Do you ever miss the days before online interactions? Sometimes, I do. I spend a lot of time online now and, in some ways, that’s made communication easier. It’s also made it possible for me to share stuff with the masses… music and writing and what not. Most of time, I get pleasure out of sharing my stuff with other people. But sometimes things go awry and I find myself in an unpleasant exchange with someone.
There are steps I take to avoid these encounters. For one thing, I mostly avoid commenting on other people’s stuff unless I have something nice to say. Every once in a great while, someone will get me riled up enough to be snarky or negative on their page, but for the most part, it’s just not worth the angst. I don’t usually enjoy online arguments with most people, especially those who are aggressive and insulting. If I’d wanted to argue with people, I would have gone to law school. Besides, most people have already made up their minds, and no amount of arguing is going to change their views.
I actually do enjoy debates, but only when they are civilized. Too often, they just aren’t, and you end up having a pointless fight with someone you don’t care about about a subject that doesn’t matter. I am the type of person who will stew about the inconsequential for much too long. As I get older, I realize that life is too short to get upset over things that don’t matter. But realizing that still doesn’t stop me from stewing over dumb shit.
I do sometimes post controversial items on my page, and that can lead to irritating exchanges. Even when I post something that isn’t controversial, sometimes annoying comments can crop up. I often have trouble ignoring annoying comments, even though I know I should. I just wish people would take a minute to think before commenting. It’s like that old saying– be kind… rewind. Take a minute to rewind and thoroughly consider what others have said before chiming in with your own comment.
Also consider whether or not what you’re going to say makes any sense. The other day, an “acquaintance” left a comment that confused me. It was a reference to Lord of the Rings, a book I’ve never read. I did see the movie, but didn’t care for it and remember almost nothing about it. Even when he explained where the reference came from, it still meant nothing to me and went over my head. Lord of the Rings is one of his interests, not mine. If we really knew each other, he might realize that. Or maybe he wouldn’t. Online communication has changed the way people relate to each other and develop friendships. In some ways it’s good. In some ways, it sucks. Nowadays, you may have many more friends, but much shallower relationships, instead of a few friends and deeper relationships.
Sometimes even stuff that you’d never think would be contentious devolves into an argument. The other day, I posted this picture of a Pizza Hawaii with a baked egg on it. It was supposed to be a lighthearted post. It’s not unusual to find egg on pizza or in lasagne over here in Europe. Bill once ordered lasagne at an Italian restaurant in Nagold, near where we used to live. He was surprised to find an egg in it. Apparently, some Italians do it because it was once considered a valuable extra source of protein. I know this isn’t a thing everywhere, but if you go to a place that is run by folks who are into eggs, you might find them in what seems like a strange place.
Bill went to a new pizzeria on Saturday and came home with a pizza with egg on it. I gathered that a lot of my American friends would be amused or surprised by the egg. I thought it was potentially funny, so I shared a picture.
The comments were mostly appropriate… until I made the mistake of telling a German friend that she probably wouldn’t find this in the United States. An American friend responded that she’d found pizza with egg on it in New York. I responded that I don’t consider New York to be like the rest of the United States. The exchange escalated thusly…
Also, consider that it was Saturday night. It was late in the evening in Germany, and Bill and I were drinking wine. That particular commentary had died down hours before it was resurrected. I was tired, tipsy, and hormonal. Looking at the exchange now, maybe I could have just posted “I stand corrected.” and let my friend have her virtual cookie. It probably would have been less trouble.
One thing I have noticed is that I have less patience for certain types of responses from people. I can be quite a curmudgeon about a lot of things, and the older I get, the less willing I am to waste time with the clueless. I often feel kind of guilty when I respond in a “snippy” tone… or when I come across that way, even if I don’t intend to be “snippy”. I don’t usually mean to be snippy, and I don’t enjoy coming off that way, but I also get irritated when people insult my intelligence or chime in on a subject without having taken a minute to prepare themselves first. By this, I mean at least skimming the article if one has been posted, or reading other people’s comments to see if a point has already been made before posting a comment of your own.
I especially get upset when someone revives a conversation that has been dead for days, making a point that has already been made once or twice. When someone does that, I can’t help but respond, “We have already established that.” It probably comes off as bitchy, but frankly, I think it’s rude to make a comment when you haven’t read to see if your comment is a rerun. Why should I “listen” to you, when you haven’t “listened” to other people?
Yesterday, Bill and I were talking about this phenomenon. I was reminded of a former contact who has a habit of chiming in on Facebook conversations without having read anything pertaining to said conversation. Like, for instance, one time we were having a lively discussion about military retirement. She chimed in with a comment by first stating that she hadn’t read the article we were referencing. Then she made it clear that she hadn’t read any of the comments that had been posted when she basically restated what had already been established.
What was especially annoying to me, though, was that she was supposedly a “friend”, but she made several statements that indicated that even after years of interacting online, she knows nothing about me and didn’t want to learn. You see, this individual is a social worker. She lives and works in Texas. I have never met her in person, but have “known” her online for years. During that time, she somehow never realized that I also have a master’s degree in social work, even though she never lets anyone forget that she’s a social worker. She’d make comments to me about social work as if I don’t know anything about the field… when I’ve actually had the degree for longer than she has. I don’t work as a social worker now, but I don’t think you can earn a master’s degree in social work and not know what the work entails. It was kind of insulting, although I’m certain that she didn’t mean to be insulting. In fact, I think she was simply being thoughtless, which is the case for so many nowadays.
In the incident Bill and I were talking about yesterday, the social worker made a comment about military retirement and the benefits retirees get, along with a martyr-y comment about about how hard she works as a social worker trying to get benefits for her clients. But… as people who actually know me already realize, I am married to an Army retiree and I was raised by an Air Force retiree. So I pretty much already know about the subject or military retirement benefits, too. And we weren’t even really discussing military retirement benefits. The subject we were discussing was whether or not someone who had joined the military after 9/11 could be retired as of 2015.
I was already offended that she’d admitted up front that she hadn’t even read the article we were discussing, and then made it clear that she hadn’t read other people’s responses. But then she made tone deaf comments to me about subjects a real friend would have known she didn’t have to make. A real friend would know I have an MSW. A real friend would know I have a lot of experience with the military community. A real friend would have taken the time to read before commenting. A real friend would be kind and rewind. So finally, I removed this imposter of a friend from my sphere, and life has been somewhat less irritating since.
Back in the days before we were online and met total strangers in cyberspace, this type of interaction would have been less likely to occur. In those days, most people would take more time to get to know each other before having discussions about current events. There would be a reference point. You’d most likely know something about the other person. You’d have body language. Maybe you’d know more about their background, where they live, their education, or family history. I’m not saying a situation like the one I described in the previous paragraphs couldn’t happen, but I do think it would be less likely to occur. Nowadays, you can communicate with pretty much anyone in the world who has access to the Internet. In some ways, that’s great, and offers all kinds of unique opportunities to learn about others. In other ways, it makes things a lot less personal and potentially annoying.
I’m beginning to think the luddite way of life might be the better way. If I ever left social media, I might write less. On the other hand, my writing might be more substantial and interesting. Or maybe I’ll find something else to do with my time, like sweep up the dust from under the furniture.