Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Advice for dealing with negativity in online health communities

I'm happy to say I've not to date encountered any negative feedback on this blog. Generally I've found the online space one filled with warm support and a great sense a fun. However I've been in a couple of online health chat rooms where things have gotten very negative and once or twice I've found myself being "attacked" for something I've said....sometimes stuff like that can happen.

the prompt for Day #14 of WEGO Health's Health Blog Post Month (#nhbpm) is Give advice for dealing with negative feedback in an online health community.   

You hear a lot about how the internet is full of nasties. However, my experience is that so far it has been mostly easy to avoid them and fairly simple to deal with anything that has arisen. Am I just lucky? Of course, "Lucky" is my middle name. *winky face.*

I do have a clear intention about how I choose to navigate the online space though - and I think it mostly works. I'm happy to share: 
  • Firstly, be true to yourself. Speak your truth. Say what is important to you. Be self expressed. That is your privilege and it is what people will love you for.  It is the value you can give to your online community.  
  • Secondly, honour everyone else. Everyone you encounter is an extraordinary human being, they may not all behave impeccably all the time, they may sometimes express themselves in ways you find objectionable, they may react to you in ways you don't like, but be gentle with them. Everyone has a hard path, most people are doing their best. Anyone being unreasonable most likely has problems and those problems are unlikely to be about you.  When you speak your truth, always try to do it kindly and with consideration for others. 
  • Thirdly, if you find yourself under attack - don't react. Don't get drawn in to other people's dramas. Protect yourself, be prepared to withdraw / detach with love / however you want to think of it. give yourself time to calm down before responding to anything anyone writes or says that upsets you. Walk away from conversations where people are being unreasonable, you are not obliged to participate. There's a lovely phrase "don't feed the trolls", it means don't engage with attention seekers who choose to try and upset you. Pity them, sure. Wish them well. Hope that they will overcome their present difficulties and stop feeling the need to abuse others. But you don't have to try and fix them and you certainly don't have to play their game by getting involved or returning their nastiness in kind. 
  • Fourthly, see feedback as a gift.  Even feedback you think is unfair can be useful, sometimes it's the most useful of all, if you just give yourself time to reflect on it and decide what value there may be in it for you.  Recognise that feedback is not the truth, it's just one person's perception, but by listening and seeking to understand what people are trying to say to us, we can sometimes learn something useful about ourselves, we may learn how to communicate more effectively with difficult characters, we may realise that we have been being difficult ourselves, we can learn what kind of thing is likely to trigger others, or we may sometimes simply learn better how to protect ourselves and what places we perhaps don't want to hang out in any more.
  • Finally, don't internalise negativity. Don't ever feel trapped by it. We all have choices what conversations we choose to engage in. Some people sadly find themselves in family or local community situations which may be limiting and that's really hard, but the internet is "virtually" endless *another wink* and if you find yourself stuck in an online community where negativity reigns - you can always go and find another.
Take care of yourself and take care of others as far as it feels reasonable to do. 

Stay safe out there. 

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