In the German language, the word “Stau” refers to the inevitable traffic jams that form, especially on the Autobahn system. Bill and I have been in a lot of Staus over the years. They are almost always annoying and frustrating, especially when we’re miles from an Ausfahrt and we both have to pee. They shut down movement and flow. They waste time. They piss people off and put them in sour moods.
I’m reminded of the term “Stau” this morning, having experienced a communication breakdown on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. Before I get into the specifics of what happened, I want to make it plain that this post isn’t a plea for advice or “wisdom”. In fact, unsolicited advice is what led to my decision to write about the “comment Stau” in the first place. I hope that anyone who reads this will take a moment to think twice before trying to be an “overly helpful person” and offering hurting people unsolicited advice. When it comes down to it, unsolicited advice is basically criticism. I don’t need criticism right now.
If you read yesterday’s posts, you know that Bill and I lost a very special family member yesterday. Our dog Arran had some kind of catastrophic medical event on Thursday night. We consequently decided to send him to the Rainbow Bridge yesterday morning. Arran was a big part of our lives. Naturally, I shared the news about him on a few sites. In retrospect, maybe that was the wrong thing to do, since there are a lot of assholes in the world and every time you share something online, you run the risk of running into one or more of them.
I shared a post on the Recovery from Mormonism (RfM) site yesterday, because I’ve been posting there for over 20 years. I don’t post very often anymore, because Mormonism doesn’t really affect my life anymore. But I do have a few friends on that site, even though there are quite a few people there who I think have some legitimate issues. That site also attracts many trolls, though the moderators do a pretty good job of enforcing the rules.
Someone left me a really kind comment about my tribute to Arran and his name’s association with Scotland. I left a rather lengthy reply, since she seemed genuinely interested in the origin of his name. I explained how we came to acquire Arran and why we gave him his name, after a beautiful island in Scotland.
Then I got a very mean comment from a troll. I didn’t copy what the person (I’m assuming a male) wrote, but the gist of it was that the quality of the board was going to hell because of “off topic” posts like mine, and no one gives a fuck about my “stupid deceased mutt” (he literally used the word “fuck”, albeit with a different spelling.).
I’ll be honest. I was legitimately stung by the callousness of that person’s comment to me. I actually cried when I read that troll’s cruel words. It was like a hard slap to the face. I wanted to return fire with a well aimed kick straight to the troll’s balls that would leave him doubled over in extreme pain and unlikely to want to ever utter such blatant disrespect to me again. What can I say? I have my own anger issues, and when it comes to outright abuse, I am very saturated. I don’t tolerate it well at all.
My first impulse was to lash out in anger. But then I figured that behind every troll, there’s a hurting person who expects to get attention in the form of angry comments. That person clearly wanted a response, and I was inclined to give him one, but not in the form he expected. So, instead of rightly telling the person to go fuck themselves, I wrote “You know, you could have just kept scrolling. Sorry that you’re hurting so much that you feel the need to be mean to me.” Then I reported the troll’s comment.
I hoped that would be the end of it, but alas, the site’s resident “overly helpful person” decided she needed to chime in. I’ve posted about my issues with the overly helpful on more than one occasion. It seems like every messageboard has one. It’s that person who feels the need to make themselves feel better by trying to micromanage other people, being meddlesome, and inserting themselves in places where they have no business. I think a lot of that kind of controlling behavior has its origins in people who were raised in chaos. Of course, understanding where that behavior comes from doesn’t make it any less irritating.
I don’t actually know much about the person who felt the need to intercede. What I do know is that she’s very active on the site. Other people have implied that she’s really smart, and might actually have an important job (but I don’t know when she has time to work at a job, since she’s apparently always on RfM). Judging by my own interactions with her and observations of her behavior, I would assume that she thinks she really smart, too. She likes to get into arguments with people and show off how “smart” she is. While I absolutely respect intelligent people, there is a fine line between being really smart and allowing that intelligence to show itself naturally, and trying to appear smarter than one actually is, and looking foolish.
In any case, she left me a comment indicating that the person is a troll and is posting crap all over the place. Then she advised me to ignore him.
My response was that yes, obviously, the guy is a troll. However, I am a real person, and his comment legitimately caused me pain. His words made me cry. I don’t know the person behind the screen. For all I know, he’s a twelve year old kid in his mother’s basement. Or maybe he’s a 35 year old man with a twelve year old kid’s maturity level in his mother’s basement. Or maybe he’s a sadistic pervert. I don’t know.
I simply wanted to issue a reminder to him that there’s a person behind the screen who read those words and they were hurtful. And instead of lashing out with anger and profanity, I wanted that person to get an even-keeled comment that addresses their need to attack, expressing sorrow for the obvious pain they must be in to feel compelled to share it so stunningly with perfect strangers who are obviously already grieving.
The overly helpful woman came back and pointed out that I was just giving the troll “fuel” and feeding his “sick impulses.” And I should just let the moderators deal with him. I didn’t respond to her directly, but I suppose I could have mirrored the same fucking observation to her. She didn’t need to insert herself into that interaction and offer me criticism on my retort. I’m a 50 year old woman of average intelligence who doesn’t need her help in deciding how to address other people when they insult me. Her comments were patronizing, unnecessary, and out of place. And they shut down communication, just like a good, old-fashioned Stau.
Revealing that the initial comment made me cry isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that I have a heart, and a soul, and people who hurl abuse at me do damage. I didn’t feel anger so much that the person indicated that they felt my post was “inappropriate”. It was that they referred to Arran as a “stupid deceased mutt”. He was so much more than that. Reading those words enraged me, because they were completely uncalled for and cruel. And if that cowardly person had said that to my face, I probably would have slapped him HARD across the mouth, if he was lucky. And then I probably would have gotten arrested.
What’s more, obviously a few people did care, and said they enjoyed the tribute. I hope they were being sincere. If not, their choice to humor me is on them. Everybody else can do the decent thing and just keep scrolling, rather than kicking a person when they’re down. I can’t imagine that the people running that messageboard really mean to shut down communication. Those kinds of critical comments, especially when they’re spiteful and mean, make people not want to post anymore. I’m sure thinking I might not post again after that incident.
I do my best not to engage the “overly helpful”. I seem to have something in my personality that brings them out of the woodwork. I suppose it’s a sign that I need to work on not caring about what other people say or think… but again, prick me and I bleed. My feelings are raw because we just lost a big chunk out of our hearts. Arran was a part of our lives for over ten years… half our marriage! And while his passing wasn’t directly related to Mormonism, having him in our lives was a big part of Bill’s recovery from Mormonism. So maybe my post there about Arran’s death wasn’t so off topic, after all…
The troll chastised me for not posting about “recovery from Mormonism”… but Arran had a lot to do with our recovery. I wasn’t a Mormon, but the religion has touched me nevertheless, because of Bill, and because of his younger daughter, who is still active. Fortunately, she seems to have picked up the good parts of the faith instead of the toxic ones, that still show themselves among recovering people, including the “overly helpful” woman who feels the need to butt in on every fucking thing anyone posts there.
Hurting people hurt others… and toxic behavior is contagious. I tried not to be contagious when I addressed the troll’s obvious pain, rather than just advising him to go fuck off and die. But if I’m honest, he can do that, too. 😉 I won’t shed any tears for that.
One last thought… and this one has to do with Arran.
When we lose our dogs, we usually get “signs” from them. I mentioned yesterday, that when we were on our way home from the vet’s office, the 1991 song “Shiny Happy People” by R.E.M. came on the radio. I’m not the biggest fan of R.E.M., and I see no reason why that song would be particularly meaningful, as it was about the behavior of Chinese people after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. It’s kind of a sarcastic song about “shiny, happy people” carrying on after a bloody tragedy… as communism promotes Utopia that can’t really exist as long as humans are the way they are.
Bill commented on “Shiny, Happy People” as we pulled into the driveway, and said he felt it was a sign from Arran. Of course, Arran’s time was long after that song was a hit, and it’s not like we play a lot of R.E.M. at our house. But then last night, as we were raising a glass to Arran’s memory at the wine stand, there it was again. The song “Shiny, Happy People” was playing in the kiosk… the second time we heard it that day. And then I realized it came from an album titled Out of Time. I dunno. It kind of makes sense. But maybe I just need to get out more.
Also… the steps I so carefully purchased for Arran just arrived. Guess we’ll hang onto them. Maybe they’ll come in handy.