Survivor Blogging Trends 2017: Part Four – Challenge #1

Survivor Blogging Trends 2017

Part Four: Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

NOTE: This series was originally designed to be three posts, with this one being on positive trends and continuing challenges in survivor blog communities. However, I am splitting this into two posts so they are shorter, and the series will conclude with a few continuing challenges.

Introduction

Part of what I do in research writing focuses on analyzing paradigm systems. This means I am looking at multiple parts, how they work together, gaps and excesses that create inherent problems that turn the system toxic or otherwise prevent health and sustainability for the individuals and institutions aligned with that paradigm.

The aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections and the rancorous social media fights that ensued left me asking more questions than usual about social media. (And I have in mind primarily Facebook, Twitter, and blogs here.) I believe a series of generic problems can limit the usefulness of these communication forms. And, some of these flaws tend to get amplified in survivor blogging.

So, for this final topic in this series, I will present what I see as the general problem and then some of the ways this can work out to be more difficult in survivor communities posts. And, as I noted in Part Two, I’m speaking here at the big-picture level, which means there are likely many individual exceptions to the generalizations.

I’ll be splitting Part Four three segments, with one challenge in each:

  1. The problems of working with words.
  2. The natural limits of crowd-sourced fact gathering.
  3. The lack of a civil and conciliatory society.

Continuing Challenges in Survivor Blog Communities

Challenge #1 — We’re Working Mostly in Words

Although videos, gifs, images, and memes have been working their way into social media in recent years, we’re still working mostly in words. And that presents a major problem, because English is a language that is especially vulnerable to misinterpretation. (I have little doubt on this conclusion from my formal academic training in linguistics and ESL, and various experiences in cross-cultural communication.) I recently posted a series of seven tweets about this problem on a friend’s post where he talked about being “tone policed” for an article on his blog. Here’s what I wrote, put back into paragraph form and edited to restore wording that had to be condensed out for Twitter.

Many social media types are tough because they’re mostly just words in print. So, when the meaning of the words is ambiguous, the 40/60 rule helps us understand why social media is stressful. According to that rule, only 40% of intended meaning comes from (1) the words themselves, and the other 60% comes from the larger context, which includes (2) tone of voice, (3) facial expression, and (4) overall body language.

* Face to face offers all 4 forms of input to determine meaning.

* Skype, about 3.5 out of 4.

* Video phone calls 3.

* Much social media is just 1, maybe 2 if there is an image or illustration.

It is already easy to misinterpret meaning, or to project our own context onto communications when it’s just words in print. Compound the lack of communication elements via print-based media with a possible environment of toxicity/mistrust, and what could happen? Assumptions, reactivity, tone issues?

In print-words-only cases, it takes far more effort to ask others for details and listen to them if we want to have real dialog. This could help explain why there is “social media fatigue” and people taking breaks. It takes effort and discipline to process short info-bursts with limited context and high emotion, such as we especially encountered since the 2016 campaigns and election.

The last two paragraphs hint at a perennial problem in survivor blogging. We deal with topics that hit spiritual bruise spots where people have already been hurt. Many victims of those who abuse their power have suffered in silence. When we do find a website that addresses malignant leaders and toxic institutions similar to what they’ve experienced, they can find healing insights and emotional support. That may infuse us with a newfound sense of hope, perhaps even a level of greater control over our lives.

But reading and maybe participating in survivor blog threads doesn’t automatically fill in all gaps in our understanding, or correct any flaws in our paradigm. (For instance, as I’ve stated other times, it took me three years to finally get it about why survivor bloggers who’d been around a while said the issue in toxic churches was authoritarianism – not legalism.) Nor does it automatically heal our wounds, or end any ongoing symptoms of trauma we may be experiencing: the nightmares, the “daymare” flashbacks, the triggering words or situations or images that poke the soul and evoke emotional states like those from the abuse.

We who’ve been negated at the core of our being by spiritual bullies can have a tendency to be reactive – especially when we’ve endured periods where no one listened to our cries or took us seriously. On survivor blogs, our voice can (finally) be heard! We can express righteous outrage at those who perpetrate abuse, and those perpetuate systemic abuse by enabling those at the top of a power pyramid.

However, it’s difficult to slow down when we’ve gotten worked up. So, there can end up being quite a bit of lashing out on survivor blog threads. We may not read articles and comments carefully. We may respond too quickly with a conclusion to what we thought we read, instead of seek more information. We may wrongly project motivations onto people. Or labeling them as abusive. Or be snarky or sarcastic at legitimate questions being asked.

But slash-and-dash to leave a mark, or one-upping the last clever commenter isn’t exactly instructive or constructive. Those are dialog stoppers or inflammatory starters, especially toward people who’ve been part of keeping a toxic organization going but may be in a change process. Perhaps we should even consider whether what we’re doing involves ourselves using control tactics …

Look – I can list all of these destructive responses because I’ve done all of them, many times. I’m not against protecting those who’ve been victimized. But how often are there times when there’s been piling on of someone who wasn’t clear, or simply said something that wasn’t liked by someone else? Are we exercising enough calm to make sure first we understood what others were actually trying to communicate in printed word?

That leads to a second and third general problem with social media, as I see it: We don’t always reason through facts, opinions, and speculations – and so we’re not even discussing from the same base of information; and, we lack commitment to a civil and conciliatory society, so it’s more about competition/debate than collaboration/dialog. I’ll share some thoughts on each of those challenges in separate posts.

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Note: The “40/60 rule” is not something I made up. I ran across it years ago in my linguistics studies. Unfortunately, I cannot relocate the source of the material and so have drawn the details from memory. If I do find the source or online link, I’ll be sure to add it.

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