Renee Ballard

Dealing with the humans

I’ve written about The Dark Side of the social media before and how to discern between a troll and a complaint and how to best deal with either. That covers the basics of dealing with the dark side of social media, but there’s also a big, grey area of the internet to wade through: dealing with all the humans.

I’m online a lot and I see lots of stuff that inspires me to give my two cents worth about and share my opinion on. The split second before I do that though, these two thoughts run through my mind:

  • If I was the bus stop, standing with a bunch of strangers, would I engage in an in-depth conversation with them about this?
  • Do I want to put my name on what I have to say?

If it’s a ‘no’ to either question, I step back and refrain from commenting.

Because we hold access to social media channels literally in our hands with our phones, there’s a false intimacy between what’s happening online and our proximity to it. The bus stop comparison is a good leveler, because we’re well out of our homes when we’re there, and we have our polite faces on. If I was standing a the bus stop, and the person next to me started denouncing women’s reproductive rights, would I respond? Definitely not. In fact, I’d probably hop in a cab just to get away.

Where it gets hazy is if I am sitting at home, on the couch after dinner, on my phone, reading what could be the same statement from someone denouncing women’s reproductive rights. Because I’m at home, all cosy, I get a false read on who I am talking to and our relationship feels more intimate than it actually is. This is why I like bus stop theory.

My other leveller – do I want to put my name on this – stops me from mouthing off. There’s lots online that I get annoyed reading about, and my first response is to write something clearly stating my disgust about it, but then I think, do I want my name next to what I feel like writing? Nope. Because as much as I’d like to hide online and mouth-off, I know if I don’t want my name next to it, then I’m not proud to say it.

The internet has been amazing at bringing people around the world together, but they’re still the same people we share the real-life planet with. Just like at the bus stop, we’re not going to get along with everyone!

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