I Am, I Know

Yesterday, I Was Called A Bully And A Bitch For Having An Opinion

On Thursday night, I shared a Facebook status from MND Australia, celebrating the fact they’ve had $500,000 donated in the past two weeks from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Sandi Sieger - Facebook Status

A Facebook “friend” made a point that the money they’ve raised is taking away from other charities and we delved into a discussion about it. Well, I think we tried to delve into a discussion about it, but when I began questioning the person – and sticking to my guns and not backing down from something I believe to be true – they didn’t like it. Not one bit.

The discussion very quickly moved away from the challenge and fast became all about me being a very insensitive and mean person for being so offensive. I did, after all, call people who are negative ‘miserable sods’.

Which they are. Well, at least from where I’m standing.

The thing most people that know me understand about me is this: I will never enter a debate, or be so incredibly headstrong during one, if a single fibre of my being is unsure about my exact opinion or the facts. And, during debate, I’m always open to other opinions and points and arguments – otherwise, you’re really just talking to yourself, aren’t you?

But here’s what people that know me also understand about me: I won’t tolerate bullshit. And name-calling. And finger pointing. And cowardice.

The discussion went down hill quickly because the questions I asked failed to get answered. Because they couldn’t be answered. Because hypocrisy was rife. And I called it out.

So I got called a bully.

And instead of bowing out (I gave an opportunity to ‘agree to disagree’), the person kept at it. And when I told them, if they continued, I’d give them something to be really offended about, they kept at it. So I told them to go and find something more productive to do with their day, instead of hassling me.

So I got called a bitch.

To be clear: being called a bully and bitch doesn’t bother me. I know I am neither.

What bothers me is that someone – this man – made our entire conversation redundant because he chose to be offensive (something he was admonishing me for, funnily enough) and, instead of answering the question, or raising a single point at all, threw his hands in the air and yelled ‘bully’ and ‘bitch’.

We all know it doesn’t work like that.

If you choose to enter a debate, be bloody prepared to battle it out, like an adult, leaving insults aside, and if you can’t handle it, don’t step up to the podium.

Or, as the old saying goes, don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

I’m assuming I was called a bully and a bitch because I dared to question him. Because I didn’t back down from my opinion. Because I didn’t give in. And because I wouldn’t just darn well come out and say that yes, I was offensive and yes, you are right and I shouldn’t call people who are being negative ‘haters’ or ‘miserable sods’.

The real issue is I called him out. Period. I dared to hit him with a little bit of honesty, without sugar-coating my words, and he didn’t like it.

That’s not really my problem.

I don’t expect everyone to always agree with me. Far from it. I’ve had my opinion swayed far more times than I’d like to admit because I sat back and listened to someone else’s view.

I believe healthy and lively discussion is the only way people, and countries, really progress.

But there’s a big, big problem in Australia at the moment; the second anyone shares an opinion (whether it be your version of right or wrong, or completely outrageous) they’re shut down and ridiculed. If they’re well known, the media turns their opinion into a circus, if they’re not well known, they’re defriended on Facebook and blacklisted.

All for having an opinion.

Let’s get one thing clear: healthy, lively debate, where both sides are prepared to listen, but also belt it out, is vital. It’s vital to life, and relationships, and growth, and hope.

But when adults allow themselves to be disgracefully over-sensitive, when they allow ignorance to rule their mouths, and shut down their ears, we are left with a really big problem.

Stagnancy.

We become boring and dull and downright sluggish.

And whilst I’m not suggesting that everybody starts throwing opinions around every five minutes, I am saying we need to shake off this culture of shush and start learning how to listen and engage without being so offended.

I have absolutely no problem with the person that called me a bully and a bitch. I’d sit opposite them at dinner tonight and chat away happily. But I doubt they could say the same applies for them.

When did people become so petty? When did we, as a culture, become so offended, by everything, that it blinded us from what really matters?

I always believe that out of a negative comes a positive. And yesterday, when I was scratching my head and wondering how little this person must really think of me, the positive started to appear.

My phone started ringing. I started getting text messages. And private messages. It was from friends saying: ‘Well done.’ ‘Good on you.’ ‘Need me to put my fist in anyone’s face for you?’ And they kept coming from people I haven’t seen in far too long: ‘I love it when you speak and write.’ ‘Go for the jugular!’ ‘I’ve just read through the comments on your profile and this bloke is a bit out of line, I just wanted to offer my support to you.’ And then they started coming from people I don’t even really know at all: ‘I totally agree with you!’ ‘You’re bloody goooooooooooood.’

And, that, right there, made me realise that out of all the good things in my life, and out of all the good things I have done, this was the very best of them: surrounding myself, and building for myself, a network of positive people. Passionate, intelligent, rational, spirited people.

They are the very antithesis of stagnant.

And the reason I’m writing all of this is because I want you to know that you should never shy away from your opinion. By doing so, you shy away from yourself.

I want you to know that you should always stand up for yourself and sticky by, and to, the things you believe in.

Most of all, I really want you to stop pussy-footing around. Around people. Around issues. Around ideas. Around yourself.

Be proud of who you are.

I sure as hell am.

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I Know

Not All Mothers Are Created Equal

Not long after I had my baby boy last year, a friend added me to a Mum’s group on Facebook – the kind of closed group where people ask questions and share advice about parenting.

Tonight, I left the group. I can no longer deal with the completely ignorant, trivial, outrageously stupid comments. It’s infuriating. And I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intention of the group.

I’m honestly surprised I remained a part of it for so long. Sure, there have been a few helpful posts from time to time, but not often enough to justify seeing absolute dribble pop up in my timeline more often than desired.

Perhaps something went wrong when I had my baby. I didn’t change as a person. I didn’t grind my life to a halt and spend every moment obsessing about my child. I didn’t become paranoid about germs and noise pollution.

I am still the same person.

In fact, I might even be a bit better. A tad wiser. And even less interested in being diplomatic.

Because, after having a child, here’s one thing I know more than anything else: having a child does not make you intelligent or productive or logical or accomplished or attractive. If you didn’t have it before you were a parent, you aren’t going to have it after becoming one.

And contrary to what the world will have you believe, we are not all born equal. I am not the same as you or him or her and certainly not them. We are the product of our environment, our genes, our choices, our experiences, our opinions, our attitude and so much more. Some people are better than others. That’s not even up for debate. It’s the bloody truth. And if you disagree, if you’re offended, you should probably stop reading now.

This is only going to get worse.

Tonight’s post, the one that raised my blood pressure and quickly prompted me to hit ‘leave group’, was from a mum expressing concern that the childcare centre she was considering enrolling her son in had a male carer and that was a major turn off to her. Because, you know, male carers in childcare centres must automatically be child molesters.

I was actually a little disgusted by her view. I read through the comments on the post and some people thought she was being overly paranoid and others agreed with her. And then I thought; I wonder what people would have said if she expressed concern about an Asian carer at the childcare centre? Or an Indian one? Or a homosexual carer?

And then I thought; what kind of men does this woman have in her life? Because all of the men in mine are wonderful and decent and exceptional, and dare I say it, sometimes much better people than their female counterparts.

And then I thought; how did we get to a point where it’s ok to validly and publicly assume that the actions of a few horrible men can define an entire gender and generation?

And then I thought; I bet she watches A Current Affair every night. That or Today Tonight. Because if you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer or you’re more ignorant than informed, it’s the exact type of deluded paranoia that these pathetic programs rely on to keep their ratings afloat.

And now, typing away furiously, I think; why just men? Women can be violent and abusive. What about that?

So that was it for me.

That and the fact I’m not actually interested in half the shit these mothers talk about. Parenting isn’t actually that complicated. Your child is not a robot designed to mimic your life and embody your hopes and dreams. Your job as a parent is to equip your child for the world, to the best of your abilities – to encourage them, to help them grow – physically, emotionally, mentally – to guide them, to give them the tools to be the best person they can possibly be, and hopefully use that in a way that helps others.

No one talks about that in this group. The focus is on more important things, like, you know, how to get your child to sleep in later, so you can sleep in later, and how to buy a house in the right zone so you can get the best education for your child without having to pay for it, and where to stay in Bali, and ‘oh, where was that café again, the one where I can sip my decaf-skim-latte-and-let-my-kids-run-wild?’, and how to give solids to your child, and why weet-bix are evil, and ‘where can I buy a realistic looking doll that doesn’t look too doll-like but is still a doll?’

There’s a lot of that going on.

It’s all funny memes and quotes about motherhood that are supposed to make an ordinary woman who has never done anything significant with her life feel better about her decision to bear children and cries of ‘I’m boooooooored, what can I do today?’

Bored? Bored? I haven’t been bored a day in my life.

And now, thankfully, I won’t get infuriated half as often either.

The mums I know – the ones I’ve made friends with and met along the way – are all amazing women. So I console myself with the hope that the ones that grate me so much are far and few between. Because I don’t want my son growing up in a world where he thinks that being a male child care worker, or a male anything, is weird or uncomfortable or unmanly.

I don’t want him to believe that what he sees on television and in advertising is a true depiction of what it means to be a man. Newsflash; not every man loves his shed and only knows how to navigate a remote control and enjoys beer and is stupid/embarrassing to his family.

For all our efforts in telling girls they can be anything they want (and they can), and for all the trail-blazing in helping them get there, we have somehow left behind a few huge gaping holes for our boys.

The holes are everywhere. On our TV screens and in our iPhones and in our schools and coming out of the mouths of women.

Enough.

To the woman concerned about her son being in a centre with a male childcare worker, I only want to know your answer to this:

If you think so poorly of men, how can you ever hope to raise a good man?

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I Do

Social Media, We Seem To Have A Problem

Working in social media is, for the most part, incredibly fun.

Except when people think that’s about all there is to it – fun.

Whilst it’s enjoyable, and exciting, and ever changing and growing, it comes with a serious amount of bashing-head-against-wall moments.

Or is that just me?

The thing about working in an industry that isn’t fully developed or established is that – besides everyone thinking they’re an expert – there’s no blueprint. There’s no formula. There’s no X, Y and Z. Most elements of social media are dependent on a variety of things; the client, the type of business, what service/product is being sold, the market, the tone, the platforms being used – I could go on and on and on – so every approach to social media needs to be different. Tailored. Customised. And yes, there are common features and patterns, but every day is different, because, shock horror, social media is driven by people, and you can’t always predict and categorise people.

None of this bothers me. It’s actually the thing I most like about social media – that every day is different, that a new skill needs be learned, that there’s always a challenge, because not every day is identical.

Working in social media actually requires a skill set that is incredibly varied – some of which can be learned and some of which is pretty inherent. Hence the reason why there are social media agencies that are thriving and those that are dragging the name of social media through the winter mud – because they’re lacking in most of the fundamentals that are essential to any basic campaign or community.

It’s frustrating having to witness that kind of behaviour. Sure, it’s wonderful when my phone rings and people say, ‘We want a piece of what you’re doing,’ but I’d rather all parties involved in social media pulled up their socks and acted in accordance with the titles on their business cards.

And, if we can manage it, it’d be great if clients employing the services of social media agencies and community managers and companies et al. could also act in accordance with the parameters set by the people they’re paying to do a very skilled job.

Let me share an example.

If I employ someone to build a website for me – something I have done before – I certainly don’t tell the web designer what I want, then monitor their every movement, then edit, alter and change code on them whilst they are developing what I am paying them to do, then tell them all the ways they could be doing things because ‘I read on this website somewhere that…’

Or how about this one?

If I call a tradesman to come to my house and fix something that is broken, I would not hover over their shoulder, incessantly tapping it and asking them what they are doing and to please justify every single step. I probably wouldn’t tell them how to do their job, either, nor reference some DIY handbook, extolling my knowledge on the very thing I called them and am paying them to fix.

I would, instead, make the tradesman a cuppa and gather some biscuits for them to enjoy after their hard afternoon of work. I’d probably say thank you, too.

Truthfully, I understand clients with complaints. In many cases, they’re bang on. Especially if they’ve been overcharged for a service that has been well and truly under delivered.

What I don’t understand is why social media managers, agencies et al. need to bear the brunt of a businesses frustrations – and why we’re expected to be the answer. To everything. But I also cannot understand why a business or person would pay money for someone – or an agency – to manage their social media profile, and then feel the need to check on their every movement and click.

Mostly, I can’t understand why it’s acceptable to treat the social media industry with the level of disdain and distrust that it’s currently experiencing in Australia. Businesses cannot group all agencies and managers together in the one basket – sure, there are some rotten apples – but we’re not all mouldy.

And because I’m the kind of person who cannot keep anything inside for fear of self-combustion, and because my fingers are typing without my brain even needing to kick into gear, here’s a list I’ve titled:

Things I’ve wanted to say in meetings or to clients, and some things I really have*…

*because if no one tells it like it is, how will anyone know what it’s like?

Social media will not solve all of your problems. It will most probably amplify them. Unless you are prepared to deal with your problems honestly and politely, avoid the social media space because I can guarantee you will not like what you read, hear or see.

Oh, you read Mashable? You must be an expert in social media.

Have a little faith. Sure, there are less than brilliant social media agencies out there. Chances are, though, most people you encounter that are working in social media on a day-to-day basis have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t. If they offer you some advice, you’d be best to take it, then make your own mind up from there.

Oh, you have a Facebook profile? You must be an expert in social media.

If you aren’t happy with the agency/person you are paying to manage your social media presence, find another agency/person that meets your requirements.

Oh, you’re on Twitter. You must be an expert in social media.

Social media managers are not like Jesus. We cannot turn water into wine (although I guarantee some days at our desk we truly wish we could), we cannot walk on water or perform any other such miracles. We do, however, have something in common; we don’t appreciate being crucified.

If your social media plan involves clicking delete and block, on repeat, you’re doing it wrong.

Social media managers are not mind readers. Keep that in mind next time you expect them to read yours.

Oh, you’re on Pinterest? You must be an expert in social media.

Social media doesn’t switch off. Measure that.

When I was at University, my lecturers told me I’d be working in a job that hadn’t even been invented yet (at the time). They were right.

If your social media plan involves screaming HIT LIKE on Facebook, you’re doing it wrong.

I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a fork than go to most of the social media networking events or conferences. Most of the time, they’re full of back-patters – and wankers – that have very little idea about social media, spruiking things people definitely don’t need. While you were there schmoozing and feeling all ‘industry’, I was working.

Oh, you’re on Instagram? You must be an expert in selecting filters.

You cannot treat social media, or approach it, in the same way you do your traditional marketing plan or other forms of advertising. Sure, it’s got to correlate, but a carbon copy it is not.

Oh, you want a schedule of everything I’ll post for the next month? Sure, please provide me with a schedule of every event, current affair, issue, discount, special, promotion, offer and thought you’ll have in the next month, and I’ll be sure to jot it down.

My chow chow actually gets it more than you do … yes, that’s a dog.

You are paying me for a service. But doing so does not mean I will ask ‘HOW HIGH?’ when you request for me to jump. Do you ring your mobile provider every day, requesting service from them? Do you email your energy provider every day, reminding them you are paying for their services? You don’t? Well, I never…

Change your attitude. Arsehole is unbecoming on you.

If you think social media is easy, and that you can do it yourself, I suggest that you do.

Oh, you don’t like my tone? (Insert finger gesture here).

If there’s something that shits you about social media – working in it or dealing with it – I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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