with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
In my youth (meaning, childhood and young adulthood), I had a chip on my shoulder so big, it was a wonder I could remain upright. I never shied away from a fight. I was always ready for a fight. I thought arguing was the path towards “fixing” everything I thought I was wrong with the world.
Needless to say, a bit of time and maturity cured me of this stance. In my old age (ha) I’ve come to learn that arguing very rarely changes anyone’s mind, and my own sanity is best kept by “agreeing to disagree” as needed. I have opinions, of course. And I express them; often. But much of what I write is either 1) personal to me (read: my experience, not generalizing to anyone else’s life) or 2) not at all personal in nature, because these are things which are—for me—safe. These topics rarely induce arguments, and life is too short to spend it arguing.
I know there’s a whole… genre, if you will… of bloggers who write about what they feel will be the most shocking and controversial and evoke the most comments. That’s never been my style. But the fact remains that every so often, I step in it.
In “real life,” I have chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome. I know this about myself. Sometimes my mouth works a little bit faster than my brain, you know? Theoretically, writing gives me the time and the space to work through things before launching them into the world, but the fact remains that sometimes I choose to post something which I know will ruffle feathers, and other times I just honestly don’t realize how much push-back I may receive on something I’ve said.
The “with great power comes great responsibility” quote that people like to bandy about is true for everyone with a public platform on which to share their thoughts. It’s important to take responsibility for your words. It’s important to know what you stand for and how you want to be perceived before you find yourself under a spotlight. I think there’s probably nothing worse than finding yourself in the center of an Internet kerfluffle when you really either didn’t mean what you said or have no idea how you now want to be perceived.
I have a few rules for myself. Not saying my rules have to be your rules; just sharing what’s in the back of my mind, as someone who would be perfectly happy if “Internet drama” was removed from our collective vocabulary.
1) Say what you mean. I try very, very hard to keep it honest. This is important to me on a very basic level for a number of reasons, but if absolute honesty is not your personal moral leaning, think about it pragmatically—it’s a lot easier to keep track of the truth than to keep up lies, over time. It just is.
2) Keep it civil. I use a lot of emotion and hyperbole on my personal site in particular. I try to make sure that anything unkind I say in that way is reserved for instances where it’s clear that I’m exaggerating for effect, people whom I am certain will never read my words, and people/situations where I feel true damage is being done to other human beings. Even still, I strive to keep it civil. I don’t always succeed, but that’s the goal.
3) If interaction is invited, be tolerant. I recently had a commenter preface remarks with (a couple of times) “if you don’t remove or block” dissenting opinions. I don’t remove or block dissenting opinions in my comments, ever, as long as they are civil or at least refrain from personal attacks. If you have an open comments section but then selectively choose who and what gets to participate there—short of dangerous/threatening words, of course—you are eroding your own credibility. If you don’t want feedback, don’t open comments. If you open comments, put on your big girl panties and deal.
4) Stay engaged. I’ll be honest—on a regular day, I don’t often interact in my comments section all that much, because I’m busy and it could easily eat up most of my day. But when I’ve posted something that gets people riled, I feel like I have a responsibility to keep a close eye on that post and speak to any dissent to back up my original premise. I also try very hard to thank the folks who enter into the fray in defense of what I’ve written. Whether I meant to create a hubbub or not, once it happens, walking away is not an option.
5) Stay civil. As the ridiculous misinterpretations of my words and foreign assertions about what is “right” roll in, it’s very very tempting to let continued engagement become rude. That’s a luxury you can’t afford in this situation. Stay calm. Stay civil. Bashing commenters—no matter how ridiculous they seem—erodes credibility.
I guess my point is that (to completely overuse this metaphor) once you step in it, pretending nothing’s stuck to your shoe is kind of a losing game. Stop and scrape it off. Walk a little more carefully in the future, maybe, or be willing to take your licks if it’s something where you really feel strongly.
I don’t know about you, but I no longer go around looking for fights. If I (sometimes inadvertently) bring one my way, though, I’d like to deal with it in a way that still allows me to sleep at night, you know?
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