January 15, 2015

Be the Change.


I’ve seen a lot of posts and tweets lately discussing the state of book blogging and the blogging community. And I’ll be honest – I understand the frustration. But I wanted to write this post because 2014 was probably my most enjoyable year of blogging. I felt inspired and motivated, and I think I know why.  It started when I wrote this post about putting Twitter in time out, and then that mindset grew from there. I found ways to tune out the noise and distance myself from the things that made me feel negatively about blogging.

That’s not to say I stopped interacting with people! I went to BEA, YALLFest, and book signings to meet other bookish friends in person… and I was still chatting away on Twitter and in comments about the things that made me happy. I didn’t disconnect completely – I do love this crazy, nerdy community! But I made it a point to close that tab or exit that app when everyone was in a tizzy.

So, I thought I’d share my thought process and the reason I feel the way I do. This isn’t meant to tell you what to do – it’s just a reflection and a reminder to myself more than anything else. And if it helps you, too, even better!

I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard this quote from Gandhi before: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s almost become a cliché, hasn’t it? Do you ever stop and think about what the words mean? Because here’s the thing: you can talk all day long about what you do or don’t like about blogging or the book community. But talking doesn't necessarily change anything.

If you’re not happy with the state of book blogging, here’s my mentality:

You must be the change you wish to see 
in the book blogging community. 

I’m all about taking personal responsibility for things, even though it’s human nature to do the opposite. If something goes wrong at work, I want it to be someone else’s fault. If I got in trouble growing up, I wanted to offer an excuse. If I don’t like what I see around me, I want to point a finger at everyone who I feel is to blame.

I think I’ve seen that a lot online lately, and I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself. It’s often easier to identify what’s wrong than it is to actually do what’s right. Or, as Jesus asks in Matthew 7:3 – “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Regardless of how you feel about the Bible, I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty pointed question.

I don’t want to spend more time concerned about other people’s behavior than I do about my own. I have control over my actions, my responses, my thoughts and my attitudes. And if I think things need to change, the first step is for me to BE WHAT I WANT TO SEE. So, I first asked myself: "Am I part of the problem? If I am, what changes can I make?" If I don’t like something, then I don’t do it. I don't focus on policing everyone else – I try to take an honest, critical look at my own words and actions.

Be the kind of blog you want to read. 
Be the kind of blogger you want to follow. 

Anna has always said, “Work hard. Be nice.” You know what I love about that mantra? It’s a reminder that it’s all in your hands. Because holding others to a higher standard than I hold myself doesn't help at all. When you have grace for people, they're more likely to have grace for you. When you're kind to people, they're more likely to be kind to you. When you believe the best about people, maybe they'll choose to believe the best, too. And maybe they won't... but you can still feel good about YOU.

When you choose joy, I think it spills over. It's my hope that modeling joy will make others more joyful. At the very least, I can almost guarantee you’ll attract other like-minded people. And that will make a huge difference in how you feel about this community! I promise you - finding people who make you happy matters.

I want 2015 to be a year where 
I spend more time talking about what I do like 
than I do talking about what I don’t

I don't necessarily love everything about my neighborhood. I don't have to like the color they paint their house or the way they raise their kids or the fact that they don't know how to drive in a roundabout. But I also don't have to tell them I feel that way. It can stay in my brain or in a private conversation. Because all those things I might not like? They don't change the fact that I can be kind to them. I can wave and smile and be gracious. I can treat them the way I'd want to be treated, even when it's difficult.

The same is true for blogging and reading. You won't like everyone and everything. I'm not saying you put on a mask, but there's nothing bad about having a filter. And hey, sometimes it's just good manners.

Let's all be slow to anger, 
quick to apologize or offer forgiveness, 
and full of grace for others.

15 comments:

  1. You are so right that if somebody wants the world to change they shoul start with themselves.
    I'm very new to the bookblogging and I mostly right review for myself so I'm not very familiar with all these negative sides of it, but good manners and staying positive is always the right thing!

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    1. Welcome to the book blogging world! It's so fun to share the love of books - and it's so cool the way it brings everyone together. I'm so happy you haven't seen much negativity, and I hope it stays that way :) As a Southerner, I'm all about good manners. Haha!

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  2. I agree and share the same sentiment of so much of your post. I do. But, unfortunately, the being nice (in my own experience) does not equate to people being nice or even polite to you. I think it has a lot to do with this internet world. We are not seeing each other day to day so I think it's easier to... drop the ball, ignore, move on, without an explanation. I find friendships within the internet (and even connections) have a faster turnover rate, and I see this in both of the communities I belong to. I think when people start to see just what others are getting or what others are doing ALL THE TIME (because, some people don't know how to filter, as you so smartly added in here), I think there's a lot more opportunity to be jealous and feel resentful. That being said, I still feel like internet personality and how you blog is so closely tied to who you are in real life. Are you generous, thoughtful, and truly take time to care about what others say? Even if you do have a mask for awhile, I believe those true qualities win out. (I'm talking here about the good ones, but mainly thinking about the poor ones.) As we've talked about, I think while (I hope) a majority of us are in this to talk about what we love, others try to make it a trophy. That hurts when you see the organic kindness and friendships made. I have had to say so many times lately. There is always one bad apple. (I like how you mention your neighborhood... I like to think about it as work. You see people, you smile, you are polite, but it is impossible for you to be close friends with everyone.) I could go on about this for hours. Great post, lots to think about here.

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    1. I've been chatting with you about this, but I also wanted to type out some longer thoughts. I totally agree that being nice doesn't always equate to people being nice or polite to you. It's a shame, too! And as I mentioned to you, I think the fact that you're "talking" with people online is part of the reason why. It's hard without seeing a face and hearing a voice - those, combined with the words you say and things you do, are what set the tone for a conversation or interaction. Online you don't have those things. It's easier to misunderstand or miscommunicate or just choose to be rude. And that aspect of it isn't just true for blogging. I see that in the comments section of just about any news article. Haha!

      And I agree - there is a faster turnover rate for friendships made through the Internet. I think a huge part of it is just that they take more work in a lot of ways? When someone doesn't live near you, it takes more effort to maintain the relationship. I've noticed that's also true with my good friends from college who have since moved away. The other difficult thing is that it requires a mutual desire to "make it work." I've had real-life friendships I would have loved to continue, but it starts to feel less like a friendship when it becomes very one-sided.

      I think who you are offline and online are closely connected - especially in terms of what you value. I know shy people who have more confidence online or people who are really vocal offline who have a "quieter" presence online. But I think that the things you value and cherish and the ideas and attitudes that inform your actions/words end up being consistent offline and online. If you care about others, it shows. And if you only really care about yourself, that shows too.

      I almost used the work example! I ended up choosing neighborhood because I have a little more personal investment in how my neighborhood turns out. I want it to be a nice place to live - and I want to be able to feel like I belong there. I feel the same about the blogging community - I want it to be a nice thing to be a part of and for it to be somewhere I feel like I "fit."

      In every community, there will always be problems or people you don't mesh with. I get that. But I don't want those to define it... or to be in a community where it's rarer to find people doing the right thing. I hope it stays a place where the "bad apples" are far outnumbered by all the people just happily sharing their passion for books.

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  3. Yes, yes 100% YES. There are so so so so many things I could easily get upset about that I see on Twitter or Facebook or blogs, ETC... but I tend not to talk about them. Well, I tend not to talk about them online. If something really irks me, I'll go talk to my friends about it privately and if it's something I REALLY need to address publicly, then I will. Most of the time there really is no need. This wonderful community is SO big and that's fantastic! But that means that not everyone will agree. Not everyone will like everyone. Not everyone has to!!! I think people get so hung up sometimes on the fact that we all like books so we all have this giant passion in common and therefore we should all be behaving in a similar way. Sometimes I get upset if someone didn't like my favorite book or if they express an unpopular opinion but if I disagree, I just don't comment. Who wants to get a comment saying "Whatever you just said is wrong/unpopular, etc"? I just feel like it's more "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
    Yes, sometimes we need to speak up and take action, but I think the internet provides a very "safe" place for people to express whatever they want, but it doesn't mean that everyone should ALL THE TIME. I'm all for free speech, having your own opinions, and sharing those with others, but if there's a chance it may be hurtful, I think we all need to take a step back and think before we post or tweet or comment. There's less confrontation when it's online so it's easier to post before you think -- and we don't always know each other that well either. Feelings get hurt a lot easier because things may get taken out of context or we don't understand someone else's tone. Then it spreads like wildfire.
    I'm guilty of reacting sometimes before I think but I try REALLY HARD not to post negative things on my blog or on Twitter. I want to enjoy this community, make new friends, and if someone rubs me the wrong way, I can just ignore it and move on. We don't all have to be BEST friends but we can all be civil!
    Thank you for writing this! <3

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  4. Beautifully said! I am on Twitter very rarely anyway which may be why I haven't seen or heard much of the drama you are referring to. I have had overwhelmingly good experiences in the book blogging community and I am grateful for that. I think I may have one of those "filters" you refer to without even realizing it!

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  5. So true! I honestly haven't seen the really negative side of blogging interactions, but I whole heartedly agree with you. Everyone should be nice and respectful no matter where they are or what they are doing - do the right thing no matter what! I don't understand how or why some people think it's okay to skip the filter process, it just doesn't even compute in my brain.

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  6. Great post! You're right that we each need to set an example to others and do the right thing even when others don't.

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  8. Love this post! It seems like 2015 has already been so DRAMATIC. It's so much easier and healthy to step back from Twitter when those things are happening.

    One good thing though is that a lot of bloggers are starting to say enough. It seems like everyone is pretty tired of the feeling in the community right now, whether it's through drama or stress or whatever. Lots of people are focusing on blogging the way they want to blog and getting back to the FUN of this hobby, and I think that's awesome! We can be the change, we can be happy and have fun and post about whatever we want and get back to the rewarding part of this community.

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  9. I'm big on avoiding drama these days which was one of the reasons that I stayed away from my blog as long as I did, the others being my own "real life" stuff, but I think you're exactly right in what you say on this post. I hope that more people read it, take it to heart, and start acting as you say.

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  10. Clearly I'm pretty far out of the blogging loop these days, since I honestly have no idea what drama happens anymore. But you know what? I'm kind of fine with that. I do miss the interaction with everyone that comes with regularly being on Twitter, but I'm also okay with not knowing when the bad things happen. This post is great for reminding us all that it's better to talk about the positive, rather than shining light on the negative. Beautifully written, as always!

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  11. I love this mentality! I really think that when you focus on the negative then you will only see the negative. I've found that when I shift my perspective to see the good then I not only see the good, but I'm a much happier person.

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  12. Hannah, this post is beautifully written. I love that you're choosing to take a different, honest, more personal perspective on how to present and handle yourself, whether it's in terms of blogging or even just as a human being. I love the idea of focusing on the positives and spreading that attitude through my words and actions, which is something I'm striving to do as you already know. Thank you for writing such a clever, thoughtful, illuminating post! <3

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  13. I know I'm really late in commenting, but I just wanted to tell you how wonderful your post is. I can be very quick to the negative, in real life and in blogging. It's not something that I really like about myself, and I'm trying harder to be more positive in all aspects of my life. But lately, with blogging, I've let the negativity affect me way too much. It's why I wrote my Fire is Catching post. I wanted to put all of it behind me, take a step back and reexamine my reactions and thoughts, and find some way to make blogging a more positive experience. It's always been that way for me, and I wanted to keep it that way. That's what I was hoping to convey with my post, and it's why I love yours a lot. I love this mentality and how you approach blogging and life.

    You were right in saying that Twitter is both personal and professional, and I don't think I ever really got that until the Kickstarter happened. Of course I'll still share my opinion and say what I want, but hurting someone's feelings is where it starts to feel less like my playground, so to speak, and more like a platform that can quickly spiral out of control.

    I also know that it's not just the drama, but all of the negativity. The ARC envy, the competition, the clamoring for your voice to be heard among the hundreds out there. I was just talking to a friend about this, and we both can sometimes get really stressed out and tired with all of it. It can become draining, which has really affected my feelings with the community and blogging. After all of this, I've decided to just step back a bit. Not take a break completely but post a little less and focus more on myself than on what everyone else is doing and saying. Hopefully soon I'll get back to the FUN of blogging and stop worrying about all of the negativity. <3

    And so I love this mentality of being the change and being the kind of blogger you want to follow. That's the type of person I want to be, on here and in real life. I know that not everyone is like this, and that's okay. We're all different. But only *I* have control of my actions and words, and being more careful with them will go a long way to making my blog a more positive place. And that's what I want people to see when they look at mine, a safe space where they're allowed to share their opinions and personal stories without judgment.

    This was such a wonderful post, Hannah! Thank you for sharing it. :)

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