Keep The Things You Love Offline

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Keep The Things You Love Offline

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how people with healthy, satisfied, and productive lives tend to avoid social media. Or at least excessive use of social media. Today I want to extend those thoughts a bit and address the tendency many people have to post their hobbies, crafts, achievements, and goals online. While you can argue that there are a few positives to posting online, my advice on the whole is this. Keep the things you love offline if you want them to remain enjoyable. And if you want to keep your sanity.

Before I shred your desire to post online, let’s talk about why people post their lives online and the few positives of doing so. Some people post their hobbies, crafts, etc. as a way to share what they’re doing with others, or to keep a personal record. There’s no purpose other than to put it out there because it makes them happy and/or they’re proud of the work. Others do it as a form of accountability tracking. After all, if others are following your journey you’re more motivated to do the work. Still others post as a path to recognition and legitimacy. If “the right people” see your stuff, you may receive an amazing opportunity or be recognized in some public way.

These are all valid reasons to post online. But… And here’s the big but. You need seriously thick skin if you’re posting your work or beloved activities online because everything, no matter how innocuous it seems, will get torn apart online. If that’s going to affect your love of something, you’re better off keeping it to yourself.

I’ve had it happen to me and I see it all the time on various hobby forums and social media. Here’s an example from Reddit. (Which, yeah, it’s Reddit, but Reddit is a microcosm of internet trolling at its finest. It happens on all the social media platforms.) I lurk on the Lego forums. People post their creations for others to view. All well and good, but many commenters then proceed to tear the creation apart. While constructive criticism might be welcome, I doubt the poster really loves seeing comments like, “This sucks,” “You don’t know what you’re doing,” “This looks like a five year old built it,” or, “You must be poor because you can’t afford the bricks to do it right.” It’s especially heartbreaking when you can tell the poster is a beginner (or a kid) and just trying to get some feedback so they can learn.

This happens everywhere, in every hobby. People post reviews, homemade components, or thoughts on board games and get ripped apart on (or Reddit). I’ve seen people post poetry on IG only to be torn apart, or short stories blasted to hell on Wattpad. Even when they’re very good! Post your exercise and diet habits to keep yourself accountable? Prepare for body shaming. Post your crafts on Pinterest or IG? You will be told you have no talent. If you’re into a sport and post a practice session, you’ll be told you suck. (Even the pros don’t escape the trolls, so you know you won’t avoid them.) Post a video of yourself playing an instrument? Plan to be crucified unless you’re the next Beethoven. And even then…

You see where’ I’m going with this. There are people online who take joy in destroying others. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, troll. Some of it stems from a desire to gate-keep a hobby, or from sexism or racism. Whatever drives it, it’s cruel. Even if the criticism isn’t true or warranted, the words still hurt. If you see horrible things often enough, you’re likely to question not only your talent but your love of the thing in the first place. I’ve known many people who quit hobbies, side hustles, or whatever else due to the online bullying they received. And that’s a shame because it’s the things we love that give meaning to our lives and make us who we are. Take those things away and you’re looking at mental health problems and an unhappy life.

You don’t have to be great at something in order for it to be important to you and for it to add meaning to your life. There are plenty of things we do just for the joy of it. Sure, maybe we have some hope that it will turn into a money-making gig down the road, or that our talent will be recognized, but for the most part we do these things because we love them. There’s no shame in that. There’s no shame in sucking at something as long as the trying brings you happiness. I suck at a lot of things and I know it (at least by professional standards), but they make me happy so I keep doing them. I just don’t post them online because I know the hate would ruin them for me and that I cannot bear.

Bottom line: If you cannot bear to lose the thing you love, don’t post it online for others to destroy.

If you must post online, how can you avoid the soul-crushing hate?

But you’ve ignored me and you want to post anyway. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but you can try a couple of things to lessen the pain.

First, if you most post online, learn to avoid trouble. As a writer, I take a lot of criticism in my work. But I’ve also learned to avoid online reviews unless they’re from a major outlet because the trolls don’t offer anything helpful. I don’t read my Amazon reviews or anything on Goodreads, for example. I also don’t seek out anything about my work on social media. That way lies madness. Reading that stuff nearly killed my love of writing. If I must read the comments on a post, I skim quickly and move past the hateful stuff before it embeds in my brain.

I also don’t post anything online unless I know it’s the best it can possibly be. You won’t see my first drafts, work in progress, or work for which I’m seeking feedback. I save that stuff for my beta readers and friends. Don’t ask for feedback unless you’re prepared to deal with the fallout. Yes, people still criticize my best work, but knowing it is my best work reduces some of the pain from the inevitable criticism.

Speaking of pain: If you must post your stuff online, save yourself some pain and turn comments off. Trolls live in the comments. Most won’t go through the trouble of actually using a contact form or DM to blast you. They hit the comments and run. The antidote to a lot of hate is to disable commenting on your posts. If the site you’re using won’t let you disable the comments, consider posting elsewhere. Moderating comments isn’t very useful because you still have to read them to moderate them. Moderation will keep others from seeing the negativity, but it won’t save you from it. Disable comments or post elsewhere.

Speaking of elsewhere, lock down social media so that your posts are only visible to those you personally invite. Post all your early drafts, experimental work, or stuff you suck at on this profile. Let your family and friends see the things you enjoy, but keep them away from the trolls. Keep this account separate from anything you must post for professional reasons. Only your best work goes on the professional account and all your silly stuff goes on the locked down account.

Some ideas for keeping things offline/safe while still tracking progress.

So what do you do if you want to keep track of progress or look back on past work or achievements but you want to keep it offline? How can you track the things in your life that make you happy so you can look back on them later? Some ideas:

  • Keep a journal and track your progress and milestones.
  • Start a scrapbook or photo album to showcase the things you’re proud of.
  • For digital work, keep it on a personal website that you control with comments off. Or keep it in the cloud on a non-shareable account.
  • Make a spreadsheet for tracking anything number-related.
  • Cultivate an offline group of people to help you learn and grow. Beta readers, others involved in your sport, fellow hobbyists, etc. are valuable. When feedback is face to face, people are far kinder and more constructive. Plus, hobbies, etc. are so much more enjoyable when shared with real people in real life. Life should be lived in the world, not on the internet. Find your tribe and cultivate it.

(Image courtesy of kaboompics)

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