I’m a member of a number of different Facebook support groups. They tend to be in one of three areas: service dog handlers and dog training (either general dog training or training service dogs specifically), invisible disabilities and more recently writing groups.
Each, are established initially by an individual, or a group of people, with a vision of an online support group. They set the rules and boundaries for discussion and activities within their groups and they moderate the content on a daily basis.
Something that I’ve noticed, though, is that regardless of the focus of the group, some are regularly caught up in some form of drama.
It’s how that drama then plays out that I find fascinating.
Within the service dog community, we see a lot of judgment and ‘Service Dog Police’. That is that people decide for themselves what is allowed in terms of the behaviour, size, age or training of a service dog and then take it upon themselves to berate anybody who doesn’t conform to their expectations. Oddly, enough these ‘police’ rarely know the actual laws that apply to the situation themselves and are often the first to make excuses if they are called out on something themselves.
I would typify these people as tending towards being aggressive in the way that they address such situations.
Then we have the invisible disabilities group. Within this group, people tend to take offence easily. Their disabilities often being used as an excuse for poor manners. Ironically, the person that ‘offended’ them initially has disabilities too – that’s the nature of these groups.
Here we see a lot of “I’m leaving” posts which remind me of toddlers having tantrums, packing a bag and leaving home only to make it to the end of their own driveway. It’s not that they really want to leave, but rather that they simply want somebody to ask them to stay.
In general people in these groups tend towards being passive aggressive in the way that they deal with conflict. It’s about inducing guilt and shame in others.
The last group is the writing group. Here we see all kinds of people and all kinds of reactions. In general, though, people tend to not tolerate the aggressive or passive nature of posts seen in the other two communities. These are quickly weaned out and in their place we see more assertiveness.
Perhaps it’s the fact that writers tend to have better command of the written word? Perhaps it’s just the nature of these groups and how they are moderated?
Regardless of the community, or how they deal with conflict, one thing that I have seen in common across all the groups is an inability to just mind their own business!
It might be a post in the writing group that is about somebody’s faith. Immediately it’s a religious debate and the author is proselytising as opposed to the author just simply posting their writing for comment and review, just as dozens of other people do all day, every day.
In the Service Dog (SD) community a handler posts about having taken their Service Dog in Training (SDiT) to a zoo or amusement park at a young age. Immediately they are irresponsible handlers and are going to ruin their dog. Rarely does anybody even ask how the handler was managing the situation or the temperament of their dog.
I’ve taken Kai places that I’d never have taken Topaz at the same age, and vice versa. They are different dogs and as their owner/handler I know what they can handle, what I can handle, and always have a back-up plan. The majority of handlers will. Yet so often, people just assume the worst of others.
Then we come to the posts where people are describing situations that they have encountered with their disabilities, service dogs, or writing and I can’t believe that they didn’t just walk away.
Whether it’s an employee in a shop harassing a SD team by insisting that they want to play with the dog, or a writer engaging in extensive debate on whether or not somebody’s critique was mean or helpful.
What happened to just minding our own business?
If somebody is harassing your Service Dog, then move – walk away. Don’t allow it to happen.
If somebody posts something that offends you, because you find any mention of God offensive, then just don’t read the post.
If a post troubles you because of how they’re dealing with their specific disability then let it go.
It’s not up to you to determine if they should be using a wheelchair or not, that’s between the individual and their care team.
If somebody posts something that suggests that they are poorly informed regarding the law then kindly point them in the right direction. If they listen, fantastic. If not, move on by.
When did we become so judgmental?
When did this become acceptable?
What happened to the old expression?
“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”
When did this increasingly pervasive sense of entitlement mean that we have the right to judge and treat others with anything less than respect?
It bothers me that the people who judge the disabled the most, are other disabled people.
It bothers me that the people that criticise other Service Dog handlers the most are other Service Dog handlers.
It bothers me that the people who tear another’s writing apart with tenacious maliciousness are other writers.
Yet, by being bothered am I falling into the same trap?
Am I paying more attention to what others are doing and judging their actions than I am to my own affairs?
So perhaps, I’m really speaking to myself today.
I’ve left many of the groups that I initially joined because of the sheer amount of drama allowed within them.
I remain in others because the support that they do provide can be invaluable.
Some of the discussions in these groups provide new insights, new suggestions on how to address specific issues or difficulties and add a lot of value to my life.
I’ve made some great friends through these groups who have become friends in the real world as well.
Others remain online friends with all the caution that goes with that but doesn’t lessen their value in any way.
However, I think that I need to practice what I’m suggesting even more than I already do.
When there is a posting that bothers me – I need to just move on by.
Hide it if necessary.
Block the original poster if necessary.
It only takes a few seconds to do.
Hopefully, I will find that by increasingly minding my own business that I will be able to find greater peace.