Writers’ words and the social media experience

I’m starting to recognize that people’s written words can create just as much “noise” as their spoken words do; possibly even more.

I can’t stop myself from conducting internal analyses of my social media experiences of the past few years. In one way they’ve been enriching. But in others they’ve been detrimental.

I switched off comments from followers on my Facebook statuses recently and suddenly it feels like so much noise has been removed from my life. It’s so much calmer and quieter. Not only do I now get much fewer comments on my statuses but also the ones I do get from friends are significantly more balanced and reasonable in every way.

As someone who writes for a living (I’m a science journalist although you’d probably never guess that from my blogging style), I find myself longing for the days when feedback on writers’ work was relatively less intrusive.

I wonder sometimes if I just struggle because I do certain things differently than others and thus find it difficult to accept their ways. When I read something – anything (a book, an article in the media, a social media status, a blog post) – I will either connect with it or I will not. Sometimes I don’t connect from the very start and I just pass it and move to something else. Sometimes I completely disagree with someone’s words but I find the logic interesting so I continue to read in order to learn what others’ thinkings on matters might be. Sometimes I find someone’s words just plain offensive. Depending on how offensive they are I’ll either not read on or I might remove that person’s words from my reading lists. So rarely do I ever comment on what other people write. Not that their words are unworthy of comment. It’s just that I internalize their words and try to find a way for me to make meaning of them for myself. Never – or at the very most extremely rarely – have I used someone’s written words as a way to judge their person or personality. Perhaps, as a writer, I simply know that would be a futile exercise.

There are so many reasons we use the words we write and so many ways we interpret the words of others. I know that once words leave the fingers of their writer their meanings can change in as many ways as there are readers. Sometimes we write to express ourselves. Sometimes we write to provoke others to consider something different to what they are accustomed. Sometimes we write to make people laugh. Sometimes we write as a creative exercise. Sometimes we write just because. I’ve blogged and Facebooked for all those reasons and more.

It’s that knowledge and my own approach that makes it difficult for me sometimes to accept that not everyone understands that and not everyone reacts to words in the same way. As a writer, this new age of social media can make the after-effects of writing a very exhausting and stressful experience.

One would expect our words as writers to be judged. But hearing/reading all those judgments is draining. Often, I find others’ reactions to my words to be distracting from my original intentions and message. One of my issues is that I give reverence to words and have always strongly felt that if someone has taken the time to write some words to me, then they are worthy of my respect and time. But if I try to make an overall judgment, I’d say that opening my spaces and my mind to the reactions of anyone and everyone has been unhelpful to say the least. It’s created too much noise. It’s been too distracting.

When reactions were limited, they gave me room to thoughtfully consider human nature, my own words and my own views. When I opened my spaces to everyone, and when reactions became considerably numerable (and often very personal), it all just turned into a complete mess, both in my head and in my spaces.

I struggle with people – strangers – who read too much into my words. I struggle with people – strangers – who use my words to analyze me. I struggle with people – strangers – who read my words, conduct their analyses, make their judgments and then convey those judgments to me. I struggle with this mainly because when I read, I don’t reflect as much on the writer as I do on myself and how I’m reacting to their words. It’s the only sensible way I know to accept someone else’s words into my mind. Once a writer’s words leave their fingers and become exposed to me, they really turn into my own.

Words can have so much impact on our lives. It’s one thing to write words and allow them to run wild to reach anyone willing to accept them into their minds. It’s a completely different thing to direct words at a specific individual with a very specific intent in mind. Words written in this way can be distracting, hurtful and malicious. I’m learning, slowly, that as a writer who would like to continue to write, I need to protect myself from the directed words of others in order to continue writing as freely, as creatively and as openly as I would like.

3 comments

  1. I’m radically different than you.

    I’m a constantly questioning person. I need different opinions. I need people to judge me. I feed off arguments and debates. If I won’t listen to others I will never learn.

    I understand the emotional toil and a lot of things people say are crap. I hang around message boards and I skip a lot of threads which are dead boring. Then again, I’m also lucky to attract people to present challenging arguments. I mostly end up in productive, long-winded discussions. They’re what the internet was made for.

    1. I have been the same way until the numbers went out of control (for me). You might want to read my previous post to get an idea of what that means. What I’m learning is that I love the feedback, but only up to a point. When it gets too much, when it gets too personal, when it gets too judgmental it becomes a detriment rather than something that makes my creative juices flow.

      1. Well, I’m not in the position of being a published writer like you so that must be it.
        I just hope won’t break me and I’ll be able to sort the productive feedback from the noise.
        Keep the noise ins Noise Pop.

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