Keeping Yourself Nice.

Every now and then I stumble across a social media post that really disappoints me.

How hard is it to be nice?

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The Indie Author community is one of the most incredible groups of people I’ve ever had the privilege to be part of. Support, encouragement, commiseration and shared victories are the order of just about every day.

However, every now and then I stumble across a social media post that really disappoints me. Those posts fall into two groups.

1. Posts that rant at others for a perceived slight. 

I’ve seen authors abusing people for not buying their books, not sharing their posts, or generally being less than 150% supportive.
How is this fair?

We’re writers. Most people have day jobs. Most people have families. Life is demanding. I don’t know anyone who can  afford to be on social media 24/7, supporting others and buying six copies of every new release.

We cannot expect that all our friends and family are going to buy, read, and review our books. I can tell you from personal experience that this simply isn’t realistic. Shaming them on public media is hardly going to encourage them to change their ways.

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2. Posts that demand people do something. 

This morning I saw a “request for support” that was phrased as “do it now” and “I need this” and “you’ve been told, so do it”.  There wasn’t a please or thank you in sight.

Am I likely to give my support? In all honesty, no. I scrolled past.
This is not my habit – anyone who knows me can affirm that I do everything I can to support my fellow Indies.

I felt belittled and taken for granted by that post. I don’t even talk to my dog like that.

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It’s important that our public presence on social media is seasoned by good manners. 

If we want to present ourselves as a public identity whose product – be it books, music, handcrafts, beauty products, or whatever – we want others to buy and enjoy, we have to make that engagement a positive thing, or it will never follow through.

I am in no way advocating being a doormat or accepting poor treatment. But that is not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about keeping ourselves nice.

There is no place for arrogance, selfish demands or rudeness. Nobody is doing anyone, including themselves, any favours by carrying on like that.

My final piece of advice is one I apply every day in both my professional lives: you’ll get a lot more with honey than you do with a stick.

Ten Ways We Can Start To Change the World For Our Kids. 

When I was 20, I pledged to never buy another women’s magazine.

Even then I was frustrated by the unrealistic body image they consistently communicated to women.  It wasn’t long before that extended to the “cool” publications like Cleo and Cosmo, which I had convinced myself were different because they provided helpful articles on makeup, health and other issues relevant to younger women.
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Okay, so I was deluded about that, but it didn’t last long once I observed that these magazines also projected false and unrealistic body images that neither I, nor most of the young women I knew, could ever hope to meet.
 For longer than anyone can remember, our western society has had  an unhealthy fixation on looks. We’ve been getting it wrong since long before Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves based entirely on her portrait and promptly divorced her the minute he met her in person, citing as his reason the fact that she looked like a horse.
And it’s only getting worse. Chlidren as young as five or six are no strangers to the words “cute”, “handsome” and even “sexy”. Pre-teen kids have body image issues and the eating disorders that go with them. Peer pressure and bullying are daily realities in every school and friendship group that our kids belong to. Marketing is aimed at wearing the right clothes, having the right look, and doing what everyone else does. Social media can take those problems right into kids’ own homes. And it happens to boys every bit as much as it happens to girls.
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When does a kid ever get a chance to be themselves?
 
All of this leads to one challenging question: How do we swim against the stream when the current is so strong?
My answer is that we need to invest differently in people.  We need to model much more healthy and constructive behaviour, and encourage others to do the same.
Let me say straight up that I don’t have kids of my own. I have, however, been very active in helping a lot of friends and family raise theirs. Our house has, quite literally, been a second home for more than a handful of teenagers over the years. I’ve also been a teacher, youth leader and mentor for almost thirty years. It’s this accumulated experience upon which I base these comments.

 

I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does.
But I do have a few ideas about how we can start.

 

This is my starter list:

10 Ways We Can Change The World For Our Kids

  1. Don’t put kids or other people down. Ever. I can’t stress this enough. Never tell kids, or anyone else, they are stupid, useless or worthless. Criticise a behaviour if you need to, but do not make it about the whole person.
  2. Stop buying into what the media tell us is ideal. Choosing not to surround yourself and your kids with unattainable ideals helps to take your focus off how far short we fall. This decision had a significant effect in my own life, so I am speaking from experience here.
  3. Stop commenting on how people look. Whether someone looks beautiful, tired, or exhausted, don’t say so. Don’t comment on whether someone has lost or gained weight – in this case especially, you can safely assume that they already know. Just don’t comment on anything external. Chances are, the less you comment on it, the less you will think about it. And the more you think and talk about those things, so will your kids.
  4. Instead, comment on things that have intrinsic value. Statements such as “I love it when you smile like that!” or “You did such a good job of that! Well done” can make such a difference to someone because they emphasise one’s value rather than looks. Saying “I really appreciate your kindness” (or any other value) reinforces that behaviour as well as encouraging the person who hears it.
  5. Discuss celebrities differently. Instead of saying “I wish I looked like that!”, discuss the positive qualities of a person or the character they portray. There will doubtless also be opportunities to discuss negative behaviours and messages. Be honest about the consequences those behaviours carry for real people, even if they’re made to look funny’ popular or “cool”.
  6. Don’t comment on your kids’ or your own health, weight or fitness. Make an effort to do something about it instead of commenting on it. Model behaviours for your kids that help to establish habits that will help you as well as them – provide better food, go for a walk, go to the gym together or take up a hobby together. It doesn’t have to cost more to be better for you.
  7. Discuss feelings and values in a positive and purposeful way. Not every feeling or experience shared will be positive, but honest discussion lets kids and young adults know it’s okay to not always feel great about things and teaches them ways to handle different emotions and experiences. This encourages self-awareness, but more importantly, it builds honest communication and relationship that both they and you will value enormously.
  8. Make an investment of time, more than money, in people, especially in your kids. It won’t matter to kids what they have if they feel unloved or undervalued. Take an active interest in each one and find out what matters to them.  Building a strong, loving relationship with your child is the best gift you can ever give them. It will bear fruit in every other relationship they have.
  9. Celebrate worthwhile achievements. “You did it!” should be more valuable than “You’re so pretty!”
  10. Be realistic and constructive about disappointments and failure. Make sure they know you care about their disappointment and hurt. Don’t tell them it doesn’t matter, because it does matter to them – at least for now. In time, they will be ready for you to help them see the bigger picture and refocus their efforts and priorities.
We can’t expect to change the whole world. However, we can influence the way they see themselves, and we can influence the way our own kids see, experience and respond to the world they live in.  

And there’s no better time to start than today.

The Importance Of Minding One’s Manners On Social Media.

The choice between being either the low point or a bright spot in someone’s day isn’t so complicated.

I was motivated to write this post by an experience I had a few weeks ago.
I posted a question on a blog post by someone who presents himself as a successful and popular author.  He probably is, but his response to my question was quite scathing. When I explained why I hadn’t read every blog post he had posted, he was so rude that I took screen shots. Of course, he had no idea that I took screenshots, but it made me feel better because I had evidence to support my increasing dislike for him and his condescending attitude. Who did he think he was, anyway?
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(I’ve concealed his identity here because I don’t feel like getting sued or anything like that.)
At this point, I made a decision to never buy his books, nor to help promote or encourage him in any way. I suspect several others probably made the same decision. When a friend went to read the exchange between us, he had deleted the whole thing, so I am sure he realised it wasn’t a good look for him. I highly doubt that it might occur to him to apologise for his rudeness, but I will never know, because I had promptly unfollowed his blog, deleted him from my twitter feed and blocked him on all social media.

Sure, my question might not have been the brightest or best he’s ever read. Even so, his response was condescending and made me feel really low. Who needs that kind of negativity in their life? I certainly don’t.

As an author who uses social media to build a following and hopefully sell my books, I can confidently state this is the least desirable outcome from interacting with others.
There is a valuable lesson that, whatever our profession might be, we can all take from this: never, ever, be an asshat to someone on social media. It’s far too easy to damage a reputation or a brand that you’re trying to establish and promote.
The choice between being either the low point or a bright spot in someone’s day isn’t so complicated. If people ask a question about your book, your blog, or your dog’s hind leg, simply be thankful they are interested enough to ask. Engage with them. Being friendly doesn’t cost anything, nor does it mean you have to pledge eternal friendship.
You will walk away with your integrity and your potential readership intact, if not a little more loyal towards you. As a writer, you can’t put a price tag on that.
*My original working title for this post was, in fact, “Why One Should Never Be An Asshat On Social Media”. I tidied it up a little. You’re most welcome. 

Teachers, eh?

Just now I was in my local Woolworths store on my way to work. 

The cashier was chatty.

“Much on for the day?”

“On my way to work.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a teacher.”

“Oh. And only on your way to work now?”

“I work part-time.”

“Teachers, eh?”

Stunned silence. I looked at her pointedly. 

Then I said, “What does THAT mean?”

She didn’t reply. 

So I continued: “Whatever it meant, you’re probably wrong.”

I really wanted to tell her that she probably makes almost as much per hour as I do, and she didn’t need a university education to achieve that. 

I wanted to tell her that I only work part time because my health issues mean I can’t work full time.

I wanted to tell her that teachers do as many hours outside the classroom as they do in it, and that “all those holidays” usually get eaten up by planning, preparation and a pile of marking. 

And I wanted to tell her that assuming something about what a person does, whether they’re a teacher or a checkout chick, is not okay. 

I didn’t, though. Ijust took my bag of shopping and left. 

Great start to my day. Thanks, lady. 

Disappointment, disillusion, and indecision.

I’m really disappointed in a few particular people at the moment.

All my life, I’ve been taught to be honest, to be kind, to mind my manners, to not cause offence, to be the first to apologise, to be a gracious and forgiving friend, and to overcome hatred with love.

However, I’m seeing more and more of exactly the opposite from people I have always respected.  And today, I find myself feeling very hurt over the way some of them have treated me and/or people that I love and value highly.
I’m not even questioning how much I mean to any of those individuals, because it’s glaringly obvious that I don’t mean much to them at all.
That kind of reality check is tough going at the best of times, but when people who position themselves as leaders in a community or social group let you down, and then blame you for it… well, that sets a person to thinking seriously about why one is still part of that group.

It’s not just an issue of being offended or having my feelings deeply hurt. It’s come to the point of really questioning if my values are the same as theirs, and if I can condone their actions when I so strongly disagree with them.

I certainly can’t remain silent and have no intention of doing so, but I am searching to find a way to challenge those negative behaviours and stand up for what I believe in without doing more damage.

I can’t just let it go: if I don’t say anything, they’ll certainly do more damage, and besides that, I’d be that person who didn’t speak out against the things that caused my very close friend and/or myself considerable pain, so that is not an option.

It’s a tricky position to be in.

So, for now, I’m biding my time and trying to deal with my anger. I’m hoping that it will subside enough to be able to say what needs to be said rationally and patiently, without being spiteful or vengeful, but that’s still only an aspiration. I don’t want to hurt them in retaliation – what I’d really like is for them to see that they’ve been doing the wrong thing, and acknowledge that and take responsibility for what they’ve done, even though the consequences of their actions can’t be undone.

That’s just ugly.

A very good friend of mine has been on the receiving end of some butt-ugly treatment lately.
It’s the second time in the last 18 months that I have been aware of people I know wilfully acting to assassinate someone’s character. Those people should hang their heads in shame. They absolutely know better. They are intelligent, professional people with families of their own.
My friend is not perfect. I don’t see how that justifies anything. She is fully aware of her flaws, and nobody is perfect, least of all me. There is no excuse for the way she has been treated.

The following are ugly and ungodly behaviours which amount to verbal bullying and vilification:

1. Sharing someone else’s story or personal information when one has no business doing so.
2. Telling a story about someone when one has only heard half of it.
3. Going behind someone’s back and telling falsehoods or half-truths about people to those who are their friends.
4. Attempting to ingratiate oneself by putting someone else down.
5. Veiling these behaviours behind “I thought you should know” or “We need to pray for ******” or “I am so concerned, I had to share it with someone”.
6. Taking pleasure in gossip or in shaming someone.

Do not ever ask me to listen to or excuse these things.
These are not things friends do.
These are not things nice people do.

Sadly, they are things that some people who claim to be Christians do.
What ever happened to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Love your neighbour as yourself”?