By Stacey Ross
Did you know that it is now cool to be a hacker? My online streams and emails are flooded with “decoration hacks” such as using the tab of a soda can as a picture hanger or books to form a pyramid of sorts as a “Christmas tree hack.” They are my favorite emails, to get, actually! Recently I pulled out my muffin tins, for example, for a “popsicle hack,” for which you just stick the popsicle through a small hole in the tin which then collects your sticky drippings. Love dem hacks for the toddler set!
So, what is hacking?
According to Whatishacking.org, “Hacking is the practice of modifying the features of a system, in order to accomplish a goal outside of the creator’s original purpose.” The term has been notorious for its negative connotation, as it often refers to shady people trying to gain access to a server or breaking into computer security networks for their own purposes.
Of course, now we have a more broadened term to demonstrate clever and ethical DIY practices that bring some sort of perk to our world.
But can your emotions be hacked? Online that is. As in pulled into drama…? I contend that many who show up regularly online, by nature, expose a more vulnerable side of themselves. Their personalities will stand out if they are aiming to either genuinely interact, gain online clout, or maybe both.
Like stuff, people sometimes “break” and need fixing, but emotional hackers don’t always have the listening skills or other tools to contribute to a healthful dialogue. Examples of their behavior might include constant texting in an argumentative or harmful way, using insulting language, bullying or stalking someone, or manipulating another’s online world via mind games or blatant avoidance.
Then there are the somewhat innocuous, yet annoying Facebook “friends” who tell you that you are missing the point (vs. understanding that their view is not the only one!), and they resort to cussing or sarcasm, or using mid-grade insults.
Try a hack from the heart!
Many I know would say, “Who gives a BLEEP what they say? Shine!” Online personalities, however, are smart to adhere to some protocol for engagement.
The following are five online “hacks from the heart” to share with those (your teens, too, maybe?) who are struggling due to hurtful online experiences or are determined to circumnavigate online noise and online drama that has leaked into their network and/or psyche.
1. Take a social media break. Unplug yourself from your online community and put aside your gadgets for a while. Meet a friend in real life and experience the outdoors, or go ride a bike. Call a friend up old-school style and get back to the offline activities that you once cherished. You can block so-called friends if you wish, but consider putting them on your Restricted List, and then they will only occasionally see your public postings.
2. Budget your time. Expending mental, physical and emotional energy drains us all. Ask yourself how much time and focus you wish to invest in the digital world and how you plan to balance your social and work worlds. How can you enhance your world offline to offset your online obligations? The reality is that your intentions, your personality, your mannerisms, etc. can be lost in translation if you are overly-invested online. Time can get the best of us too, so having a time-management system can do wonders!
3. Encourage your child to explore various interests. I have a buddy whose middle-schooler is truly an online guru, a gamer and a programmer (already!). A pre-teen is smart to have other experiences as well though. For this, I commend my bud for encouraging his son to commit to summer camp for the first time and for signing him up for a kayaking class. Sometimes in order for kids to find their passion, they need to explore and try new things, and parents can take that step right along with their kids!
4. Avoid the haters and bullies. Online bullies come in all ages – kids and adults alike! They appear to gain some sort of fix by brashly and contemptuously taking issue with topics in such a way that they really would be better off self-reflecting a bit. Or a lot. Or getting therapy. One word: disengage! You can’t win interacting with a bully!
5. Withhold all messages and communication with those you are in conflict with. Encourage face-to-face confrontations with those you care about and distance yourself from those who are no longer serving you well as a friend or companion. Some of the areas that can be fragile topics and that warrant a non-digital approach are: breakups, make-ups, courting, retorting, asking someone out on a date and engaging in heavy debate. Creative rhyming can also become a slippery slope, so I will stop while I am ahead!
These online hacks from the heart are bound to give you energy for more important things in life, like enjoying your decoration hacks and popsicle hacks! So, hack on and prosper!
Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.