How I Keep an Even Keel on the Internet
The internet is a great and invaluable tool for promoting my work and staying in touch with readers.
It is also a perpetual rage machine and a time sink. Whenever I think I don’t have time to exercise, I just look at the time I spent reading some godawful argument on the internet and I go “Well, I could have been lifting some weights during that. Or spending time with my family. Or drawing.”
You can’t get involved in every argument or discussion no matter how important it is, because there are more arguments and issues than any human being can handle in a 24 hour day. And it is deeply annoying to have someone pipe up and chastise you for not getting involved in something because real people who care about puppies reblog everything about puppies.
Here is an earlier article I wrote about how I use apps and tools to control my internet use. I use Leechblock, Freedom and Self Control.
Here are some other things I do or think through every day.
1) All comics industry sites are categorized in my Leechblock app. I can’t see them after the 5 minute timer is up. That’s not five minutes for each, that’s five minutes combined per day. The only day all sites aren’t blocked is on Sunday, and I usually don’t want to read them on Sunday. My job is to make comics, not to read and argue about them.
2) Social media like twitter and Facebook are a lot of fun for me. But after 11:00 AM, they are blocked on my work computer. The only way I can read them is by using the laptop computer on my treadmill desk. Comics industry sites are blocked on that, too. If I’m going to be tooting around with fans and friends on social media, at the very least, I can combine that with some healthy activity, like walking.
3) If I feel compelled to say something online that I may regret later, I type it up, email it to myself, and then sit on it for a day. 99% of the time, I delete the item and never post it.
4) I stopped posting to message boards on blogs ages ago. I not only feel better, but it greatly lessons the bizarre interactions with strangers that can make internet life a hassle. I have no incentive to provide content for other people’s publicity machine. At least when it’s on my own social media platform, I can promote my own work once in awhile as well.
5) Not everyone is going to agree with you, and if for any reason someone rubs you the wrong way, bugs you or whatever, you have the right not to talk to them. Free speech does not include the right to engagement.
People have the right not to like you. No one owes you a relationship. You don’t have to hang out and talk with everyone you meet in a bar, you don’t have to hang out and talk with everyone you meet on social media. And social media comes right into your living room. If someone isn’t a good guest, you have the right to show them the door.
Block their website, block them on twitter.
And don’t hate read. Almost everyone I know who has a bitter internet feud with someone who was a jerk to them spends an inordinate amount of their time running around the internet hate reading their blogs, feeds and websites.
6) This is the hard one.
There are always going to be people who are friends with people you don’t like. People who have been abusive to you, or abusive to others. Maybe people know about that, maybe people don’t.
But these people are going to show up in your social media feeds, show up hanging out with friends, show up trying to get your attention. Be in articles about you, be in documentaries if you end up going pro. Awkward.
The person who is friends with the guy who stalked you and other women (and hit you at a convention – no I don’t mean hit ON, I mean hit in the face and then ran off,) so vocal about abuse by men in fandom, but when her friend did it to you, she dismisses it as a symptom of his “mental illness” and demands you be “understanding”.
Whew, that standard does not work both ways, I see.
You could spend the rest of your natural life fighting and arguing about this sort of thing, pointing out hypocrisy, demanding justice.
Trying to force someone to choose sides won’t end well. You won’t get the result you want.
So pick your battles and move on.
Either they will learn the truth or they won’t. And if they decide they still want to associate with someone who has done you harm, realize you did more good letting them have free choice than by demanding they make a choice on on your behalf.
7) Everything on the internet is about picking your battles, whether it is the battle of time management and your relentless need to stare at LOLCats, or whatever injustice you think you need to address that day. Big or small, you pick and choose.
But no one gets to pick for you. It is your call. And no one has any idea what kind of battles you are fighting outside of cyberspace.
Maybe your daily life is stressful and difficult enough. And you really do need to take a moment and stroke a LOLCat.
These rules work for me. They may work for you. Or not.