Today’s topic is about one of my many pet peeves, which will probably seem silly and very petty to some people, but is a genuine irritant to me. If you’re not in the mood for pointless griping, you might want to move on. Here goes.
A few days ago, I shared a story with my Facebook friends about a raccoon who went to one of Germany’s many Christmas markets and got drunk on Gluhwein. The story’s headline was “Drunken raccoon staggers through German Christmas market, passes out”. Unlike a lot of people who saw that headline, laughed, and moved on, I took the time to read the article. I knew it wasn’t going to end well for the raccoon, because just under the headline, there was a sub-headline that read,
“The tipsy raccoon apparently couldn’t hold back from having a good time at Erfurt’s Christmas market. However, the furry creature’s daytime drinking binge ended in grisly fashion.”
It turned out the raccoon, whose welfare had been safeguarded until the fire brigade could pick it up, wasn’t taken to an animal shelter as expected. Instead, the raccoon was given to a hunter, who then shot it. I was reminded of a discussion I’d had with a college friend who had friends under the impression that there are no guns in Germany. I tagged him in the post and wrote, “Now see… there are guns in Germany after all.”
What did this friend do? Like so many other people, he laughed at the headline without reading or even skimming the article. My comment about guns wasn’t even enough to tip him off that maybe he should read the article to see why I mentioned guns. The piece, by the way, wasn’t even behind a paywall. But I empathized with him, since I had the same initial reaction of laughter at the headline. I was almost tempted to share the article without reading it myself. So I wrote this:
What made this even more annoying to me, though, were more laughter reactions from people who didn’t even bother to read the comments on the thread. After a few more laughter reactions, I edited the post thusly… and I know it sounds petty and stupid, but I can’t help it. I was genuinely irked.
I remember ranting on my old blog about how much it annoys me when people chime in without reading. Years ago, there was a great site called Television Without Pity, which had snarky commentary about television shows. TWoP also had lively forums with hilarious, witty comments about the featured shows and their recaps. Those boards must have been run by a very anal retentive lot, because there were many rules about posting there and actual consequences for those who broke the rules. One of the cardinal rules was that posters must read the previous comments before posting a new one. I wish I could find the actual rules now, because I liked the way the moderators explained why reading before commenting is so important. Basically they wrote something like this:
“But I don’t want to read fifty comments before making my own very important point!”
“Oh you don’t, huh? You want people to read your thoughts, but you don’t want to give them the same courtesy? Well, fuck you.”
And then there followed a very good explanation as to why the moderators stringently enforced their rule about reading before commenting and why it’s so rude not to take a minute to read. Unfortunately, since the forum was dismantled, I can’t find the TWoP rules spelled out anymore. I’d like to frame them and hang them at the top of my Facebook page.
Since I can’t find Television Without Pity’s rules, here are a few reasons why I think it’s important to read first, and then comment or react.
- There’s an excellent chance that your point has already been made by an earlier poster and thoroughly discussed by other thread participants.
- Perhaps you don’t even have a clue what’s being discussed.
- Maybe you’re about to make a jackass out of yourself by reacting inappropriately.
- It’s the polite thing to do. It shows people that you’re interested in what someone else has to say and are paying attention to them.
- It saves other people’s time and energy, since they don’t have to explain that your point has already been covered, is irrelevant, or inappropriate.
Think about this. If you were talking to someone face to face, how would you react if a third person came up and inserted themselves in your conversation without any concept about what you’ve been discussing? Say, for instance, you’re talking about how the weather led to a fatal car accident and someone else came up and started talking about socks. Or they said the same thing that you said five minutes ago. Or they started laughing about the weather, not knowing that someone had died because of it. It would be awkward and rude, right? Well, to me, it’s rude and awkward when this happens on social media. It really bugs me, even though I know I’ll never change it. I know… I know… build a bridge and get over it. Or start deleting the worst offenders.
A couple of days after the raccoon post, I wrote that Peter Frampton is coming to Frankfurt. I wondered if I would enjoy the concert. Several people opined. I like Frampton, but I have one of his more recent live albums and I didn’t care for it, even though I love Frampton Comes Alive! from 1976. At the same time, I know this would probably be my one chance to see him play, because he’s going to be retiring soon. He has a disease that affects his guitar playing. I knew about the disease, because I had read about it some months ago… probably when I bought that album I hadn’t enjoyed very much and wanted to know if something was up with his health. So when a friend was offering her opinion about Frampton, I mentioned that he has health issues and linked to the article about it. Then, the next day, someone else chimed in with this:
On that same Frampton thread, someone left what seemed to be an inappropriate reaction– an angry emoji. I was puzzled, so I wrote this:
I pretty much hate the Facebook reaction buttons, anyway. They often end up being misused. I mean, I use them myself a lot, but I don’t think they’re very effective because most people don’t pay attention to what they’re reacting to. A lot of them seem to be in a trance, scrolling through the many conversations and postings, listlessly clicking as they scroll, halfway cognizant about what they’re “reacting” to. I go on Facebook and see that I have a ton of notifications, but they’re all “reactions” from the same person. And half of them don’t indicate any understanding of what was posted… they’re just reactions to be reactions. Like, the person just wants me to know that they saw my post, even if they didn’t actually read or understand it. It’s depressing, because the random “reactions” have a negative effect on effective communication. Personally, I find it disheartening when someone “reacts” inappropriately, making it clear that they didn’t even read. It seems oddly dismissive to me when I post a sad article about something and I get a laughing reaction. Or I post something I think is thought provoking and someone reacts with a sad face. I supposed I could just preface all of my posts with a request that people read and/or think before reacting or commenting, but that would seem hyper-controlling. And I don’t want to be hyper-controlling.
People are busy. I get that. And I tend to cut slack to certain people whom I know may not be as attentive as they otherwise might be. For instance, yesterday I shared a ten year old Facebook memory, because it happened to be the anniversary of the day we brought Zane into our family. I’ve been missing him a lot.
If you think about it, posting before reading because you’re “too busy” to read what’s already been said or explained is likely to waste other people’s time. There’s a good chance you won’t be leaving a high quality comment that adds anything to the discussion and might even irritate the anally retentive types, like me. If you don’t like it when people waste your time, you should alter your behavior accordingly. Do unto others, and all that. If you’re too busy to read, you’re probably too busy to comment.
I read another article about a woman in Wisconsin who walked with a cane and had gone to renew her driver’s license. For some reason, the examiner told her that she needed to prove she could walk across the room without the cane before she could get her license renewed. The woman tried to walk without the cane, fell, and broke her wrist. The headline was this: “DMV made a woman walk without her cane before it would renew her license. She fell and broke her wrist.” I had a feeling that headline would prompt inappropriate comments, so I posted this to head them off:
The reason I suggested reading first is because the headline doesn’t reveal that Mary Wobschall, the woman in this story, died a few months later from other causes. I didn’t want to see people posting about her as if she was still living. Her estate is now suing the DMV because they didn’t handle her appropriately or do things by the book. The broken wrist and subsequent surgery could have been avoided, and the examiner wasn’t qualified to make a determination about the Mary Wobschall’s health. Taken from the article:
“According to the suit, if a DMV worker thinks an applicant needs to be seen by a medical professional, he or she is supposed to issue a 60-day temporary license. Wobschall’s suit says his wife was not issued that license and was told she had until the end of the month to renew or lose her license.”
“Making applicants who use canes or other “personal mobility devices” like crutches demonstrate they can walk without the device as a condition of getting a license violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and Wobschall’s constitutional guarantees of due process, according to the suit.”
I know I’ve said it before. I’m losing my patience with social media. It’s probably time I gave up Facebook and Twitter and any other platform that has me interacting with strangers. I’ve even been giving thought to giving up blogging, since I don’t think most people care about what I write, and some people only seem interested in using my writing against me– like the woman who lived in our previous house before we did and was keeping me under surveillance for four years. If she’s reading this, she should know that she’s not as anonymous as she thinks she is and two can play at her game. 😉 But really, I have no desire to stalk other people, and I completely understand that this is a petty grievance that I should probably let go of for my health’s sake. It would probably be a good thing if I went to a “Fuck It” retreat or learned yoga… or maybe got into drinking hot tea.