Saturday, April 28, 2012

How Do You Be Honest, Kind, Direct And Nice, All At The Same Time?


Earlier this week, Will came home from school visibly a little down in the mouth. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that his friends at school were calling him "weird". To be sure, Will has a quirky sense of humor, and does some kind of off the wall stuff sometimes, but weird? I know I'm his mom but I don't think so. Anyway, I asked him if he thought he was weird, and he said, "No, but all these people keep saying it, and I start to think it's true."

Now, to keep this in perspective, Will is extremely sensitive. His teacher has assured me repeatedly that he has plenty of friends in the classroom, is doing very well socially, etc., so I'm pretty sure that this is not nearly as ongoing as he might feel that it is but still, that's not something you ever want to hear coming from your child's mouth.

I assured him that he is not weird, but unique, and that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. As I was talking to him about being true to yourself and trying not to worry about what people think, it struck me that I was being a little bit hypocritical. I started thinking about how I act when I'm online. In person, it generally is a case of what you see is what you get, but when I'm writing on my blog, or other social media, I don't think I'm as authentic as I'd like to be.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that I cannot stand to see either constant complaining, or constant bragging, and for this reason, I'm so trying to not do that, that I think I might go too far the other direction. Another reason is that while I talk a good game, I'm a total marshmallow. It takes little to nothing to win my sympathy and/or my forgiveness. And while I love the style of the bad ass bloggers like http://thebloggess.com/, http://www.scarymommy.com/ and http://www.peopleiwanttopunchinthethroat.com/, I am not thick skinned enough to deal with the inevitable backlash of writing like that, much as I'd like so sometimes. Maybe that develops over time or maybe they are just tougher than I am; either way, some of the comments I've read online would probably have me in bed with a box of tissues for a week.

More reasons - I hate conflict. I'm not good at handling confrontation calmly. Generally I am just too gobsmacked to respond, OR I go nuts and say all kinds of things that really should get me put away. The best thing I read somewhere online, "If you get into a fight with someone on the internet, you have already lost." I think this is totally true. Some of the interactions I've read and had, have actually left me with trembling hands and a racing heartbeat.

Another interesting aspect of online interaction is that so many people feel at liberty say whatever they want from the safety of their computer. My Facebook friends know that I used to not be able to stay away from the comment section of our local newspaper because the conversations that went on there were a TOTAL train wreck. Those people were out and out hateful, mean, and sometimes dangerous sounding. That problem has gotten better through some changes the paper made, thank goodness, but I guess my rule of thumb is to remember that if I wouldn't say it to someone's face, I probably shouldn't say it online.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that I'm having a hard time finding the line between being real and being nice. And while it may sound cheesy, being nice is important to me. I am a nice person, and it's important to me that my children are nice people too. Yet more than anything, I want them to be proud of who they are and not conform to the herd. Because like I told my son, one of the most unhappy periods in my life was spent trying to be someone I'm not.

Do you guys have any advice? Is it too simple to say "be nice or be gone" here in the blogosphere? How do you balance courtesy with honesty?



post signature Pin It

8 comments:

ddavisbailey said...

i wrote a blog post on that exact thing called living out loud....

i try to stay funny on facebook bc let's face it my 880 some odd friends aren't really friends and people definitely feel they have the right to tell you how you should be living your life from miles away...people want pretty packages and easy reads because they want people to think their lives are smooth and perfect - it's a huge marketing campaign....

Tanya D Doyle said...

I personally feel blogging is a slippery slope. I mean, it's such a great forum in many ways, but it's also so very permanent. And public. It's tough, because in real life, I let loose with my opinions and rants in a way that I wouldn't online. It's not to say that my online persona is inauthentic. I look at it this way: I'm blogging for entertainment and expression, and it makes me feel good to cultivate the more positive parts of me, rather than the negative.

This was a great post, as usual!

bereccah5 said...

That is an excellent way to look at it Tanya. I'm really glad you framed it that way in your comment - will definitely keep that in mind.

bereccah5 said...

Too true. Well, if you are looking for smooth and perfect, you definitely came to the wrong place! ha!

Jen at PIWTPITT.com said...

Thanks for calling me badass. Total compliment. For me, personally, my thick skin developed over time. I was in tears the first couple of times I got slammed, but then I realized, I'm speaking my opinion and they're just speaking theirs. Some people just do it in a more hateful manner than others and those are the people I just ignore or make fun of. I think I'm just the opposite of Tanya. In person I'm pretty nice. I still tell it like it is and I'm really funny, but I don't have the bullhorn that I have on my blog, so not as many people hear it in real life as read it on the internet (I don't even know a million people to talk to - haha). I think you should be happy that your son is his own person. It's like you said, you don't want him to be a part of the herd. Weird isn't always a bad thing. It's bad when he starts to feel bad about that. Is he in Kindergarten by any chance? We had trouble with this last year with my son when he was in K and we were told it's a maturity thing. We just worked really hard on helping him find friends who liked him just the way he was and ignoring the kids who didn't like him. Now, one year later he has a lot more self esteem and he's got 2 excellent friends who defend him (if ever necessary - which it really isn't anymore) and support him. Great post and thanks for the link!

bereccah5 said...

Hi Jen - thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! My son is actually young for his grade and we retained him for second grade this year. MUCH better year - the last few have been horrendous. He finally is to the point where he is seeking out deeper friendships, and has a couple of buddies who we are trying to foster relationships with.
I totally love that he is not a follower by nature but I just want him to understand how awesome that is too.
Thanks for the pep talk about the skin thickening - what's funny is that I'm way more of a ranter in public and a thinker (word used lightly) on line! Weird.

Susan Kroger-Peters said...

Love this Rebeccah. I think it's wonderful that you're asking this question. So many people put very little thought into what they post on their blogs and/or social media pages. I struggle with this, too. Work plays a big part for me, as I'm concerned that the things I blog will adversely affect me at the office.

bereccah5 said...

I totally understand. I never, ever, ever write about work, much as I'd like to sometimes. ;-) But I think it really is true about people hiding behind their keyboards - some of the crap I've seen people write online would get them popped in the mouth in person. Thanks so much for stopping by!