Blogging – The Soft Power of Words

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As a blogger, I’ve always been aware that words hold their own unique form of power.

They can be used to up lift or destroy, to unite or divide, to enlighten or vilify anyone and everyone whose life experiences, customs, cultures of ways of being in this world may be different from our own.

Yet even knowing this, it has taken a long time to fully understand that words reach their most potent potential when, like us, they find that fine balance between no longer shouting to be heard or whispering too tentatively the simplest of truths.

 
It is only when words reach this level of softness that they stop being merely the dots and dashes of written language and instead begin transforming their symbolic meanings into the translatable, transferable and palpably understandable revelations, that carry along with them so much more than the literal representations of a reality so different from our own.

 
These are the words that sing to us so softly that we may not even notice their tunes until we find ourselves humming them.

 

For it is only after having read them, that we find our views have become somehow shifted.

 

Our thoughts dismantled and pieced back together in such a way that even we ourselves may initially be at a loss as to understand why or how we should find our perspectives so changed.

 
These are the words that don’t plant seeds but rather reveal to us the existence of somebody else’s garden.

 
A garden to which perhaps we were previously blind, yet now suddenly find that, not only can we see it, but that we can also begin to walk through it, if only in our minds.

 
These are the words that show us, without once ever telling us, what a character in a novel looks like within our minds eye.

 
These are the words that create the voices we hear, without ever once  actually hearing them, when we read.

 
These are the words that reach us, without once ever leaving the printed page.

 
These are the soft powers of words that as bloggers we try to embrace in order to communicate our lives, experiences and ways of being.

So to all who embrace and appreciate the soft power of words, long may they sing your songs and in so doing, bring back  to you the songs of others.

 

 

 

Could starting up and running a Facebook Page be for you? Some of the benefits and pitfalls that you may need to be aware of.

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A few weeks ago I started a Facebook page and I must say that the entire process of doing so was an incredibly easy one.

At every stage along the way there where prompts reminding me of what needed to be done and even suggestions as to how to do them more easily.

Yet, whilst the mechanics of if have been remarkably easy, by far and away, the hardest part of starting up a Facebook page has been finding the right ways to express what it is exactly,  you want  your  page to achieve.

In my case, I wanted to create a page that focused on the female experience of living with Asperger’s Syndrome / High Functioning Autism.

Which in itself sounds fairly straight forward but in actual fact  has proven to be far more difficult than I had at first thought.

So simply having an idea, whether it be specific or not,  as to what you’d like your page to be about, still leaves you only half way there and this is because,  even though you may have a clear concept of what it is you’d like to discuss, share or achieve on your page, others may have very different ideas as to how they perceive or wish to interact with your page.

For instance, even though my page is dedicated to primarily expressing and exploring the experiences of women with Asperger’s, it has been joined by several people who are  either the parents of daughters with Asperger’s Syndrome or the partners of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.

This is fine by me and for the most part I applaud parents for being open enough to listen too and learn from,  where relevant, the experiences of women who have been in their children’s shoes, but, there are times when either I myself, or someone else, will share a post or a comment, that whilst not designed to hurt the feelings of non-Asperger’s women or parents, never the less, becomes perceived as doing so.

In such cases, the negative comments made by those who feel slighted, often effectively shuts down  any and all further discussion surrounding whatever the topic of the post may have been.

This remains an issue that I am unsure how to confront, as even those people who run Facebook pages that have taken the time to make it very clear that they are designed first and foremost for a specific purpose, still find themselves  in the predicament of having to try and clear up other people’s misconceptions of their comments or posts.

It seems that no matter what you do you can never please everyone, yet I’m  still far from convinced that this fact alone means that one should settle for the potential of offending everyone either.

fblikeAnother issue that has  become somewhat of a quandary to me is the way in which “likes” for particular posts are being both attributed and distributed by Facebook.

For instance, running a much smaller page on Facebook I’ve found that often the bigger pages will pick up on one of my posts and “share” it on their own pages.

Now I don’t mind this happening at all, after all the aim is to spread awareness, and when it first began happening I thought it was a good thing as it was providing my page with exposure.

However this turns out to be less the case because in the process  of the bigger pages doing so, the “likes” for whatever post they’ve chosen to “share”  end up becoming  attributed to their page’s alone.

This means that although it’s may be my post, from my page, that people may be “liking”, the  fact that it is being distributed on a larger page means that those “likes” never make it back to or become attributed to, my page.

Normally this wouldn’t be so much of a problem, however, the way  in which Facebook chooses to promote  ‘not for profit pages’ makes it so, as the capacity of any such page to reach new members , depends entirely upon the amount of “likes” it receives.

The more “likes” a page receives, the bigger the page becomes and the size of the page decides how high up on the list of recommended pages, it will appear on Facebook.

The higher up the list a page appears, the more likely it is that it will continue to attract new members and therefore grow.

So, under this system, if  bigger pages continue to be the sole beneficiaries  of the  “likes” they receive  for “sharing” smaller pages posts, then effectively the  bigger pages will continue to boom and the smaller pages will continue to remain just that, small.

This to me sets up a kind of dog eat dog system of promotion, which is something to bear in mind and be prepared for, if you are thinking of starting up a Facebook Page.

So although Facebook makes it incredibly easy to start your own Facebook Page, these are  just  some of the issues associated with starting up and running a Facebook page that you need to be aware of.

In the end, whether or not you choose to start-up a Facebook page, may well all come down to a matter of deciding what it is you want to achieve and whether or not that goal can best be achieved via Facebook.

 

“The steady accumulation of a thousand slights”…….. Nelson Mandela

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“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom 

 

Well I guess you’re just going to have to color me bad -A follow up to the post on Autism, Empathy and the Intense World Theory.

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

Art work by Aegis Mario S. Nevado

Ever since I shared the article written by Maia Szalavitz in 2009 on the Markram’s Intense World Theory of Autism, which makes the claim that those with Autism do not suffer from a lack of empathy but rather an overabundance of it, I have been inundated with responses from people whose life experiences resonate deeply with the understanding that they, as individuals on the Autism Spectrum, regularly over empathize with the emotions of others.

However, at the same time, I’ve also received numerous messages from readers who disagree adamantly with the very concept that people on the Autism Spectrum are capable of feeling empathy.

To this end I’ve been accused of such things as spreading “harmful misinformation” by “promoting a theory that is irrelevant, old and misleading”.

In response to these negative accusations I chose to remove the post for a while in order to allow myself enough time to take a step back and genuinely consider the validity of the claims being made against me.

Yet within less than an hour of removing the post I began receiving messages from people wanting to know where the post had gone and requesting that I post it back up as they felt that the understanding that people with Autism not only feel empathy but experience  high levels of empathy towards others, was an extremely important one.

And I have to say, that at the end of the day ( and in the beginning and middle bits too) I agree far more with those who believe that righting, even just one of the many misunderstandings that surround the experiences of those living with Autism, is more important to me than the harsh words and judgements of those who disagree with either the premises behind the Intense World Theory or the implications that the theory holds for providing a greater understanding of those with Autism.

And when it comes right down to it, the act of sharing what I consider to be valuable and worthwhile information is more important to me than the criticism I’ve received for doing so.

So let me make it clear, personally I do not care with the theory is called or how old it is.

What I do care about is exposing the simple truth that people on the Autism Spectrum can, and often do, feel an over-abundance of empathy towards others.

And that often these extreme feelings of empathy can be so intense for people on the Spectrum that they generate in them the need to remove themselves from people and situations, including loved ones and family members, in order to cope.

In fact, I care more deeply that the actions which were once mislabeled and misunderstood by so many, as being signs of aloofness, detachment or a lack of empathy,  are beginning to be redressed and therefore more properly understood as actions that arise as a result of being able to feel too much empathy, rather than not enough of it, to pull the post.

So those of you who wish to accuse me of “spreading harmful misinformation” or of “promoting old dead theories” are just going to have to color me bad because both the post and the very important message of understanding that it’s offering to so many in the here and now, are both staying.

Strategies for helping those with Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism deal with negative people on line.

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Encounters with negative people can be emotionally draining and stressful regardless of the kinds of forums in which negative encounters take place.

The phenomenon of people having difficulty dealing with negative people or comments on-line is on the rise.

It is becoming especially troubling for those people who are generally already classified as vulnerable, open to abuse or misunderstanding, yet who are regardless still striving to interact within a variety of social groups, forums and friends (Facebook friends and groups) on-line.

For people with Asperger’s Syndrome being deliberately baited or put down by others on-line can be debilitating.

Often the consequences of being the victim of negative on-line communications can leave those who are already vulnerable, socially isolated or are already struggling to legitimately understand social interactions, tangled in a web of words that erodes their already fragile ability to trust and understand others.

For those who are vulnerable on-line, developing an understanding of how to deal with negative people can be an essential key to their continued ability to reach out to others without feeling either belittled or betrayed by thoughtlessness or off-putting comments.

In order to develop better strategies for identifying  negative people on-line and discerning when it’s time to block, unfriend and walk away, a basic understanding of human behavior is required.

In many instances, negative people will find something wrong with any comment, question or statement you post.

These people are expert complainers, cynics and on-line tyrants.

As such you may find that even the most innocent post can become fair game for those who wish to belittle you.

Their negative response does not mean that you have written or said anything wrong, rather instead it is a reflection of the fact that negative people simply want to spread their negativity as fast as they can.

In order to understand why some people seem to behave so negatively it is appropriate to take a quick look at some basic forms of NT human behavior.

Basic NT Human Behavior.

Everything NT’s do and say in their lives is shaped by their particular life experience.

NT’s learn from a very early age that certain behaviors produce certain results.

For example, if they are hungry and they cry, someone will give them food.

If they throw a tantrum, someone will pay attention to them and ask what is wrong.

If they throw a big enough tantrum, people will leave them alone.

These learned behaviors stay with them throughout their lives.

At this point I think it’s really important to state that people who are not neuro-typical (NT) do not learn life’s lessons in the same ways that NT’s do and so therefore do not expect nor seek the same responses from their actions, as their actions are being derived from a completely different place.

How the lines of confusion arise

As adults we are all, regardless of neurological wiring, expected to repress our feelings of discomfort (or stress) and behave in a more civilized manner when communicating with others.

Many of us are trying to do just this.

However, expressing ourselves in a more socially acceptable way takes advanced communication skills, and sometimes people with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism haven’t developed those advanced skills as fully or as manipulatively as NT’s have.

Consequently, this leaves those of us who are non neuro-typical open to attacks or experiences of invalidation when participating in on-line forums or groups.

This is especially true for those of us who are still learning social cues and the norms of social interactions.

It is therefore little wonder that many of us may have difficulties in discerning which negative comments are meant to be deliberately invalidating and which comments may simply be another persons open and honest statement of disagreement.

The inability to discern these differences often exposes us to further attacks.

So what can you do when faced with someone whose comments are consistently negative yet you’re not sure why?

Chances are, when faced with negative comments from others you may find yourself reacting in one of the following ways:

1. Simply withdrawing from the on-line conversation.

2. Depending on whether or not you believe yourself to be in the right, standing your ground (even to the point where you may risk inadvertently offending others). In which case, 9 times out of 10 you are probably being baited, which means the commenter is deliberately trying to upset you so that you will respond to them.

Whilst these responses may at times be valid, discerning what the intentions of the commenter may be and therefore when to apply each response, and with what degree of ferocity to do so, remains a key problem.

Strategies for Dealing with the Comments of Negative People

A more successful outcome for those whose first response to a negative comment is to either withdraw from the conversation completely, or jump in boots and all, may be to ask the negative commenter exactly what they mean by their comment.

If they are willing to further refine their perspective it may make it more obvious whether or not their words were aimed at causing offense or were simply too clumsily put together for literally minded people to be able to accurately understand them.

Responding in this way allows 4 key things to happen.

It enables you to remain within the conversation, discussion or forum without feeling the immediate need to either withdraw or defend your position.

It provides you with the ability to question the commenter thus putting the onus to defend the comment back on them.

It allows the commenter the opportunity to either rephrase or explain the meaning of their comment more fully.

Finally it enables others who may not have initially found the comment to be negative or offensive to re-evaluate both the comment and the person making it.

Either way, by questioning the commenter, you have neither left the conversation or felt forced to defend your own response without first having the benefit of further clarification.

In this way developing an awareness of how you most commonly deal with negative people and comments may help you better deal with them.

In many instances maintaining an awareness of your own behavior can enable you to choose to act in a manner that may prevent an encounter with a negative person from escalating.

Making the choice not to communicate in an unproductive way removes the likelihood that you will be replaying the conversation in your head for days or thinking of all the zingers you wish you’d said!

For any Aspie that’s a bonus.

 

Facebook = Hate Book = The Rise of Anti-Social Media

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Seriously, I think Facebook should be renamed Hate Book.

Well, at least as far as teenagers are concerned, anyway.

Every time I check my 13 year old’s Facebook page I’m confronted by a moving wall of endless complaints from her friends.

Comments like – “I hate my family”, “I hate being alive”, “I hate school”,  “I hate my friends”, and on and on it goes.

Now  I guess there are many who would say that such claims are just expressions of ‘normal teenage angst’, which yes, they may well be, but what’s not normal are the kids that then go on to contribute comments such as…… “well go kill yourself then”….  to the threads of their so-called friends.

Worse still are the bitch fights that begin over such simple things, such as not liking someone’s status, and then develop into real world physical fights in either the playground or the street.

Then of course there are the teenagers who use Facebook to sell drugs to their friends.  Blatantly advertising their wares by posting them as  Facebook statuses, complete with bag sizes, grams and prices.

Just how and why this practice of dealing drugs on Facebook continues on unabated exasperates me.

Wasn’t Facebook meant to have put in place new protocols not so long ago to address the issues of promoting hatred and illegal activities?

I remember when  the biggest problem with the internet used to be that people would say harmful things on-line  that they’d be too cowardly to say to another person’s face, but now, the  hateful  things said on Facebook are crossing the binary divide and fast becoming real life translations of either drug dealing or cruelty en mass.

So, if the internet is meant to be the tool that levels the playing field between the big guys and the little every day man, then what’s going so wrong with it, that the little man now finds himself tearing his neighbor apart without ever leaving his own home?

And if adults can’t even use social media properly, then why on earth are we letting our children play so haphazardly with it?

Since when did social media become anti-social media?

Perhaps everyone needs to watch the movie ‘Disconnect’.

Any thoughts?

Has your child’s use of digital/social media changed the way you parent them?

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There’s been a lot of talk during the past few years over the way  in which digital media has changed the way our children interact with each other and the world around them, but just how, I wonder, has it changed the way we parent them?

Are we becoming media savvy parents?

You know the kind of parents who are friends with all of their children on Facebook and as a result spend half their nights keeping track of who’s who in their children’s lives on-line, only to find themselves increasingly losing the everyday, face to face, talking with real words, communication battle?

If so, just what kind of messages are we sending to our children if one of our main modes of communicating with them is now being delivered via social media sites like Facebook ?

Are we proving that we are cool, up with it all parents, or are we simply guilty of giving in to the pressure to communicate with our children by any means possible?

Even if doing so, in the end, puts us at risk of becoming the kind of parents who are slowly  being conditioned to change our ways rather than encouraging our children to adapt to our preferred method of communication.

And if, as parents, we don’t adapt to things like Facebook, could we be considered less socially able to understand the contexts in which our children are fleshing out their daily lives?

What do you think?

Has your child’s use of digital/social media forced you to change the way you parent your child?

 

Taking the Good with the Bad. Learning how to find the positives in negative blog comments.

The Sportsmanship of Cyber-warfare ...item 2.....

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through some of the negative comments I’ve received on my posts over the past few months, it’s how to find the positives in negative feedback.

Now trust me, in order for me to this, it took an extraordinary amount of effort and there were often times when I would find myself coming back to the same negative comments again and again in order to try to figure out just what it was about them that triggered some sore point within me.

Sometimes this process took  weeks and in one particular case ,even months, of reading and re-reading the words of others in order to try to understand their perspectives on issues that seemed either so clear, or so personal to me, that the differences of opinions expressed by others cut me deeply.

Given that I write, as I do, on some very personal and complex issues, a negative comment can and often does feel somewhat akin to a slap across the face to me.

The words of others can sting me far harder than any bee ever could.

Never-the-less, over the last few months,  I’ve come to realize that not all negative comments are necessarily bad.

Sure they may feel as if they are at the time, but, if you take the time to give yourself some distance and really allow yourself to delve into those words, then sometimes, just sometimes, you may find yourself coming out of it all with a new, or even just a slightly altered, perspective.

Through this approach I’ve come to understand that sometimes the comments that I’d at first considered to be negative and hurtful, were just in point fact, showing me a very different way of thinking about issues, than the ways I normally would.

For me, reaching this level of understanding has been helpful.

Dare I say it, even insightful.

So the next time you receive a negative comment on any of your blog posts, or even a comment that you don’t fully understand, providing of course that it’s not witless spam, instead of trashing it, just hold it over for a few days and give the words within it a chance to sink in.

You may just find a small glimmer of wisdom hidden within all the  negativity that you hadn’t been able to see before.

Of course having said that, you will always get some negative comments that simply are just that, negative comments, designed to be either disrespectful or hurtful.

In a lot of ways, such comments will always come as part and parcel of being willing to put yourself out there by blogging.

The trick to it all is to figure out which negative comments you are reacting too most strongly and then to give yourself the time, permission and willingness to  try to figure out what it is about those particular comments that impact on you so keenly.

You may find that they strike at some inner conviction that you’ve held so deeply inside of you that you’d become almost unaware that you’d even been holding it until that bell was rung or that chord was struck inside of you, by a  negative comment.

You may also find, as I have recently, that having a different opinion on something is not in and of itself  necessarily a negative and that sometimes these differences of opinion can show you new and useful ways of thinking about old situations.

Just remember, not everyone who questions your ideas is necessarily doing you harm, and  that similarly, not everyone who agrees with you is necessarily helping you to gain any deeper understanding of either yourself or your situation.

Words Cloud 02/01-08/02 2009

Happy blogging everyone :)

 

The Miracles of Blogging

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One of the things that continues to amaze me about blogging is how a post written almost a year ago, can suddenly jump back up and find itself with a whole new audience of readers.

This has happened today with my post http://seventhvoice.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/dog-fox-field-the-history-lesson-behind-australian-poet-les-murrays-powerful-poem-on-disability/

I do not know who has picked up this post and twittered it out into the digital universe  once again for all to share but I am grateful to whom ever did so.

To me;

It is one of the miracles of blogging,

That words,

Penned so long ago,

Can still reach out,

And speak in the present,

To the minds of others.

To whom ever breathed new life into this post,

Thank you.