it is also often a messy process.
In our zeal to share ideas, we often forget that those engaging with us on online forums do not necessarily share our experiences, points of view, cultural background and opinions.
We assume that- for the most part- everyone we are speaking with is engaging in a topic from a similar standpoint: be it academic, intellectual, personal, emotional, nostalgic, etc.
We struggle with showing both empathy and compassion because we are simply unable to put ourselves in the mindset of someone whose experience is so far from our own.
Let’s face it- while a criminologist, a psychologist, a prison guard, a defense lawyer, and a rape victim are sure to create an interesting discussion surrounding the realities of prison sentencing for sex offenders, they are unlikely to be approaching the discussion from similar viewpoints. A criminologist would likely focus on the extenuating factors leading to sex crime, while the psychologist is more likely to discuss the mind-frame of both victim and offender. A prison guard, who works with offenders every day, will certainly present a different angle than a criminal defense lawyer, and none of these will come close to approaching the topic as personally or as emotionally as the rape victim would.
Does this mean that this group would be incapable of having a dialogue, or that they shouldn’t try to engage each other at all?
Of course not.
But it does mean that this group would likely not be able to reach any sort of consensus on the topic and could, in fact, neglect to consider the different world-views and experiences that form each individual’s opinion.
So, in short, we shouldn’t be surprised when the rape victim and prison guard demand longer sentencing for sex offenders, while the criminologist advocates that jail is not “the answer”. And we shouldn’t be surprised when feelings and emotions come into play. Not everyone approaches every topic from an academic, medical, or intellectual stance.
As I’ve been reflecting on this topic, one burning question always creeps into my mind:
If this kind of drama is the price I have to pay, do I really want to be blogger at all?
I love to write. I really do. And I love to engage in debate. But I absolutely can’t handle high school drama and have no time in my life for second guessing every word I write in order to cross-reference every person that it might offend. I’m fatigued with the “social media paranoia” that has everyone convinced that every single tweet is a veiled attack on them, or that every post is a passive aggressive way of publicly humiliating someone.
Here’s the deal: I am not a passive aggressive person. In fact, I’m often downright confrontational. If I have a problem with you, the odds are I’m not afraid to say it, in person, eye to eye. I don’t need a passive aggressive tweet to make myself feel better about myself, nor do I need social media to fight my battles for me.
For the same reason I would never run for public office, I don’t think I can ever be a true “blogger”: I just don’t want that many people knowing that much information about me, and I don’t want to subject myself to the personal attacks that accompany it.
The best bloggers (in my opinion) are the ones who can bring a “real person” feel to their writing. They are those who aren’t afraid of going personal and being exposed and vulnerable. They are also those who are able to handle the heat and pressure of public scrutiny and do not overly-personalize every comment made to them. They understand that being a public figure, whether you’re Brad Pitt or a political commentator, comes with a price tag.
I am not one of those people.
While I’m not overly prone to over personalizing things, I’m also not great at letting things go, and have a tendency to beat a dead horse if I think I’m justified in doing so.
So I found myself left with two choices:
- Close down the blog.
- Try to be something I’m not.
Frankly, both options suck.
I’m not very good at faking who I am. If I was, I probably wouldn’t find myself in so many messes. And I don’t want to shut down my blog, as I do think that it is a great way to connect and share information with others. As a business specialist, I can’t imagine ignoring such a huge opportunity to reach out to my target audience.
So what’s a business girl to do?
I’ve finally decided that there is a third option. I’m going to go back to doing what I wanted to do in the first place: use this space as a way to share articles, thoughts and opinions on matters that relate to my business. This might make me a mediocre blogger, but it will make me a happier person and, honestly, that’s all I care about.
Does this mean that you won’t ever see another post about my family, or the vacation that we took?
But don’t expect me throw up pictures of my pets and tell you all about my menstrual cramps either.
This blog is my space, to be used as I please and I choose it to be about my passion for business.
For those who want to read, I welcome you.
For those who want to engage in intellectual debate, bring it on.
For those who hate my ideas, let me know- I’d love to hear your comments and feedback, as long as they are presented in a mature and respectful manner. Hearing other perspectives helps us grow as people.
But…for those who want to inundate my life with drama, you’ll have to go find it elsewhere. This candy shop is closed.