Practical verbs: 8/12

A lot of people have learned to speak a second language so they could explore the world, different cultures and ways of living, read people writing from another perspective, watch, listen, learn but also meet some people. I don’t like the feeling that I’m repeating myself, but it’s true that the internet provided more opportunity or at least changed the scope of possibility to a wider and more diverse bunch of stuff we can enjoy: from traditional to independent media, voices multiplied and experiences amounted, but now we’re facing the challenge to organize the multitudes of content everyone shares online and at the same time acknowledge that the people who created it feel a certain way about it. As generations look at different experiences and tastes, the conversations are also different and the expectations vary. YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, but also iFunny, Discord, Twitch, and places like Omegle. I know everyone has a particular experience, and these are not definitive examples of how people see the web and interact with it, but it’s a whole lot of stuff. Messaging apps alone can tell a story that parents are probably not aware of; groups chats and key people to follow can give you a context not a lot of people see, and you’re wondering how different you are from the rest. That happens at home but also around the globe, and connecting with someone for a day can be both frustrating or liberating, while long lasting friendships and relationships make us think about everything else that surrounds us, which includes the stuff we like and share, the stuff we read, buy and watch — which is terrifying for some, obvious to many. How am I going to introduce myself and talk about the way I see things, what happened before I met you, stuff I’ve been through or what I need to focus on right now so maybe you can help me achieve my goals? How can I contribute to a job well done in the future or right now, if the expectations get higher and higher, but my productivity and inspiration have a limit I don’t fully understand and I need someone to give me a push? I’ll try to contextualize some of these issues below.

“I wonder what I could’ve done differently”

It’s never too late to start something new, but what you do now is gonna stay on the internet unless you choose to delete everything — which might not solve the problem, and older people have not been through the exact same experience. With people sharing conversations, pictures and details about their life and relationships, it’s hard to tell when they change their minds about something they shared, but some people think it’s actually easier. Companies are saying the most important thing for them is not going digital, but being digital. How does that translate into good paying jobs, with what kinds of roles and benefits? When you’re preparing for life in a future workplace or doing your part remotely, how do your personal and professional relationships merge? Do you think your privacy is more important than thinking about how you spend your time and what you choose to say? Regardless of the specifics, we all have a number of things we didn’t know in the past, that could only be improved once we got to a point where we could look back and point out where we’d make changes, so the key is to be able to do some self evaluation and stick with the stuff that makes you feel good but also benefits those around you, though that might be more complicated in a super connected world.

“People send me a lot of messages”

The teenage and adult experiences on the web have a lot of differences, but interacting with things we don’t want has always been part of our lives. If I don’t want to visit the new shop they were showing me on a pamphlet on the street, I also don’t wanna watch the sponsored ad before the video I clicked, and we learned to live with that, though sometimes these little things can add a lot in our lives. But sometimes, it’s a little annoying or inappropriate. You could say the experience is different based on a number of things: gender, race, education, position, views; but when you get a message you don’t want, fortunately, it’s easy to reject it — ignoring, blocking or saying you don’t like what you’re getting. What’s harder to understand is how groups of people choose to spread a message you don’t like and how to stop it from gaining strength, but that involves other factors that we might never have a definitive answer on how to handle: if you were on the other side, you might feel like your voice was being silenced; but just in case we’re talking about inappropriate stuff on your private messages, I’m sure you’ll realize you have to stop them eventually.

“When you mess up, the right thing to do is to apologize”

Not a lot of people understand why they’re doing something that’s bad, for others or for themselves. People have different experiences and views, which is important to emphasize; but learning with your mistakes doesn’t always have to translate into cutting someone from your life so you can start fresh with another group of friends, another job, another relationship. If you mess up, try to have a conversation about it and tell the people who matter that you made a mistake, an error of judgment, acted silly, was childish or immature, weren’t thinking straight, didn’t mean what you said. These conversations help you grow, and growing together is lifting each other up so you don’t have to feel bad everytime you feel like you’re not being listened to or you aren’t doing enough: people care, what you do matters, but you need the right way to communicate. Of course, sometimes we make mistakes that aren’t about arriving late at work or typing out the wrong e-mail, but maybe saying something that could offend people as a joke, hurting someone’s feelings with a comment about their looks, personality or opinions. We need to keep improving the message, and that means reassessing the way we express ourselves and working it out with the people who care, as well as looking to the ones who are not part of your inner circle and trying to speak to them in a way that will make you more likely to be accepted.

“If I see that kind of stuff, I report it”

Some of the stuff we see is just bad. But there’s always a way to bring content down or at least make people correct what they’re saying, whether it’s fake news or hateful discourse, a spam account or an offensive message from a real person. Again, people can ignore, but some choose to talk about it; they can block, but also report and, in some cases, expose so other people can explain why that content is bad. But it’s important to remember that moderators do the best they can, with the tools available, to make the experience on the web the best for the people who use these platforms. Before social media, when something bad happened in the neighborhood, people wrote to the newspapers and magazines to talk about it; services and companies have a channel to receive feedback from people, and though some of the comments are not helpful or fair, they make changes on how they present themselves based on how people respond. The same happens on the web.

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To end on a good note, sharing experiences online can be beautiful, if the right person is listening. To be able to connect with someone who brings you peace and comfort when you were least expecting it, right when you needed it, whether it’s someone who listens to your problems or tries to help you more actively with suggestions and incentives, is probably what the whole idea of connecting people is all about. What we should remember is our lives are not exclusively digital, and though we want to make a good impression, actions speak louder than words — and pictures or videos. Hopefully, everyone can find people who want to know who we are based on more than just one thing, and if they choose to be in our lives for good, it’s the start of a path you’ll walk together, with lots of great experiences ahead.

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