Have you noticed how quickly people on the internet want to point out when you are wrong? I am amazed at some people’s need to point when you have made a mistake. If you use a word or phrase improperly, they are all over you like white on rice. And I’m not talking about the trolls, either. I’m talking about the people you might count as friends or at least acquaintances. People you have known for years will pop up to point out your errors, and they aren’t always nice about it. In fact, often, they believe they are doing you a service when really what they are doing is trying to elevate their own status by showing you how smart they are. As I participate in social media more, I realize there are two types of friends in that world. And I am finding I want to encourage one and cull the other. Here are a couple of examples.
I once wrote down that I was waiting for something with baited breath. Now, English isn’t my first language. In fact, it’s my fourth one. However, I likely should have known the difference between baited and bated. But, somehow I didn’t or at least I didn’t remember. So, I wrote the “I was waiting with baited breath” on social media. My friend commented about my terrible fishing skills if I were going to try and hook a big one with my breath. And when I changed it, she kept telling me how funny she found it that an educated person wouldn’t know the difference. (Ah homonyms, you make this language such minefield.)
After a while, she and I stopped interacting on social media. Why? I think it is because our interactions were hardly ever positive. We didn’t leave each other better than we found each other. I didn’t feel uplifted after connecting with her. Rather, I felt just a little worse. Now, sometimes, people just have an acerbic wit. That is how they interact with the world, and social media provides an excellent arena for deciding whether or not these interactions are ones we want in our lives. And I love that. It gives us power to choose who gets to stay and who must go. And I did the only thing I could under the circumstances. I let her go. I don’t recall who unfriended who, but long before that happened, I had stopped interacting with her. It’s not that I am particularly thin-skinned, I believe. Rather, I have come to think that if my interactions with people aren’t positive (from both sides) then I would rather move on than sit in the stink.
Here is another example of a friend who points out when I am wrong but does so in a supportive manner. She is a natural editor. However, when she notices mistakes, she doesn’t call me out in the posts. Rather, she messages me and informs me. She gives me the opportunity to change my words without public embarrassment. I like that, because it leaves the power to make the change with me (I always make the change and I credit her for the catch). In other words, it is a supportive way to give critique in a platform that can be rife with the negative.
This all brings me around to my big thought for the day. What if we become super choosy about who gets our time and energy? I don’t see social media going away any time soon. So, if we will participate in it, don’t we owe it to ourselves to make our communities supportive ones? I find this is especially true for artists and creative types. And here’s the other super secret thought for the day. I believe we are all artists and creative types. We don’t need to hold a paintbrush or a guitar in our hands to be artists. There are many ways to create art. And each one brings a fierce sense of vulnerability. So, we must have support as we birth our creations. They can be great paintings. They can be a poem. They can be a new scarf or a new spreadsheet for our accounting system that will make things much more efficient. The what doesn’t matter as much as the how and the why and the support we give ourselves as we create.
By the way, I am not saying I only want “yes” people around me. In fact, I encourage critique. But if critique becomes insult or intentional embarrassment, I must move on. Life is too short to spend on people who want to elevate themselves by denigrating you. I would much rather form and nurture relationships with those who are supportive, creative, and inclusive. To do otherwise, will obstruct my ability to create, and that will not do.
So, here’s my mission for you all today. Take the time and assess your interactions on social media. Are you both/all leaving each other better than you found each other? If so, good for you! If not, perhaps it’s time to make some changes. After all, this is the one place where we have the power to choose who gets our time, energy, and attention. Why not use it?
More on how to do this tomorrow.
Sending you all of my love.