Thursday, March 9, 2017

Let It Get Cold

When I was teaching Public Relations Writing at Towson Univesity, I told my students to let their writing sit for at least 24 hours before editing. Our brains cannot simultaneously create and correct. So, time is needed for our brains to actually 'see' what's on the page and then the necessary edits and corrections are so much easier to spot. Why? Because the brain resets and sees it as it is, not the way you thought you wrote it. I call this: Allowing Your Writing To Get Cold.

Lately, I've been reading a lot of comments on social media platforms and articles about behaviors in the cyber connection world in which we now live.  And, one of the common threads seems to be the lack of civility and bad behavior we witness or receive.

The real conundrum is the total lack of common sense exhibited by people who simply broadcast everything they do.  Every thought they have.  Every sarcastic or cutting remark goes up for ingestion by the rest of the world.  It's so terribly wrong on so many levels. The absolute lack of understanding that a civilized person does not put their personal stuff out on the sidewalk so people can pick through it, is alarming.

As of the recent election, the amount of stories about bad, horrible behavior and treatment of others on social media has really up-ticked.  While most of us simply thought it would die down post election, which is true to a point, it seems that many people have turned into...

...Internet Trolls.

The Urban dictionary defines a Troll as: “Being a prick on the internet because you can. Typically unleashing one or more cynical or sarcastic remarks on an innocent by-stander, because it's the internet and, hey, you can.”

You might wonder why the name, Troll, which I find pretty accurate and funny.  If you think about the trolls that we all heard about in fairy tales, they seem to live in dark and unsavory places.  They lay in wait under bridges for unsuspecting travelers. Trolls just love frightening before they snatch you up and eat you alive.

If you've ever experienced troll behavior on your social media pages, you know it immediately even if you didn't know what it's called.  You can't help but pull back thinking, "What the hell?  Where did that come from and why did she/he even write that?!?!?!"

The cautionary tale for all of us is: BEWARE!  High stress situations can bring out the hidden troll in all of us.  It's especially upsetting when you are on the receiving end of troll-like behavior from someone you thought was a 'friend' on social media.  You wonder, "What the hell did I write that would cause him/her to be so crappy?"  And, the answer is generally because...

...Social Media has an immediacy that strips away good judgement and polite behavior, especially during emotionally charged times or topics. And, because you're not in the same space with an actual Human Being, looking them in the eyes as it were, we lose our normal filters.  If you had to look at the person with whom you are talking so shitty, well, you probably would hold back.

We are in the brave new world together.  And it's only going to get faster and worse before, or if, it can get better.  As technology shifts, as the world goes faster in a breathless pace of thought to  broadcasting, we must begin learning new ways of being. We must possess new ways of interacting-- new sets of manners and polite behavior.

Because if we don't, all of us will become infected.  All of us will become more Troll than Human Being.

I don't have the answers to what it's going to take to stem the epidemic, but I can start with this one from my teaching days:

When it comes to any topic on social media, especially those that are contentious or highly charged emotionally, before you hit SEND, let your writing get cold.  It's the knee jerk reaction to things that is getting us into Troll territory.  It's not allowing our polite filter to command our response.

When we're speaking and, in a moment of poor judgement, say something that turns out pretty horrible or passive-aggressive, with enough time, the impact will lessen.  Thankfully, we have short memories on so many levels.  But, if you write that same horrible thought, IT LASTS FOREVER! Unless it's deleted, it will be read over and over.

The best I can suggest at this point is, after you let it get cold...even for five minutes and think about how it might sound, you can stop yourself from turning into a troll.

The ultimate test is to ask yourself, "Is it really contributing anything to say it that way? Does it add value or simply cause further strife?"  If the answer to either of those questions is NO, and you would never want someone to comment that way to you, hit DELETE and be a better person for your commitment to be kind instead of an ass-hat Internet Troll.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who Never Wants To Be A Troll


Donna Hufman Warrington said...

Excellent read, of course, I don't expect anything less.....I agree that you have to "cool" down first, I wish I had when I deleted several friends on social media who were down right rude....if I would have thought about it first, I would have never deleted them just hid their comments,, we aren't friends on facebook yet face to face, we are friends and very cordial towards each other. That's the way I like it.

Take care my friend,
Glad you started the blog back up....didn't realized how much I missed it!

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Great thoughts and advice!! You've articulated perfectly what has been happening to people. I've distanced myself from some people on social media - Thankfully a lot of the "trolling" hasn't found its way into the blogs, at least not the ones I follow.

Anonymous said...

Well said Holly. Sometimes it goes back to the old saying "if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all." We at least need to think in terms of not only nice but more so perhaps informative, enlightening and or helpful as well.
Teressa W. :)

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