Every now and again the online gifted advocacy community senses “a great disturbance in the Force”. We have our gifted intensities, and we have no immunity from other foibles of humanity to offset this. What I suspect this means, is that if we are to have the truly cohesive kind of online community that will be effective in advocacy, we will always have to work at it.
Here are some ways of engaging with the online community that usually work well:
- Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge those people online who inspire you, who make your day, who find and share great information. It lets them know they’re making a positive contribution, and it helps others to find them. Quite simply, it strengthens our online network.
- Share problems positively. Advocacy movements don’t emerge without shared problems to solve. We’ve got troubles, or we stand for kids who do. Let’s help each other understand those problems better; let’s celebrate the discovery of others who empathise; let’s share possible solutions; let’s keep on sharing some of the very best humour there is about people like us with problems like ours! But hey, let’s not drag each other (or anyone else) down.
- Build bridges. Put people in touch with other members of the gifted advocacy movement who share special interests. Advocacy is lonely work. We all value positive connections.
- Be irrelevant deliciously! We are complex people. We have many interests. On the other hand we often sense the worth of logical flow in our online conversations. So when you can’t resist an inspirational tangent, share it really well. Make it worth our while!
- Advertise with sensitivity. Many of us have a connection with publications, products or services to meet the needs of the gifted community. Most of us are still not incredibly wealthy, and we have to advertise now and again. It comes across a lot better if we advertise far less frequently than we interact with the gifted community as a friend. Even if we’re really feeling the pinch of the economic downturn, this remains true.
- Keep each other safe. If you see someone being bullied online, and they handle it appropriately, like or support their post. If you see someone being bullied online and they take no action, consider at your leisure what might be an appropriate response in the interests of the gifted community as whole, perhaps asking the advice of a trusted friend. But please do take action, if the risk to yourself is reasonable.
- Disagree passionately, but let your passion be to learn from the exchange of ideas, to ignite deeper thought in your worthy adversary and yourself. The rich variety of viewpoints in our field is one of its strengths, so long as we avoid collateral damage when we combine them.
- Be contrite in error. We’ve got a cause to fight for, and sometimes that energy, that intensity, that fight, does blow out in the wrong direction. A simple apology, combined with a humble and sincere effort to contribute more positively, goes a long way. We’re all cut from the same cloth, and few of us are strangers to the experience of that inner drive going astray.
Our online gifted advocacy community is a precious thing, with a huge impact now, and even greater potential in the future. We are changing the lives of the students we interact with, of teachers and administrators, and of parents who desperately need to know that there is a safe community who will stand alongside them as they raise kids who don’t fit the mould. Let’s make the well-being of this community a priority, and all play our part in keeping it strong and safe. After all, together, we’ve got a job to do!
With grateful thanks to the online friends who have read the draft and added their thoughts. We do better together!