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This blog is a partner page to "The Brighter Side: Living With Lyme." Please visit the main site for resources and inspiration.

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Revisiting old favorites....

Happy December! (from Dec 1, 2012)
All Life. Namase. (From Dec 11, 2012)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Refusing the hook of online provocation

photo by Donna Z Falcone ©2012

You've all seen the headlines and stories online that seem too outrageous to be taken seriously, yet we take them seriously. We become outraged, in fact. And then, by the power vested in us by the internet, we share them with others to show them just how unfair or provocative or outrageous a certain writer has been. Then, if we are really upset and feel our opinion might just change minds, we comment. Then we share the comments.

I can't be the only one who has gotten caught up in the sticky web of provoke and response. Please, tell me I'm not the only one!

Here's the thing, and this has been slowly dawning on me over the last several months. These writers are dangling hooks in the water and I have been biting them ... hard. And they have been reeling me in like a fish on the line who thinks her fighting the pull will change the heart of the fisherman. "Oh, poor fish," the fisherman will say. "I should let her go and vow to never hook another fish again." 

More realistically, the thoughts rolling through the fisherman's mind are more like "Keep pulling Baby. The more you splash, the more your friends see, and the more they see, the more they come looking, and every time they get close enough to see what I've done, BAM.... another one in the net! Keep pulling, baby. I'm going to need a bigger net!"

Being hooked leaves me exhausted, tossed out of the boat, and panting through my gills on the side of the riverbank while the writer reaps monetary and ego rewards. Truth is, these writers already know all the facts or opinions that we might share, which is why they are so effective at getting us to share the links and post the comments (thus, keeping them popular with their sponsors). The other readers and commentators are also generally very well informed and entrenched. That's why we read in the first place. It's no accident that certain stories push every outrage button we have. It is quite intentional, my friends. Outrage translates to views, and views translate to dollars and comments. Comments and views translate to appearing relevant. Through encouraging link sharing and reactionary comments it's quite possible that we are paying this writer a salary to be abusive, and we are most certainly stroking the ego.

This writer, who intentionally provokes outrage, gets that same happy thrill that any of us get when someone reads our posts and the page hits climb. With every click on their stories they may even receive money, making the attention all the more valuable to them. 

That's not what I want.

Last week a certain online blogger for a certain online 'news' magazine posted a very provocative piece attacking Lyme doctors and the patients whom they treat in a mean spirited pieced comprised of one unsubstantiated claim after the other. Hundreds of comments followed. I'm sure he received thousands of hits but I refuse to go back and look, so I will never know. I'm good with not knowing. I am learning how to pull the hook out of my own mouth.

I think it's time to start being choosy about what I deem share-worthy, and I hope you will join me. 

It's time to start leaving links OUT of my twitter feeds and Facebook posts. If a piece does not add to the conversation in meaningful, thoughtful way, I refuse to share it. Debate and dialogue are important. Opposing views are vital to growth and understanding, and anything that thoughtfully furthers a conversation is share-worthy. Attack journalism is not share worthy. It might make me feel better to share the dirt, and to shoot my comment off in a moment of passion and defense, but this only feeds the fisherman, encouraging him to increase his efforts to gain name recognition and/or money.

If you feel like you've just been punched in the gut by someone's provocative online piece, you probably were. Listen to your gut. Know you've been punched, but if you must punch back try and find a way to do it that does not reinforce the writer's bad, bad, bad behavior. I wonder what would happen if we started withdrawing our readership from these types of pieces rather than boosting it with our reactions fueled by outrage? Feeding the beast sure isn't helping. Maybe starving them would be a more effective course of action. For me, my body will thank me for staying out of the fight that promises to whip me up and leave me feeling beaten and powerless.

Join me in being choosy. If I see something outrageous I will take a deep breath and consider that without my outrage (and click on the page) the author will have one less notch in his belt and one less fish in his boat. 

This may sound cliche, but sometimes the best response really is no response.

If, however, I can't help myself and need to vent, I will do so without the link, author's name, or story title. 

Let's be choosy together. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Being a Writer - a loving wink.



Have you seen 
"On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts" by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, the newest book in the Masters in Fine Living Series from T.S. Poetry Press?

If you're anything like me and you're trying to create something new from the ashes of Lyme or other chronic illness, I hope you'll give this book a serious, and playful, look. Kroeker and Craig have left me with no question about the possibility that I am already creating, and can actually maintain, a writing life. How did they do that? Through their stories. They showed me how hectic their lives have been, sharing their own struggles with everything from raising children to a serious health crisis. In On Being a Writer I found a heartfelt, personally engraved invitation to join them - to walk among the writers of the world knowing there is always room for one more.

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