authenticity 101

The Comment Dilemma

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I’ve just received the latest blog entry from Brené Brown’s website in my inbox. Walking the tightrope: thoughts on vulnerability and hurt. It strikes a chord with me, as many of her posts do, as we can all relate to the shock and hurt of being attacked. Anonymous postings in the comment sections of online media websites are such an incredibly easy way to be cruel and insensitive. The negative personal comments are mean, hurtful and beyond explanation, although the simple answer is that there are some very wounded people out there who only know how to lash out. I completely understand Brené’s anger and disappointment at the unfairness of being judged and the frustration of having been triggered by it despite knowing it is not about her, really. Being strong of character and determined to stay the course does not necessarily mean you don’t feel it when someone taunts you. As she said, it still hurts. It would make sense to just stay away from such forums and not get pulled into the fray.

Well, to bring this back to why I chose to respond to Brené’s blog on my website, I have to admit that I’ve been reading the news fairly regularly lately as I am (a bit) obsessed by politics. I find the comment section of the online newspapers completely fascinating despite some fairly rampant misinformation and ignorance in the postings. People tell me “stop reading that crap, you’ll make yourself crazy”. I’ve decided to read left-leaning, right-leaning and everything in between to see what is going on out there. The level of partisanship and negativity in the comments is really wild, but it actually helps me mitigate my natural inclination to be judgemental and arrogant about my own political thoughts. I can practice just reading the comments and not taking them personally. It is so easy to feel attacked, even if the attack is simply on an entire political party that we feel associated with! It truly has nothing to do with me, but I can get pulled in emotionally and want to retaliate just as easily as the next person. Just when I think I’m enlightened and immune (to borrow Brené’s word) wham! I want to jump right in to the comment stream and give someone a piece of my mind. Now I am not a fan of anonymous postings and see how quickly things degenerate when people can hide, but I also believe in free speech and love that we live in a democracy where it is a right to be able to say what we think without the fear of being thrown in jail, tortured or killed for sharing our beliefs. Of course I disagree and am flabbergasted by the tone some people take in their postings, and find it nauseating when it becomes personal. But other times, I am quite impressed by the civility of respectful debate. I just remember that the only person I can control is me and I can choose to engage or not. At this point I tend to observe the comment stream rather than jump in.

On that note, I have chosen not to allow comments on my website. Although I am open to feedback, I am not interested in having a forum about what I post at this time. I have an email address, and if anyone has a comment to share, they can send me a message. When I read an article online that impacts me, I will send an email, from my own address, to the author rather than post on a comment section. I have done this with reporters, online bloggers and politicians. I remember even sending Brené a very lengthy email about how her Ted Talks video had helped me sort through a difficult moment with one of my daughters. I didn’t need to post it on a forum and have it read by thousands of people. I just wanted her to know she made a difference in my life. That is my current take on authenticity and vulnerability as I am engaging personally with the individual, one to one. However, I’m fully aware that there are two motivations to this approach. One is that I really like connecting directly with people - great. The other is that I am controlling and minimizing the chance of getting emotionally highjacked if stating my opinions “out loud” to a bigger audience opens me up to criticism - not so great.

So I’m just going to take my time working through how I show up in the online world and how much energy I’m willing to expend to deal with potential negativity. I will continue to be bold and authentic in my everyday life as being real is the only way I want to live. I’ll work on creating an online presence that feels authentic and respectful of my values. That’s all I will ask of myself. Thank you Brené for being an inspiration.

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