I have created three girls who are beautiful writers. They are all different, but have learned to wrestle a pen into submission, and craft their thoughts down on paper.
One of them is considering starting a blog, which in many ways I support, because it gives her creative brain an outlet to drop down her thinking, and allows her to craft her skills. Plus - her words are beautiful, and it's an amazing age we live in, where she can publish them without all the barriers we had in the dark - pre - blog ages.
But in other regards, the idea fills me with fear. Should I allow my pre-teen to be open to the nastiness, the bullying and the cruelty that can come with having your lines laid out in a public sphere? Like me, she is sensitive, and feels deeply. Am I helping or hindering her emotional wellbeing by encouraging a blog?
There is a lot to be said around blogging and online communications helping us find our tribe - the people we connect with and relate best to. There is numeous frinedships and connections I've made through my writing I struggled to make in life before internet (yes, there was such a time!)
However with the comradarie and lifelong friendships, there is the flip side of the "not-my-tribe-at-all" connections.
When I was blogging for STUFF, I was fortunate to have a moderator sorting through my comments, and keeping back the worst ones. I was blogging about weight loss, and weight, and fatness, so you can easily imagine how quickly the comment trail could become a battleground.
However many of the comments were allowed, and I learned a very important thing - the champions behind us, who connect with us and "see us", help us write the next blog. I lived and breathed by the stalwarts of my writing, who supported me, and defended me against any attacks.
When I was on twitter after a TV appearances I learnt very fast not to search out the conversations about me - some were lovely, but many of them were nasty - still @'ing my name with comments about my appearance and pretty much anything I did.
It is incredible what people will say, and discuss about another human being. (who can often see the conversation in front of them!)
Today is #keepitkindonline day - a grass roots initiative started by NZ Bloggers to ask us to support each other when nastiness and cruely happens online and come to the defence.
It's a pledge : “I pledge to comment with care and to challenge online nastiness when I see it.”
And it's good.
Having conversations on the internet is tricky - I used to be the master of the 140 character quip, create conversations and repsonsies fast, and hard, flicking messages back and forth. Every now and again you'd touch a nervy spot, and things could esculate fast. I saw pile ups after pile ups for people, and against people. And some of time, it was from a comment that was read in the wrong tone, at the wrong time, and then a micro war of hurt began.
We can all read a comment in the wrong tone, and if someone perceives us to be an enemy, we will misread what they say, and where they come from. Bias is a dangerous weapon that can prevent us from hearing someone else - or seeing what they say is still valid.
This campaign is not about not being able to disagree with someone, challenge them, or question them. If we lose our ability to do so, we've lost a very important right indeed. it is about being careful with our words, supporting those who are being attacked (perhaps even if they are not on the same side of the fence as us), and choosing to walk away from the keyboard when the fighting part of the brain starts to take off.
I find it a great irony that I'm writing about this in a week I'm planning to leave a vibrant facebook business community that I've loved contributing and being a part of since it began. For me, there has been no online and overt nastiness for any comment or contribution (In fact it's been anything but!), but there has been some very nasty offline experiences that has made me feel emotionally and professionally unsafe in the group. The hardest thing has been the comments are from "ghosts" who are faceless, and nameless that have been relayed back to me. It is a tiny part of a group of thousands.
I have choices - I know I could just suck it up, and continue, and hope "truth will out". I have a couple of friends who are far emotionally stronger than me - and I know that would be their take.
But I feel miserable and anxious and I have begun to second guess myself with every post and comment worried it's going to bring another message in my inbox ferrying the updated nasty messages. I don't want to feel that way, nor allow that to colour my views of all the benefits of the group to so many other people.
And really - I think there is a time in our lives where we make the call to just have a simpler life.
There is power in us choosing to #keepitkindonline and there is power in choosing to remove ourselves away from places where kindness has gone.
I could make a plea that we all start treating each other with respect a little more - but the truth is, those of us that do will, and those of us who don't will just shut down further.
But what we can all do is speak up. Defend anyone getting abused (so sworn at, name called) - even if their viewpoint is not one we share. We certainly don't need to like everyone we come into contact with. But we can support the right to hold an opinion and speak/write And #keepitkindonline and #offline. It just feels better.