Social anxiety wakes me to ask what the heck I think I’m doing, sharing personal things online where anyone can read them? I sit bolt upright in bed at stupid-o’clock, heart racing, wondering whether I’ve outed a friend or shared state secrets or (gasp!) said something problematic.
I’m secretly afraid that I will be publicly eviscerated by another LGBTIQ person, because I am old and unsociable and out of touch with the latest thinking. Maybe my terminology is out of date. I’m just quietly living my own life and occasionally rabbiting on about it, but could this have unforeseen consequences? I’ve seen people ripped to shreds online before, and other people pile on. Lives and reputations are ruined, and trauma experienced. Aside from the dreadful damage done, it’s an interesting sociological phenomenon.
And I would learn from that, because why wouldn’t I? I would learn that the author was a mean spirited so-and-so, and learn to avoid reading their future work, and perhaps I would learn something more useful. But as my friend said recently, why should anyone need to learn from online nastiness? Why would anyone even need to read it? If someone’s being feral, that’s them sharing their own issues.
We’re all human, all flawed, all rubbing along together on this long-suffering planet that’s wobbling its weary way around the sun. If anything I say is unwelcome, or flawed, or (heaven forbid) problematic, I’m open to hearing it. All I ask is that it’s expressed politely, so that my brain doesn’t shut down. I value learning, kindness and civility. I choose my words here carefully, each time I write. If I’ve not replied to something, it’s probably because I’m still processing my reactions and thoughts.
It’s ok to take a breath before responding. There’s no rush.
Someone recently thanked me for not biting their head off for mistakes around pronouns and other gender-related conversational matters. (Am I being vague enough here?) They’d hurt my feelings on previous occasions, and opened cans of conversational worms at times when I was trying to focus on other things. There wasn’t the time to delve into things deeply, nor did I have the emotional energy to go there. But later, we talked. I took a breath and listened to where they were coming from, and heard their sense of inadequacy, their fears of hurting others. I knew their actions weren’t malicious and I didn’t take them personally. In that exchange I ended up feeling closer to them than ever before. For an alarming moment I feared they’d hug me. Kidding. That would never happen. But we both felt better, warmer, for that interaction; and they thanked me.
But as I said to them on that day, I was only doing what I appreciate from others. I deeply appreciate others listening to me, being patient, and being kind. If someone genuinely wants to learn and do better, why would I shame them?