On our online tribes
Good morning. I hope your weekend is soft. The last two weeks were busy with work and allotment, so this space was quiet. I return home each day with crops from the allotment in two minds about the amount of sun we are getting at the moment. On the one hand, vegetables and berries, not to mention roses, adore this amount of sunshine. On the other hand, the weather feels steadily hot and dry. Evening allotment watering is a healthy workout, of course, but also a sign of how our climate is shifting.
I distract myself from the sadness of the climate crisis with birds. Teenagers are now preparing to leave the nest, so I admire their newly acquired flying skills. At this stage, they venture out of the nest and jump around the hedges and plants in our garden – I get to see them up close because they are not worried about us just yet. The family of finches uses my neighbour’s garden for flight exercises using a stunning little birch as their launch and landing platform. The magpies are funny: even though they are big enough to forage for food, they walk next to their parents in the park, still opening their mouths and waiting to be fed. In the allotment, I have the opportunity to spot rarer kinds – the other day, a greenfinch landed on the tree near our pond – I found their feathers ever so magical.
With everything in bloom and meadows heaving, I am trying to slow down to take it all in. So many flowers, grasses and insects. All are growing together, interacting and supporting each other in their ecosystems. We could learn from this as humans. Living in a Western country with a very individualistic perspective, many of us feel lonely, abandoned, isolated, and easily abused. I often go back to my Eastern-European, more collective thinking about collectives and wonder: what if we all had a healthy spiderweb of connections to contribute to and to rely on? Instead, we live in a vacuum and expect things to land on our lap. Instead of collaborating and enjoying the cycle of favours, we crave, need, and want more. And then we wonder why we feel like we are never enough.
I would like to think that each of us is a constellation of thoughts, experiences and insights. So if we collaboratively shape our joint spaces, our life can be so exciting, rich and adventurous.
Today, I invite you to think about ecosystems as a metaphor for how we choose our networks (offline and online), how we show up in those spaces, what positions we take in them and how we benefit from them.
Q: What are your networks? List all your offline and online communities. Start with the obvious ones (family, work colleagues, schoolmates, neighbours) and move on to others (hobby and passion groups, political and professional affiliations, location-based networks and groups, special interests, specific projects etc.).
Q: Where do you feel you belong and not belong? Reflect on how you feel in each of those networks. Sometimes it’s enough to ask this question and trust your gut feeling. If you struggle, consider aspects of belonging: safety, trust, authenticity etc.
Q: What networks do you find toxic? This can be tricky if we have good resilience skills and protect our less preferential social positioning. For example, as a first-generation immigrant, I sometimes experience hostility and automatically ignore it to survive and take my place in the group. On this occasion, be honest with yourself and list all spaces where you feel unsafe, ignored, silenced or targeted.
Q: What networks nurture your identity and your wellbeing? Who and where uplifts you, celebrates your identity, inspires you, motivates you and nurtures your growth?
Q: What do you need to do to move from toxic to nurturing spaces offline and online? Leave or join? Maybe manage your boundaries and rules of engagement – specific people or time spent in those spaces? Change the rules of engagement – for example, keep toxic family members on text messages and, remove them from your social networks, call them rarely to manage their impact on your wellbeing. Instead, spend your social networking time with fellow gardeners, musicians or geeks.
I am off to prepare for a visit of friends who share my values but differ in many opinions, making our meetings incredibly comforting, exciting and inspiring. I wish you a light rest of the Sunday.
This post was originally posted on Substack in our Syl’s Liberation Psychologies Newsletter.