Know Peace Online: Know Your Self
Six guideposts to a better world online. This week’s guidepost: #knowyourself
A few years ago, I was in charge of running a committee that was forced to conduct its business by conference call. Over the course of the call, I found myself getting very angry at one of the committee members, who was older than I was, and seemed to have little interest in working to build a consensus.
The woman no longer used email, so after the call, I wrote her a letter, trying to explain why I was so angry at her. I addressed my letter and stamped it, but left it by my front door before taking it to the mailbox. The next day, I reflected that she was, after all, considered an “elder” in my organization, and that I needed to be careful about what I said to her. I discarded the letter and wrote another version, again holding off putting it in the mail. The third day, I did the same thing again. By the fourth day, I realized I had worked out my anger, and I decided not to send a letter at all.
Over the years, I’ve gained a greater understanding of myself, helped along by temperament tests that were administered in workplace or organizational settings. One of these tests helped me to realize that my tendency was to speak up, rather than retreat to quiet. I tended to look beyond the known facts, but it also meant I was sometimes too quick to jump to conclusions. And I had a tendency to respond to things in an emotional way — this helped to make me empathetic, but it also meant I might take things too personally.
So how does this play out online? Because I am retired, I now have more free time to spend on social media. Because I’m an extrovert, I like the “social” aspect of social media. But I’ve also come to understand that some posts can make me feel angry and emotional. I recognize that it is very easy for me to fire off a response.
Over time, I have learned that writing is a good way for me to deal with emotions — everything from grief and anger to disappointment and love. But I’ve also learned that although it might make me feel good in the moment, I’m probably better served by not sending a response right away. I’m better served by taking my emotional temperature before sending off a message or a post.
Sometimes in the morning, I will read the newspaper and “share” stories that I think are interesting, sometimes with comments or observations. But if I find myself getting angrier, I remind myself to take a break. Even though I consider myself a sort of “news junkie,” I do the same thing with traditional media. Sometimes it’s healthy to turn off the television or play some music.
Ask yourself: how does your personality influence your behavior online?
And I try to think back to that time when I was forced to send a letter. It’s very easy to hit the “Enter” key and send off an email or make a post. But I may come to regret the words I chose in the heat of the moment. And that rush of satisfaction will likely dissipate very quickly.
For me at least, sometimes it IS better to sleep on it.
Share your thoughts using the hashtag #knowpeaceonline and to sign up to learn more visit our campaign website at knowpeace.online.
Sara Fitzgerald is treasurer of OC Inc. Board of Directors, and retired after a career that included 15 years as an editor and new media developer for The Washington Post.