Monday, May 19, 2014

Ain't Ready To Make Nice #socialmediaetiquette

I've been on something of a blog and writing hiatus, dealing with some overwhelming family issues. Meanwhile, the world has rolled on, full of celebrations and tragedies and hero cats kicking the snot out of evilcrazy dogs. Go, hero cat Tara, go!

But I've been trying to read and comment on blogs, here and there. And I came across one post that kind of ticked me off. I wrote and pressed "Submit" on a polite but dissenting opinion, and moved on with my life.

Yet, days later, the original post was still bugging me. And (this is somewhat amusing to me) when I checked back, she'd never approved my comment; only the comments which formed an Amen Chorus to the post appear on the site.

So I thought I'd throw my opinions out there like spaghetti noodles, here, and see what sticks to the wall.

The original post: One of those "XX Things You Shouldn't Do on FaceBook"

In fact, I agreed with most of the "things" the author cited.

But the complaint with which she led off, was that when it was a holiday, like Fathers Day or Mothers Day, (or, presumably, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Groundhogs Day, etc.) when everybody is posting and sharing great pictures of their families and celebrating in a massive warm community glow of ain't life wonderful, a few people will dare to post rather contrary, painful statements on their (own) FaceBook pages, which then appear in her news feed. Things like this, that harshed her happy vibe.

Stolen Borrowed from the original post.

The blog author's suggestion was that if holidays are triggering for you, maybe you should stay off FaceBook altogether during that time, but if you are on, you should suck it up. That it's not nice to be posting your hurts, which spoil the happytimes for other people.

Now, I get it. I've never liked pain, or feeling uncomfortable - who does? Avoid it whenever possible. And it feels really, really uncomfortable to be faced with another person's naked pain when am feeling very good.

What can we do for that person, anyway? We might reply to their comment with some lame "I'm so sorry; wishing you the best in this difficult time." Or maybe we feel somewhat guilty or privileged about our own good fortune, but don't have the time or energy spend the 30 seconds to do that, so we just move on and feel slightly resentful of her (or him, but we know it's usually a her) for "making" us feel bad.

Maybe even write a blog post chiding them for their violation of social media etiquette.

Branding Does Need To Be A Factor

Also, there's the issue of branding, if you are trying to make a name or create a brand for yourself. I heard one agent speak about the dangers of oversharing on the Internet. When she went to one potential author's blog, she noticed a small icon in the sidebar that made her curious. She clicked on it, and it led to a site that supported mothers who'd lost a child to stillbirth. She said, frankly, it made her feel "weird" knowing that about the author, and cautioned us to never put anything political, controversial, or too personal in our blogs or social media interactions (but always to make sure to blog and interact with an authentic "voice," lol).

Debbie Downer
Debbie Downer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
People don't want to read someone who is Debbie Downer all the time. So yes, if social media is a part of a larger public relations effort, we should always consider whether what we are writing and blogging reflects the persona we want to show the world.

While I applauded that agent's honesty, and have enjoyed conversing with her at various events - she's really nice friendly and pleasant - I also crossed her off the list of people I could ever imagine working with.

Because I do blog from time to time about the hard, painful stuff, about sexual morals, and rape, and racism, and other things that make people feel uncomfortable. This is part of my brand. (Although, hopefully, people don't feel like this blog and my other social media interactions are consistently negative in tone or mood.)

Mean Girls Nice Women All Agree, Right?

Or at least, they'd like to convince us nice women all agree. Here's the problem: the "We don't talk about that in public" agreement is a big part of what contributes to rape culture and the social isolation of people who are different. It doesn't matter whether that difference is being motherless or having an unloving mother on Mothers Day, being raped by a schoolmate and shunned by schoolmates, having a disability, being LGBT... There is a constant stream of spoken and unspoken messages to those who are different which say that if you speak out or write about it "too much," it's like you are stealing the other kid's balloon and popping it out of spite. Why can't you pretend to be like everyone else?

I'm sure that the author of that post would claim that it's not that she's telling people to be silent; just not to make such a fuss on those days when everyone else in the world (or so it seems) is celebrating.

Unfortunately, those are often the days those in pain most need to reach out to their own social networks for support.

I don't, mostly, post the gory intimate details of my personal life on FaceBook, but I know people who do. My sister, for one, is garnering a great deal of strength and support from posting about her thoughts and feelings as she battles cancer, and, in past months, as she fought (unsuccessfully) for her husband's life. Somebody should tell her to check a calendar before she posts, because it's not "nice" to "make" people who are celebrating Mothers Day feel a twinge of discomfort?

I. Don't. Think. So.

Differences Can Separate, But Can Also Bring Together

FaceBook and other social media are supposed to be ways that connect people. It can be absolutely empowering to meet and interact with other people, even from a distance, who share something unusual: maybe it's a love of stamp-collecting, maybe it's being left-handed in a right handed world. Maybe it's grieving a loved one from an atheistic or agnostic religious viewpoint (there's a great FaceBook group for that, Grief Beyond Belief).

Sometimes you have friends who share a common wound that you don't even realize, until one of you shares something about it on, yep, social media.

My Feelings Are My Business; Your Feelings Are Your Business

I know, I know, many people pride themselves on empathy. That they can't help feeling other people's pain, and maybe that's where the conspiracy of STFU comes from. I used to feel that way, too.

But as I am learning, that's not a healthy way to live. Empathy is good, but a healthy way to have empathy is to be touched by and understanding of someone else's pain, not to be drowning in it.  That's enmeshment.

It's not healthy to get in a swivet about other people's expressions of grief or joy or fear or whatever, or to try to control where or how they express their emotions because you feel uncomfortable with them.

We're All In This Together

Today, all kinds of things happened: somebody's baby died, somebody got the news their house was destroyed by fire, somebody else got married or promoted or won the lottery. Somehow, we have to learn to live with the tragedies and triumphs of other people, all the time.

One of the wonderful things my local RWA chapter does is we celebrate successes and failures at our monthly meeting. You get applause and small tokens for good news - an agent signs you, you finish a manuscript, you get a book contract; and you get applause, sympathy and a chocolate truffle for rejection, because those, too, are part of the writing journey.

If being "nice" means telling other people they shouldn't express their pain or joy or whatever on FaceBook, because it would spoil my mood, then I hope I'm never a nice person.

Do you resent when people share painful things when you're in a happy mood?
Do you agree that people should censor themselves on social media during "special" days?
Your thoughts?
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