I remember when I was studying for my MSW, I had a professor who was a real stickler about people who state the obvious. He taught the Capstone course, which was basically about tying together all of the skills and methods we learned during our program to solve problems. The class required writing a lot of papers rather than passing tests. Not surprisingly, I excelled, because I like writing more than taking tests. I got an A in the class, while a few of my friends struggled to pass it. I remember the professor was very harsh about grading the papers and would mercilessly take off points for those who “stated the obvious”.
Years later, I’m sitting here thinking about that class I took seventeen years ago and how this professor, whom I recall was not popular with my colleagues, would talk about how we should avoid stating the obvious. Why was it such a big deal to him? Probably because time is a precious commodity and stating the obvious is a waste of time. There’s no need to say or write something as a point if people already know and understand it to be a given. This professor had been both a licensed professional counselor and a social worker– he had master’s degrees in both disciplines, as well as a Ph.D. in social work. He was also an Army veteran. I can imagine that he was very busy. Reading master’s level papers full of poorly written drivel, particularly when the analyses contained mostly obvious points that everybody already knows, was probably extremely irritating for him. And so, to teach his students what not to do, he graded very harshly and took off massive points for “stating the obvious”. Hopefully, a lot of his students quickly learned a valuable lesson.
By the way, although my colleagues didn’t like Dr. W., I enjoyed his class very much. I even liked the weekly papers. I found them challenging and even kind of fun. Basically, he would give us narratives of a client we might be working with and we had to come up with a plan for them. I seem to recall that we’d also trade our papers and have our colleagues read our plans and offer comments on whether or not the plans were viable.
This topic comes up this morning, which has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start. I had trouble sleeping last night, so I was up earlier than usual. I did my normal Tuesday morning chore of cleaning the bathrooms. Then I read some comments left for me on Facebook that stated the obvious.
It’s probably a good thing I didn’t ever work as a “ground zero” social worker with individual clients. I don’t have a lot of patience for some things. A few days ago, I posted a picture of a glass of non alcoholic beer I had at a sushi restaurant. A friend of mine, who knows of my love for beer, wrote, “Don’t they send people to prison for that sort of thing in Germany?”
I responded that this was the only kind of beer they had available at the restaurant. It was actually not bad at all. I could barely tell it wasn’t the usual leaded version of beer. I probably ought to drink more of it.
But then… days later, I got this comment from someone else who wrote: “Near-beer or table beer, with minimal alcohol, is widely available in Europe, mainly but not exclusively, for children.”
I don’t know why, but this comment irritated me. First of all, I’m not sure what it had to do with the subject at hand. We weren’t discussing the availability of non-alcoholic beer in Europe. The first comment came from a friend who follows my travels and knows I really enjoy beer and wine. He was making a joke about my choice to drink non-alcoholic beer. What the hell does the availability of “near beer” in Europe have to do with anything?
Secondly, the comment was posted days later, after the discussion had already died. I wondered what prompted the guy to chime in, especially since his comment didn’t seem to have much to do with anything except to inform us of something kind of obvious. I mean, I’ve been living in Europe for several years this time, and I lived here a few times before this latest stint. I know there’s near beer here– just like I know there’s a telephone. So, I guess, I’m just sitting here scratching my head.
I probably should have ignored the comment, but I chose not to. Instead, I wrote “Thanks for the tip.” Remember, I have kind of a low threshold for annoyance.
That led me to wonder if someone had posted “Thanks for the tip” on Urban Dictionary. I find that a lot of times, when I’m being snarky or sarcastic and I leave a comment to that effect, someone has already posted a hilarious definition of my comment in Urban Dictionary. Surprisingly enough, this time no one posted “Thanks for the tip.” However, someone did post “Thanks tips”. I hadn’t heard of it before this morning, but now I’m informed, and I’m sharing my new knowledge with all of you.
Maybe what happened wasn’t really someone stating the obvious, per se. Maybe it was more akin to “chiming”. I wrote a post about that phenomenon on my old blog. It’s basically when someone butts into a conversation on social media, particularly when they haven’t read other comments. The end result is that their comment is non-sensical, has already been stated (and usually more than once), or is completely irrelevant.
Although social media is different than talking to someone face to face, I tend to see unrelated comments in a Facebook thread the way I might see someone butting into a private conversation. For instance, say you’re having a discussion with a friend. You’re in public, but the chat is just between you and the other person. Suddenly, another person comes up and offers an opinion or a comment that has little to do with your conversation. He or she kind of smiles at you and acts as if you should appreciate their input, even if it’s irrelevant, inappropriate, and/or pointless and stupid.
I will admit, I probably notice these things a lot more than other people do. And I will admit that most of it probably shouldn’t faze me as much as it does. I probably should call myself the “oversensitive” housewife, because I am sensitive about a lot of things that probably shouldn’t annoy me as much as they do. But everybody has their quirks. I have a couple of friends who suffer from misophonia, which is a condition that causes people to become annoyed or even enraged by certain sounds. A lot of people with misophonia can’t stand the sound of people eating, or babies crying. Actually, now that I think about it, I probably have a touch of that myself. I can’t deal with really off key singing, although I don’t get annoyed when people chew loudly. People who don’t have that condition might not be able to understand it or empathize with people who have it because it’s beyond their comprehension. However, just because you don’t have it, doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing.
Anyway… just thought I’d share this today. If anyone’s wondering, yes, I do feel sort of bad when I get irritated about these things and write about them. I know from experience that sometimes people’s feelings are hurt when I vent like this. If it helps anyone to know this, I’m sure I’d be upset if I read anyone’s thoughts about the many things I do that are irritating. But, because I know I’d be upset, I make a point of not searching out other people’s thoughts about me. They’re none of my business, and reading them is not likely to lead to anything good. On the other hand, I’m sure people can relate to today’s gripe. At the very least, they’re the kind of people who would post snarky definitions on Urban Dictionary.