A lot of people get into a panic-meets-survival mode during economic recessions and career slow periods, and it affects their happy place. It’s interesting when things get better financially for people, how much their super-competitive nature softens – I think it’s mostly due to a blend of “too busy to be bothered” and “making enough money to not panic about everything.” But when everyone is fighting over small slices of a very small pie, many become very combative rather than collaborative.
I personally consider these moments to be a cleansing period of sorts – where you realize that, after all, some people may not be friends, but only acquaintances (more on this later). A social house-cleaning, if you will. With so much time spent in social media, I think it’s doubly important to remember that your online “friends” are new to you. You’re new to them. You’re not going to agree with everyone, and you can’t please all of the people all of the time. It’s ok to unfollow people. It’s ok to even block them. It’s ok to stop being acquaintances with people that hurt you.
I’m a Taoist at heart. I work within myself to make each day better than the last, and strive to hurt as few people as possible regardless of the number of people who try to hurt me. It’s a daily struggle, particularly when so much work is public, but a very important one to me. Some people may be disappointed in me that I walked away from arguments, or let go of “acquaintanceships” so easily. But at the end of the day, to me, it’s a waste of time if the conversation is more about finger-pointing than the attempt at a resolution. If I try to meet in the middle, or offer a suggestion of resolution, or even want to take the time to understand and build towards understanding, but the other person is disinterested…I have no choice but to walk away to preserve my own happiness.
I recently chatted with someone on a webmaster message board about the hate mail they had received. I seem to have these conversations at least once every few months with different people. The first thing I tell them is that the hate is rarely about them – but more about the insecurities of the writer who sent them. Then, I often suggest sending them a thank-you letter; after all, the hate-monger took time out of his busy day to put together that string of epiphets and slurs in an attempt to make him or herself feel better about themselves. Plus, you have the added bonus of having it in writing – hardcopy proof! How delightful!
Soon after I had this conversation I came across a link on Twitter, which led me to a post by Darren Rouse on ProBlogger. It’s a short but very effective post about how to deal with attacks and hateful comments that can be left on blogs.
What a Buddhist Monk Taught Me About Blogging
Earlier in the week I received an email from a blogger who had been the victim of a pretty vicious hate campaign against her from a number of other bloggers. She asked for advice on how to handle the situation.
I gave her a number of pieces of advice (much of which was similar to my post on what to do when your blog is attacked) but I also found myself returning to some teaching that I’ve recently heard from a Buddhist Monk (no I’m not changing religions – but yes I do enjoy interacting with people from different faiths).
The crux of his teachings was this…
When someone attacks you with anger and hatred say to them:
“thank you for your ‘gift’ – but I think you can keep it for yourself.”
It is easy to take on the anger of other people and to wear it as a burden of your own but it is usually unhealthy to do so.
Anger and hatred directed at you by another person is their anger and hatred and not yours. While they may wish for you to take it upon yourself – ultimately it’s a ‘gift’ that would be better not received.
The blogosphere can unfortunately be a place of personal attack and anger. While I think there is a place for hearing the critique of others and taking it on board in a constructive way – there is also a time to let it go and move forward.
One skill that bloggers need to learn is how to do this.
One more quote to end with on Anger from Brother Thay’s book Anger:
“If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put the fire out. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.”
Bad days happen. Hate happens. Irritation, confusion, misunderstandings, panic, sadness, disappointment, anger — these all happen. How we deal with them, however, is what makes us who we are. Reacting immediately doesn’t make us any more evolved than an animal. Take a step back. Talk to friends. Take a deep breath and regroup.
And then realize that the hate has nothing to do with you, and move on. It’s not easy, but you’ll be glad you did.
*Note* About the friend/acquaintance thing : My mom (whom I love and miss dearly – hi Mom!) has always had a personal barometer that she kept saying like a mantra every time I would go to her about some “friend” who hurt me. To her, a friend was someone you would give a kidney to if they needed it. Everyone else was an acquaintance, a colleague, a relative…but not a friend. Now, this may be a tad extreme, but it certainly put things in perspective, and has allowed me to move on with my life on countless occassions.