Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Courteous Internet: Encouraging Others Online
"That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong." -F. Scott Fitzgerald
Since my return to blogging a couple of months ago, I have noticed that a lot of things have changed- but even more have stayed the same. The internet and blogging world can be an encouraging and informative place- but it can also be extremely cruel and discouraging. Whether you are a full-time blogger, a casual reader, a Pinterest skimmer, or a blog subscriber, there are ways that you can encourage other people online that only take a minute of time. If everyone decided to focus more on civility and encouragement, the internet world (and the world as a whole) would be a much more pleasant place.
Blogging and writing are a lot of work. While most of us do it for ourselves, every blogger- in some small part- does it so that they can be a voice to others. A light in the world. While it shouldn't matter who reads our blog or takes what we say to heart, it does. It's a narcissistic world and we want to know that others like us. It's not always narcissism, though- part of it is just knowing that what you are doing might be making a difference to someone, somewhere. Few things are more discouraging than futility.
If there are blogs that you follow, or even blogs that you come across casually but you really like what they have to say or teach, let them know. LET THEM KNOW. I have had two different blogs, and the same proved true for both: for every hundred page views, you maybe receive one comment. Maybe. As a writer, it is hard to see that and not think, "They hated it." A friend and I talked about this recently, and she said, "Honestly, I read a lot of blogs- but I just don't even think about leaving a comment. It's not that people aren't reading it- it's just that most of them don't realize that commenting matters." The writer can't see inside your heart and doesn't know that you read their words and felt something- in this instance, numbers CAN lie. I know that many other bloggers will agree with me on this: comments make our day. Comments let us know that our words have not gone out into the world and come back empty, but that they have hit their target and left their mark. Even short (meaningful) comments do so much to encourage a writer. If something made you laugh, inspired you, encouraged you, or taught you- leave a comment. It is such an easy way to leave your own mark and encourage someone else. My favorite comments are the ones where the person tells me their own story- how they might be in the same place I am, or have gone through something similar. This makes me feel like I am connecting with someone on a personal level, and that can make the world seem a bit smaller and a bit kinder. Even if the post is just a recipe or craft project, leave a comment- especially if you made it and had good results. This tells the writer that their time was not wasted. NOTE: If you are leaving a comment that is anything but encouraging, just don't. You don't have to share your opinion. Mommy Blog Trolls are one of the quickest ways to ruin a blogger's day. Don't be that person.
Sharing is caring. If you enjoyed something someone wrote- whether it be a recipe, a picture, a post- sharing it means that people outside the normal reach of the author's words might see it. Sharing the link on Pinterest, on Facebook, or on Twitter means more exposure for the writer. Why does this matter? It certainly isn't your job to advertise for a blogger, but think about this: when you share something that encouraged you, you make it easier for it to encourage others around you. You can be the catalyst for encouragement for your friends and also people you don't know. It also helps the blogger, because the greater their reach, the greater their opportunity. Many bloggers are trying to supplement their family's income by writing- and the greater their reach, the more opportunities to help their family come their way. It may not be your job, but wouldn't helping others be a good legacy to have, even if it is someone you've never met?
Affiliate links are not a trap. As I said before, many bloggers are trying to help their families while doing something they love. It only takes a second to click an affiliate link for something you are going to buy anyways, but it helps someone else to pursue their dream and support their family. It doesn't cost you anything, but it enables you to help someone else. It might not be as glamorous as donating to a charity, but it does have an impact.
Let's face it- blogging takes a lot of time and energy. Some of us are trying to be "top bloggers", while others are just trying to make a small impact. Whatever your reason for blogging, there are ways that you can have an impact for the greater good of bloggers around you.
I am a member of a blogging community that enables me to share my posts and have an audience. I also take part in a lot of blog hops and linky parties in order to share my posts with a wider circle. This is a blessing. What is frustrating, though, is the inequality of reciprocation I see in some blogger interactions. Like most things, blogging can be very inward-focused. Everyone that takes part in these communities and blog hops do so for the same reason I do: to gain more exposure. It defeats the purpose of that, however, when you leave a link and then decide not to visit the other blogs. Even if you only have time to visit a couple, that means you are taking the time to reach out and encourage other writers who are just like you. Sometimes these blog hops or communities have rules- like "visit X number of people joining today's blog hop" or "visit the person who posted before you". When you neglect these rules, everyone suffers. These rules are designed to make sure that the blog hop or community is doing what it is supposed to: connect bloggers and help them to reach a wider circle of readers. It's unfair to expect people to visit your blog via these resources when you don't take the time to do it yourself. If you don't have the time to reciprocate, don't join in. Be considerate of your fellow bloggers- they are in the same boat as you.
When you are visiting, take the time to leave a truly meaningful comment. I think we can all tell when someone is leaving a comment just because they have to- and while comments are nice, comments that feel like someone is ticking you off of a list are discouraging and a bit insulting. If I am reading a post where I just honestly can't find anything to say that would encourage the writer, I will take a few minutes and look for a different post on their blog. This can be time-consuming, but things worth doing often are. It is only going to cost you a couple of minutes of time- and when we take the time to truly encourage someone else, that time is not wasted.
I always try to visit the blogs of people who leave comments on my posts. Always. If someone has taken the time to read my post and write me a comment, I want to take the time to let them know I appreciate it. I have discovered a lot of new blogs this way. Sometimes I get comments from people who either don't have a blog or who haven't linked it to their comment. In this case, I will send them an email. Even if you "reply" to comments on your blog, the person you are replying to doesn't always see it. The best way to reciprocate their generosity is by taking the time to appreciate what they might be pouring their heart into- and by letting them know. I know some bloggers receive hundreds of comments and that visiting the blogs of all of those people is not feasible, but if you have a few comments trickle in over the course of the day- just take a couple of minutes to appreciate the people who appreciate you. It's a simple but courteous thing to do.
Your impact on this world doesn't have to be a huge effort. Sometimes the largest impacts come from small moments and gestures that are often neglected and ignored. You might not be able to save the world, but you can be a light and an encouragement to others. You may not be a writer, but you can make it easier for writers to inspire others simply by reaching out to them and letting them know their words have made a difference. If we encourage the people who are writing to encourage others, think about the ripple effect it can have. People who work in ministry often become burned out because of overwork, lack of appreciation, and feelings of futility. Writing can be a ministry, and I have seen a lot of writers stop writing because it felt to them like their words just didn't matter to anyone. YOU can change that, and that can change the world. Be an encouragement.
Please share this post with others and let them know how they can be an encouragement in the online world too!
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Linking with Thoughtful Thursday, Hearts for Home, Women Helping Women, Wise Woman Linkup, UNITE Link Party, No Rules Weekend Blog Party, Weekend Blog Hop, That Friday Blog Hop, Fellowship Fridays, Essential Fridays, Friendship Fridays