When I notice that someone I’ve been following on a social media site (including a blog) has “gone silent,” I want to know why. Some of this is idle curiosity of the gossip type. Occasionally, the reason can be much more serious than such happy occasions as the person taking a vacation or being buried in an engulfingly-wonderful work project. My own excuse for not posting more regularly this year is that I’m happily wending my way through editorial revisions (that is, revisions in response to feedback from my editor) for my June DAW release, The Heir of Khored.
On at least one occasion, quite a few years ago, the other person’s silence was due to a life-threatening situation that prevented the person from obtaining help. Only the concern of friends who noticed brought the necessary assistance. (In this case, the person had been incapacitated and without food or water for 48 hours in a closed apartment in the summer.) I was one of the people that took action for our friend, asking someone local to to a welfare check on the person, and I came away from the experience with a profound respect for the power of social media to create positive communities that not only nurture and enrich our lives, but can literally save them.
One reason I don’t engage in flame wars or “Someone On The Internet Is Wrong And I Must Set Them Straight” arguments is that these aren’t the communities I’m interested in. (I also think both are a complete waste of time I could be using to write more stories.) Sure, trolls can pop up anywhere, but I don’t have to hang out where they do. I can and do hang out in places where people are genuinely interested in one another, where discussions take place in a respectful and intellectually lively manner, and where friendships flourish across international borders.
The big message, though, is that trying to figure out why someone has stopped posting is very much like reading tea leaves that have been stirred by demented porcupines. Could be a very good, happy reason like a book deadline or a honeymoon. Could be they’re in the ER. Could be they got bored with the internet.
Could be none of anyone’s business, or something they truly want kept private. This is one of the hardest reasons because we need to back off, to accept “no” for an answer, and to drop the issue from our minds as well as the public discussion.
So how do we inquire with tact and kindness? What social skills do we need to balance our concern and our respect for their privacy? I’m still trying to figure these things out. Unfortunately, the best instances are also the ones I’m least likely to see or be able to use as role models because they are, indeed, private. So I am left with my own best judgment and intuition as guides. Whatever I say, however I say it, will arise from my own heart and no one else’s.
Perhaps that’s the way it should be.
By the way, the revisions to The Heir of Khored are going splendidly.