It’s been sometime since I posted about Standing Up, the Facebook group for translators I have been involved in running since it started in 2016. Being an admin of a group like that (there are three of us in total – sincere thanks are due to my coadmins Ligia Dias Costa and Eleanor Staniforth) is not always the most rewarding experience. Although disputes between members don’t happen very often, it can be annoying and frustrating having to resolve them, especially because, when they do occur, they are inevitably at the most awkward times, when I have a huge pile of work in front of me or when I’m on holiday. This has sometimes led me to question whether I really want to continue.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I’m proud and delighted to be part of making the group happen. One of those times happened last week, when there was a sudden rush of Greek translators applying to join. We do sometimes get these rushes, usually when the group has been mentioned at a conference or in an online presentation, but this was unlike anything we’d ever seen. There must have been 50 membership applications from people with Greek names or addresses, most of whom were sensible enough to answer the questions we set (if you’re reading this and wondering why you weren’t allowed in, failure to show that you’re really a translator or interpreter is probably the reason – please reapply and answer the questions this time!).
Curiosity got the better of me, and I posted a message welcoming our new Greek members and asking what had prompted them to join en masse. The answer seemed to be that it had all started with a post in a Greek translators’ group by a member of Standing Up, Georgios Siokas, singing our praises and recommending SU as a place for frank but fair discussions and interesting reading about translation. It had been some time since I had thought about it, but I realised he was right – the group is quite a special place. He particularly mentioned a recent post by Rose Newell about the disappearance of the middle ground in translation, which had led to a splendid discussion and some remarkable honesty from some members.
Contrast this, if you will, with the translators’ “discussions” in another forum – LinkedIn. I’ve talked about LI before and remarked on the interesting, dynamic community of generally younger translators forming there. That community still exists, but I am very uneasy about what’s happening to it these days. Too often, posts are forced and formulaic, and the relentless positivity is suffocating and verging on toxic. People seem compelled to post “achievements”, some of them of decidedly dubious merit. They then receive gushing responses, which in turn are given equally effusive replies.
And it’s not just me who says this. A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend, who I’m not going to name for fear of embarrassing them. They are a regular poster and replier to posts on LinkedIn and, from reading what they say there you would think they had a tremendously successful translation business. As my friend confessed to me, though, this is not their true situation. And, as they also confessed, the cult of positivity has been taking its toll. “It makes it really hard,” I was told. “It can be quite depressing to see everyone else appearing to be doing well when you’re struggling.” But if my friend has been successfully faking, how many others are doing the same?
It’s not surprising that in these circumstances a whole new brood of instagurus are crawling out of the woodwork, playing on people’s anxiety and offering the kind of questionable mentoring and coaching schemes I mentioned in a previous post. We don’t have gurus in Standing Up and we don’t pressurise people to be positive. We talk about anything related to translation and we’re often heart-rendingly honest. There’s also thoughtful, practical advice. We’re not perfect. Occasionally discussions do get out of hand and sometimes the admins make mistakes. I’ve certainly made a few. But overall, and without any fake positive vibes, I find Standing Up a source of tremendous pride – a place where translators and interpreters can show themselves at their real best without posturing or flummery. And the next time the thought of quitting as an admin goes through my mind, I’ll come back to this post and read it.
If you’re not a member of Standing Up and want to join, please go to the group page and apply for membership. If you can show you’re really a translator or interpreter, the admins will allow you in.