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?