I spoke last week about how I’ve fallen into a negativity trap and am trying to be kind. I’ve been deliberately making choices to have a positive impact on the world – trying to speak kindly, and supporting charities and friends.
But that’s only half of the challenge.
Increasing my positive actions and words is great, but what about the times I am negative?
I’m not really sure how to replace negativity with kindness yet, but I know I need to re-write my inner stories. My current experiment is to focus on positives, be careful about how I use language and like Thumper mentions in Bambi – to not say anything if I can’t say something nice. “Will this build someone up?” or “Is this an act of kindness?” seem to be good questions to ask myself when communicating with others.
Lately, social media is as full of negatives as positives — people commenting on burning churches, arguments over authors choices and the consistent back and forth of people’s opinions of GamerGate, women, and race.
It seems positives bring out kindness inherently. It’s the arguments and step-over-the-lines which shut my kindness down, and make me want to use my megaphone to share my opinion. To defend someone I like or a belief I hold.
How can I build my friends up without bringing someone else down?
In the past, I’ve tried to private message people or keep a neutral “just my opinion, not a right answer” response. Something to protect myself from attack, but to support someone I know.
A week or two ago, someone overstepped boundaries of a personal page, copying comments by friends of a particular page and posting them publicly. I felt a sense of injustice, and wanted to call them out on it. I wanted to tell the person off – to explain that twitter is a public forum. Facebook and Myspace require people to be vetted; not just anyone can be my friend and invade a private discussion. That means those discussions should not be shared with the world. Not everything is up for grabs.
But as I thought about my role; as someone blogging, I asked myself those questions.
In writing this, am I building anyone up? Am I acting with kindness?
Does my opinion even matter? And then, the fear response — the thing I hope kindness could fight. Will I be attacked for writing more?
So instead of writing a post defending or attacking, I’m simply sharing my process. I decided to wait for things to die down, and have checked my own privacy settings. But as I try to act with kindness, I feel myself closing in — shutting off from media and watching more doubts arise.
I hope, by the end of the year, to be a little closer to a balance of words and silence — because my process is ongoing.
I’ve found a way to encourage kindness in myself.
Currently, the only way to avoid the negativity in a social media event is to shut myself down and hide until it passes.
I haven’t commented on so many events in the past few months, because of fear of attack, or because I couldn’t find kindness in the action. But that leaves me silent, with little to blog about, and people wondering what’s happening to me. I can’t see the impact my lack of voice has, but I can sympathise with those people who don’t feel able to speak out.
My focus for the rest of the year is on how I can keep my voice, yet speak with compassion.
How do you keep yourself feeling safe on social media?
Is there a line between public and private on the internet?