Setting Boundaries without Building Walls
I’ve read a lot of articles here on Medium about collecting green hearts. And I have read a lot about ignoring those same green hearts, and writing from the heart, instead. It has been the subject of some controversy in the past; one way judged right and one wrong.
But no matter what your end game is, we all have one thing in common. In one way or another, we all came here to connect. Whether personal or professional — whether heart or head — we came to make connections we never would have made out in the real world. We came to build something bigger than just ourselves.
And wherever people congregate to build, or grow, or change, or learn, there will be people looking to destroy and tear it all down.
It’s sad, but it’s human nature.
I thought it was time for a discussion about those people. How do we recognize them? How do we protect ourselves from their attacks? We can only expect Medium to do so much, after all. And I think the staff works hard to keep us safe, but there are certain things we have to take responsibility for, as well.
Here are a couple of things that have helped me to feel safe here, without totally closing myself off:
- Start slowly, and look for connections. — When I first got to Medium, I followed only publications. I wrote responses before I wrote my own pieces because I was reading voraciously and learning who filled what role in the little community. I followed one person whose writing resonated with me and I followed some of the people she followed, just to start.
- Be aware of your vulnerabilities and adjust accordingly. — I noticed that I tended to trust anyone who said nice things about my writing, right out of the gate. And distrust those who were critical. I learned very quickly that this was a mistake. Boundaries are difficult for me to set, but after suffering some consequences, I got better at it. I learned never to give out my personal email or phone number except in very rare and specific instances (but not until after I gave those to some very scary people-don’t be like me!). I don’t use my real name. I learned that a lot of praise from a stranger is sometimes a bad sign. And I found out that not all criticism is meant to hurt me. Quite a few of those critics turned out to be great allies.
- Know thy enemy-- if someone is attacking you, (Or ANYONE, really. Right?), check them out. Everyone who has ever trolled me has been brand new, with one or two followers (if any), following only a couple of people. And always, they were all over the place starting little fires. This doesn’t mean alienate anyone new. It has just been my experience that most new writers refrain from blatant attacks. That doesn’t mean they don’t disagree or defend a position, but I’ve never seen someone come out of the gate straight toxicity and stick around. Not with the same profile, anyway.
- Find your tribe. — When I’d been here a few days, I started to realize that there were certain writers; whether in an original post, or a response to someone else’s; who made me laugh. Some who touched my heart. Some who understood. Some who challenged me. I began to interact with them, a little at a time. I realize now that I took it slow, for the most part, which isn’t like me. But it has worked. Those people were my core community here, and they still are. More people are being added to that group all the time, and I have almost always felt safe.
But not this past week. This past week, things have felt unsafe, and that is the last thing we want to allow to happen here. So I invite a discussion.
How do we protect ourselves from those who would hurt us, for sport? Because they’ve come, and they’ll be back.
Some of them never leave. So, what can we do?