Love Beats Hate is back for 2011! This is a day set aside to focus on the positive aspects of online interaction and the amazing friends that can be made. The event stemmed from some cases of online bullying, which everyone knows can and has led to tragic consequences for some people. For others, the consequences might not have been tragic, but they have been hurtful. We can’t stop idiots from acting like idiots, but we can stand together and stick up for social media.
You can see my first Love Beats Hate post here. In that video I am talking about the wonderful friends that I have made and the way in which socialising online has made living with a crippling disability a whole lot easier. The pink gerbera is the symbol for Love Beats Hate, this time around I chose a picture that represents our little bunch of blog posts coming together!
(click image for source)
Today I wanted to write a little about maintaining online friendships. As well as school kids bullying one another, there are also adults who behave in the same immature manner. I have seen many cases of people getting upset about something that someone in an online community said or did to them. I have even seen people go into self deprecating rants on Twitter or Facebook simply because nobody has replied to something that they have posted and they jump to the conclusion that this means no one is listening, or cares.
For those who actively set out to abuse and upset: the person you make most miserable is yourself. For those who get upset if they don’t feel like they have an active audience, remember this: everyone’s life is not about you.
With social media updates happening every second, across many websites, all around the world, it’s easy to feel like we have to be up to the second on every little bit of information. When I first started using Facebook and Twitter, I felt a great obligation to read absolutely everything that people posted. I had less friend connections back then, so that was easy, but as my online community grew it became impossible to keep up.
That’s when I began to understand that social media updates (Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds) are a stream. Sounds obvious, but my epiphany was that I didn’t have to read absolutely everything in the stream. I could just dip face into the water when I felt like it and examine whatever happened to be passing at that moment. How liberating! That was also around the same time that I realised most people aren’t going to read everything that I write either and I am cool with that.
I am several months behind in reading other people’s blogs, I simply have not had the concentration and energy to take in much information lately. This has nothing to do with the content of the blogs, nor is it an indication of how much I care about the authors, it simply is what is. There is a reason that the saying “It’s not you, it’s me” is so prevalent, because it’s often true – and not just in the romantic relationship setting.
In my case, prioritising one conversation or reply over another is often not a conscious prioritising effort at all. Most of the time, it’s purely chance; when I get the message or my condition at that time will influence whether I reply immediately. It can take a different mind space to talk about different topics with different people. Exchanging quips with strangers over Twitter is a much different thing to having a in depth conversation with a close friend on the phone, or sitting down and reading a blog post. If I don’t read something immediately, it is usually a sign that I am interested rather than not, I want wait until I have my full attention to give to it.
One issue that arises with so many public updates, is that people can often feel like they are being neglected in place of other friends or activities because they see their friend engaging with other people. Sometimes, I am sure this is true and those are the cases in which the best thing you can do for yourself is evaluate how much time and effort you feel it is appropriate to give the friend that is upsetting you. Most of the time, however, there are extenuating circumstances influencing what your friend is doing. I find it is usually most suitable to give them the benefit of the doubt, someone who truly isn’t interested in catching up with you will make that clear over time.
Don’t underestimate the power of feeling sad and lonely, it can project a lot of assumptions onto those you care about and if you choose to act on the assumptions then you could turn a misunderstood situation volatile.
Another illusion that glimmers in online friendships is that of broadcasting versus communicating. Not everyone realises the difference between these. When I am writing a blog, Twitter update or Facebook status, I am broadcasting. That is, I have something to say and I am saying it, but I don’t always have the energy to communicate at the same time – meaning that if people respond or leave comments, I don’t always get back to them immediately. Communicating requires the ability to think about someone else’s opinions and perspective, broadcasting simply requires being able to word one’s own.
The easiest way to get the most out of your online friendships is the same as in real life. Be genuine, be yourself and be understanding. Don’t give in order to receive, you’ll only be disappointed. Give because you want to make someone else smile, or because you are genuinely moved to comment or respond to something that has been written. Write because you have something to say, not because you need someone to read it. Care because you can – do you really need a better reason to bring a bit of happiness into your life and the lives of those you care about?
If you have read this all the way through, thank you for being a part of the community that I cherish so dearly. If I am late responding to your emails, messages or blog posts, don’t feel hurt – It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve had some personal stuff to deal with, but I’ll catch up on all your news as soon as I am up for dealing with more than just my own problems.
Love Beats Hate, want to participate? Simply blog or tweet and post a link to your contribution on the Facebook page.
Love & Cherries,