Over on my other site this morning, I wrote something about a quote I heard on Seth Godin’s podcast. It had to do with how the internet has made us all distributors now and how with previous distribution, there’s always been this responsibility to maintain some sort of “standards.” Whether it was a TV network, a newspaper, or a bookstore, someone had to decide what was fit to be distributed and what wasn’t.
On the internet, and especially on social media, there really isn’t one “distributor”. Oh, we like to blame the social network platforms for what gets distributed over them, but in the end, it’s not the owners of the platform who decides what gets shared and what doesn’t. It’s you and me. We decide what we share and how we share it. Thus, we need to recognize our responsibility for what they’ve become. To share the quote from Seth again:
“Going forward, I think we have to realize that the distributor is us. That the distributor, the person who is going to spread the idea, is as responsible for that as the network executive was, the bookstore owner was. That the ideas that we share are the ideas that spread and the ideas that spread are the ideas that win. So when we choose to spread an idea that is corrosive, that tears things down, that takes us away from thoughtful interaction, I think we have to accept the responsibility that we are the distribution now, and we need to own the outcome that comes with that.”
In the mental health and abuse survivor community on the internet, I think this responsibility is something that we need to take very seriously. I’m not sure everyone does, though.
When I started this blog way back in 2001, I set out with a goal of simply making sure there was something out there where someone could find another survivor and maybe get some encouragement from knowing they were not alone in their struggles. 17 years later, that is still the guiding principle behind this site and all of the social media accounts tied to it. From day one, I knew what I couldn’t do and still accomplish that goal, and that was to belittle people, tear people down, judge them, or proclaim to hold the truth of all things related to mental health and survival. I didn’t want this to become a negative place, even though we all have our struggles. I have tried very hard to provide helpful and positive information while also being as careful as I could to not share anything that wasn’t true or was trying to manipulate people.
Over the years, I’ve written or shared many, many things. Some of the things I’ve linked to I thought were worth some more thought or discussion even if I didn’t completely agree with the writer, or they chose their words poorly, and over the years, I’m sure not everyone has agreed with everything I have written. But I hope, at the very least, we can agree that I’ve tried as best to allow for as much thoughtful interaction as possible.
I’ve also tried very hard to support and promote survivors, and the work of advocates, while also being very careful about vetting them if I could. The last thing I wanted was to ruin my credibility and the credibility of this community by promoting a scam or false accusations. So, when I couldn’t corroborate a story someone sent me with some mainstream press article, I chose not to share it. (Thus, the reason I don’t share GoFundMe posts or petitions related to individual cases. I just don’t know if they’re true or not.)
Perhaps in this day and age, my stance may seem somewhat old-fashioned. Maybe. But I take my responsibility as a distributor seriously. I understand that sharing things that aren’t true, spreading conspiracy theories that I have no proof of, attacking people I don’t even know, or using my access to your attention, as small as it may be, to tear things down and spread hate and negativity won’t help a single survivor. It also brings disrepute to the entire community when any of us do that. Those of us trying to shine a light of truth on the issues that have remained in the dark for so long can hold no quarter for anything untruthful or hurtful. There’s simply no room for that. We cannot hold ourselves out as the purveyors of truth, and a supportive community, if we are sharing things that portray the opposite message.
Think before you post or share anything on social media. Consider what it is that you are distributing and whether it adds to the lives of the people who follow you. If it does, share away. If you think anything I’ve written fits that bill or anything that I’ve linked to or shared does, share the heck out of it. Please. If you know of other things that are worthy of being shared, that bring good ideas to the forefront that will help people and shine a light on truth and healing, share the heck out of those too.
The internet and social media do not have to be the muck-filled pit that we so often hear it described as. We are the ones who decide what ideas to distribute to our followers. We can create our little areas on those platforms where we build each other help, we share valuable, positive messages. We can advocate for more resources and help without tearing each other down, we can even disagree on the best ways to get these things done. Most of all, we can have thoughtful conversations and recognize the humanity in each of us. That’s an idea that should win, not anger and hatred.