As passionate as I am about raising awareness for change in the way we engage online, I had an interesting “comment debate”* on someone’s wall about taking action in the area of online safety and cyberbullying. As someone who is proactive about change and commited to bringing respect, ethics and higher values into the online environment, I was quite interested in their view that my business, my blogs, workshops and my book did not constitute action in this person’s eyes. They spoke about joining organisations to volunteer time on help lines etc as being action.
It is so vital that we do man help lines in order to address the suffering of others, and I certainly hope that the information I share and the openness of my blog and facebook pages offers value for those seeking help, along with the events and organisations that I volunteer time to. In my opinion, my positive action looks beyond helping only those who are already suffering, to include preventing it from happening to others. Therefore I truly feel that educating others, and changing mindsets is very much an action. Would you agree?
The debate however had me thinking about ways of trying to bring positivity into the space. I really hate having to have negative conversations where it feels very ‘doom and gloom’ due to the important issues of safety, because I also feel the online environment can have such a positive effect and be used in ways which are beneficial to others. Some of these benefits include the availability of information, creation of supportive community, help and support during disasters, bringing together those with shared interests, bringing education within the reach of everyone, helping isolated communities to feel more connected, assisting those with disabilities who might otherwise not engage, encouraging us to share our hopes, dream and achievements with others as a way of inspiring those around us – the list goes on. We just don’t highlight the wins enough, but we sure amplify the darker side when it happens.
Some people say to me “I don’t want to share what I had for lunch, or know what you did”, “I dont need people to know where I’ve been or what I did”.. and sure maybe you don’t, but if we go back in time, when communication wasn’t so broad, everyone in the village knew what you had for lunch, what you did, where you had been…. so to me, we have just tried to bring some of the village back, because we have all been wandering around our big lonely cities for quite some time. Just as some wanted to escape the village back in the day, we have those who want to escape back to a time when each of us had more interest in the other, because there simply was a lot less to occupy our minds. With so much now filling our heads, a bit of harmless, no-brainer, “I don’t have to analyse this” posting is quite welcome in my world! Ok some things should stay private – I don’t need to know when you shower or go to the loo (or what you look like in either of those situations) – but if you really want to share that, I would probably ask you why, but then limit the feed. After all it’s your wall, not mine and you can share what you like as long as you take responsibility for it. If you eat out somewhere nice, I am interested – I love eating out and I don’t mind the pics of your food. If you post graphic images of particular causes, that is up to you, but be sensitive to the ages of those you transact online with. Respect our youth’s right to grow up without fear in their faces every minute. Just own what you post. Seriously if you don’t like it, don’t judge it, just adjust your settings if it really bugs you. If its illegal or inappropriate, report the page or post – that’s what I do.
What about though, rather than getting up in arms about people posting pics of the cat, or their outfit, that we choose to view our online experiences with the glass half full? Embrace the simple joy and pleasure that someone is getting from sharing their new hairdo, the new garden spade or their boutique beer. Rather than be annoyed, breathe in the simplicity of their joy and happiness. You don’t have to rush out and get a spade, but hey, if you ever need one you now know which friend can help you!
Naturally there are certain pictures which shouldnt be shared – the ones your grandma would blush at – keep them private. However if you do post about your more intimate thoughts or the melt down you had – recognise that you are reaching out to your community, but also recognise that you must take responsibility for that post – and if you don’t get the response you wanted, either take it down, or learn from it. If its too personal, don’t post it – try picking up the phone and talking things over with a close friend. In the end it is your wall. Try and be understanding, don’t knock the guy who posts pictures of his new mag wheels when you have just finished posting 300 pictures of baby eating yoghurt – one is his baby the other is yours!
If you only use your social media for business, then stop and realise that platforms like facebook and blogging itself have grown as social networks and blogging is about sharing opinion, thoughts and events of the day – hundreds and thousands of global diaries being updated every minute. Logically not all content will resonnate with our own values and opinions, but if you let it wash over you, you might just find that you are learning new things. We need to keep the social in social media or we go back to square one, and I think many in the world are over the bombardment of advertising everywhere they go.
This post was inspired because I was seeking interaction on how to bring positives, love and fun into the space, to counteract some of the negativity. I was shocked to find that some people, particularly young people, just don’t know how to give a compliment or praise someone. It’s not, to coin a phrase “wanky” to tell others positive things – it’s just simply nice!
So how can we take simple postive action? Well how about joining up with our new global event? Until the end of June we challenge you to join us and to post a positive comment on someones wall, then share the comment (without the persons name) so that others can see the types of things that people appreciate in others. #LET’SSMILEONLINE is a really simple way to spread a little love. I think our kids would be more resilient and able to cope with the odd nasty comment from a bully when (1) they can recognise that the issue is with the person posting, not them (2) they see positives to counteract the negatives. It’s not rocket science, it’s not even science, it’s just something I would love your support in trying. Let’s all be online superheroes. If you see something negative, just remove it, or let us know if it’s on our event and we will remove it. No need to engage because who wants to waste energy on negativity anyway?
*comment debate: my term for a lengthy thread on facebook
*illustrations from Futureproof your Kids
Fiona Lucas is the founder of iRespectOnline. She is passionate about helping small businesses to grow, thrive and build reputation online. Fiona is an ethical marketer providing bespoke online marketing strategies to enable businesses to leverage social media for growth. Underpinning everything she does, as Australia’s first online reputation evangelist she is passionate about driving social change towards a more respectful online environment.
She was named in Mamamia’s Top 50 women to watch online 2013, Finalist Geelong Small Business Awards 2017 – Social Media Influencer and is a virtual community manager for Social Media Marketing World. Fiona presents on digital futures, cybersafety and digital marketing.
Fiona is the author of Futureproof Your Kids – a parents guide to the social media playground.