Being Aware about Safe Spaces and Self Care

One of the things people complain about is that I will walk away from a conversation that’s going nowhere. This extends to my worklife, and of course my WordPress work. Related to this, I will also choose to not engage with argumentative demands like “Why did you do X?” on places like Twitter and Facebook.

This is often considered to be cowardly, an admission of wrongdoing, avoidance, or proof I’m not “up” for the job. Sometimes people jump into the special snowflake argument (that is: I am one) or that I’m too sensitive and need a safe space.

Okay, let me explain why I don’t defend myself, or even generally reply to people who demand explanations.

Social Media is Unsafe

I like social media. I like reading thoughts and replying, expressing my own short form feelings, and so on.

But by its open nature, social media is incredibly dangerous. Anyone can talk to anyone, and if we’ve learned anything from recent days, there are a lot of naive people out there who fall prey to any con man who walks up and tells them it’s not their fault their life sucks.

It also lends itself to a mob. And mobs are the most dangerous sorts of people. They’ve fallen in truck with a group and they believe everything they’re told. Worse. They are regularly aggressive when they face adversity, and they take justice upon themselves. This means, should you ever happen to upset one of them, you will end up with a mob on your doorstep. Or your DMs.

A Place For Everything

Recently, a plugin developer made what should have been an innocuous question. Why was a post moderated. This is the sort of question I get a lot, and in general I press mute and ignore it, because if you want to ask me a question about plugins, there’s an email address you already have. Press reply. And if you want to ask about forums stuff, there’s a channel on Slack.

The problem here was in the hours leading up to this, he’d also spoken with people about another plugin. This plugin happens to be contentious for many reasons, including overmoderation of bad reviews. Someone decided that one and one meant four, and I was the fault of the reviews being removed.

I think that if you have questions about a team, you logically ask the team. Or the team management. When you ask someone whom you presume to be the point person on Twitter, you run a risk of a public misfire. You also run a risk of signaling to the mob who their new target is. Which is what accidentally happened that day.

Angry People are Stressful

If you’ve ever tried to reason with someone who’s angry, you’ve probably reached a point where you thought it was better to bash your head in than try to explain facts. When you get a mob, it’s even worse. The people start out super angry, they refuse to accept any viewpoint but their own, and they make you angry too. This begins a vicious cycle where you overreact, they get angrier, you get angrier, and bad decisions are made.

It goes without saying, I’m not exempt from this. I make bad decisions when under anger and stress, same as pretty much everyone. While I strive not to, this is nearly impossible, and that is when I will disengage. Because I can tell I’m not going to be reasonable, and that would be harmful.

But what changes when you’re the end stop of a team? When you’re the rep and you have no choice but to make the decisions and the hard calls and continue to try? Well, you draw a line about where you will have those conversations. And you draw a line about with whom. Like saying “I won’t do this over Twitter.”

Say No, Even When You Feel Bad

The main reason I won’t have a conversation about why decisions are made on Twitter is that there is no accountability for actions.

Anyone can make an anonymous account and troll people, telling them off for perceived slights. But to take your regular, daily use account and step up to ask a question, in the official location for those discussions, takes courage. More important, it takes a quality of human that will accept responsibility for their actions.

Most of the time. The odds are at least higher that people will be willing to discuss when they come into a discussion room. Obviously not always, and unlike Twitter I can’t mute or block people who are incapable of accepting ‘no’ as a valid answer.

Because you see, the main reason I don’t want to have the conversation on Twitter is that I worry you’re going to out yourself. That you will embarrass yourself when I say that leaving a review on the moderators in a plugin review is not appropriate. Or if I explain “You made multiple accounts to leave 5 star reviews on your own plugins.” Or worse, when I have to point out that “You called the moderators Nazi c***s.”

None of those are made up.

Emotional Labour

There’s one more thing.

When someone walks up to me and demands I explain myself to them, they place a burden on me. Literally they ask me to defend my actions. While the word “explain” is in there, it’s not what they mean. What they mean is for me to justify my actions and choices.

Usually when I attempt to explain the situation, or if I suggest the one they’re comparing to isn’t the same at all, I get called defensive. Or I’m trying to hide the point.  And I’m expected to do it with a smile. If I call someone out on their inability to reason, I’m a bitch and making excuses. If I’m polite and respectful, I’m hiding something.

Simply put, if I can’t have a civil, reasonable, conversation with them about it, I’m not going to waste my time. No matter what, they’ve made up their minds going in.

Now, I will note that after some time doing this, you can tell who is going to be a stubborn jackass and who is not after about two passes. I can tell, on Twitter, from their previous tweets. That’s why I’m quick to mute and block. It’s not to silence them, it’s to sufficiently ignore them and not spend energy on someone who begins a conversation from a place of disrespect.

None Of This Changed Your Opinions of Me

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a regular who knows you’re getting an opinionated, open minded, person who looks as intently at herself as she does everything else. In order to be truly honest, I have to be honest about myself, who and what I am, and what I say. 

The other person who’s reading this probably came from a link someone gave you, following a discussion about my flaws. Let’s be honest, I’m a big fat target for those posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other various blog sites around the planet.

You both probably got here and thought “Yep, she’s exactly what I thought.”

Funny how that works.

I’ll leave you with this relevant article about why YouTube stars are heading for burnout:

Lees began to feel a knock-on effect on his health. “Human brains really aren’t designed to be interacting with hundreds of people every day,” he says. “When you’ve got thousands of people giving you direct feedback on your work, you really get the sense that something in your mind just snaps. We just aren’t built to handle empathy and sympathy on that scale.” Lees developed a thyroid problem, and began to experience more frequent and persistent stretches of depression. “What started out as being the most fun job imaginable quickly slid into something that felt deeply bleak and lonely,” he says.

The Guardian