communication, relationships, social media

It’s getting harder to make any assumptions these days…

Early this morning, I woke up to answer nature’s call. It turned out to be a pretty bad case of diarrhea which is still, unfortunately, running its course. Because I was wide awake after that runny episode, I decided to check Facebook. There, I saw a post by the comedian who refers to themself as “God”. God wanted to know…

Good question, and one might assume it wouldn’t be that controversial. But you know what happens when one assumes…

I was enjoying most of the responses, the vast majority of which were astute, and made good sense. But then someone posted this comment:

Being the loudest person in the room.

Now, I don’t think this was a particularly offensive comment. I’ve been around for 51 years now, and I know that people who are very loud often want to hear themselves talk. Even God commented that this was a good observation.

I know it’s not always insecurity that causes people to speak loudly, though. Sometimes people are loud for practical reasons, like the genuine need to be heard. Or sometimes they have a hearing problem and don’t realize that they’re loud… or they live with someone who doesn’t hear well and are used to speaking loudly for that reason. I would add, though, that even in those situations, a person can learn to modify themselves based on their audience. Yes, you might get used to speaking loudly if you live with someone who is hard of hearing, but common courtesy might influence you to realize that not everyone is hard of hearing and other people would appreciate it if you didn’t “boom” at them.

Moreover, I don’t think the poster who mentioned being loud was referring to those who are loud for practical reasons. I think there’s a certain type of loudness that comes from people who are insecure, and demand that everyone hear their voice, even if they aren’t necessarily listening to what is being said. Take, for instance, the guy on our flight from Yerevan to Frankfurt, who was very loudly talking about his life in London for everyone to hear. It came off as kind of narcissistic and inconsiderate, especially since it was so early in the morning and most people were hoping for peace and quiet. Narcissism is often rooted in being deeply insecure.

Anyway, I was about to move on from the post when I noticed this comment:

…that could just be a sign of hearing loss or autism. Let’s try not to weaponize something that can’t be helped.

And inwardly I sighed, because of the shaming tone of that response, and someone’s decision to edify a stranger on social media. I think it was the “Let’s try” part of the comment that annoyed me the most, because it sounds shaming, and because God is supposed to be a funny page. I don’t understand why people have to turn everything into an “educational moment”, especially on a comedian’s social media page. I don’t think the original comment was so offensive that it needed correction. However, if the person really felt they must point out other reasons why people are “loud”, they could have done it in a less obnoxious, preachy way, like this:

Maybe the person has hearing loss or autism.

The original comment wasn’t referring to that situation. In fact, the person came back and posted this:

I think you know to whom I’m referring. (again, an assumption)

To which the shamer wrote this:

Sure I do, but I’ve been falsely accused dozens if not hundreds of times of being that person, when it wasn’t that at all. Just offering some perspective.

Maybe the commenter could have been more specific about the type of loudness meant, but again, it’s just Facebook. I’m sure it never occurred to them that their response would draw criticism. It’s more likely they were referring to someone who is obviously being obnoxious about being loud. To their credit, the original poster did say “totally understood”, and moved on without incident.

As someone who lives in Europe, I notice that a lot of Americans are LOUD. They can’t all be hard of hearing or suffering from autism (or another condition). I think it’s a cultural thing for a lot of us, and it comes from repeatedly being told that your country is the best in the world. As an American, I can say that I don’t think the United States is the best country in the world by a long shot. But that’s just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

More people piled onto that comment. Someone thanked the shamer for pointing out that sometimes people are loud for reasons other than being insecure.

Thank you. I am on the spectrum and I talk really fast, and often loudly, because that is how my ADHD manifests itself.

Fair enough. But most people aren’t going to know that you have ADHD, or some other condition, unless you decide to let them know. And as humans, we tend to draw conclusions based on the information we have. God knows, plenty of people have come to erroneous conclusions about me without knowing anything about me. It’s kind of part of being human, isn’t it? It doesn’t necessarily mean someone is an asshole.

The next comment came from someone who decided that having a condition is no excuse. She posted this:

People on the spectrum can learn to modify their behavior. High functioning autism doesn’t give people a pass.

Naturally, that comment made some people angry. I may, myself, make some people angry when I state that I think she has a point. Because obviously, people who function in the world without supervision can be taught which behaviors are acceptable, and which aren’t– at least to a degree. Moreover, if you don’t know the person well enough to realize that they have autism or another issue, your impressions of them aren’t going to matter much, anyway. If I’m on an airplane at 6:00 AM, listening to some guy talk very loudly about his sports cars in London, I might think he’s an obnoxious asshole when it’s possible that he’s really just on the spectrum. But since I probably won’t see or interact with him again in my lifetime, what difference does it make? Especially if I keep those thoughts private?

So then someone posted this:

only if they know they have it. Many don’t have a diagnosis.

Does this mean, then, that everyone who speaks too loudly is potentially someone with a diagnosis, and not someone who is just showing off to the masses? Probably not. And maybe it is a good thing to be charitable in one’s thinking. But if that’s your position, why are you hanging out on God’s Facebook page? The God page isn’t exactly known for being charitable toward everyone’s behavior. The person who runs that page habitually shares “Am I the Asshole” posts from Reddit.

The “no excuses” lady came back with this response, which provoked more angry emoji reactions:

they don’t need a diagnosis to respond to negative feedback.

True enough, I think… although in fairness, I think people on the spectrum probably get a lot more negative feedback than the average person does. I will also admit that I really don’t know a whole lot about autism, myself. I’m sure it existed when I was growing up, but we didn’t hear about it much at all. Now, it seems like it’s become an epidemic, and many people use the diagnosis to explain “difficult” people’s behavior. I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong because, as I said, I don’t know that much about autism. But I also figure I’m not alone in my ignorance. Because of that, people will make assumptions.

Another person took on “no excuses” lady with this:

why should they have to modify their behavior?

By that logic, I’d ask, “why should anyone have to modify their offensive behavior?” If this is how people feel about socially inappropriate behaviors, why even question it when people do things that other people find annoying? Why have AITA posts? Why not just assume everyone has a diagnosis of some sort, which many Americans will then claim they don’t have to disclose to anyone because of “HIPAA”–which of course, when it comes to healthcare privacy, is a law that medical professionals must follow, not rank and file US citizens. HIPAA, incidently, is strictly a US thing— it’s not a human thing that everyone on Earth follows. And God’s page is followed by people around the world who come from many different cultures.

The comment thread continued to escalate. Several more people piled on the “no excuses” lady, and their comments got nastier, more hostile, and more personal. I started to wonder if the self-described people on the spectrum are in control of their ability to interact with people without resorting to insults and rudeness. Isn’t that part of the very definition of an asshole? And before anyone comes at me, I’m not trying to say that being an asshole is part of having autism or any other diagnosis. But I did wonder if part of having autism means that a person gets a license to just be rude to other people without allowing them to respond in kind.

It sounded like a lot of the shamers were saying, “I have a diagnosis, so I can’t help being loud, nasty, and insulting. You should be more understanding and tolerant about my condition, even if we aren’t acquainted, and you don’t know that I have a diagnosis, and even if I’m being a massive hypocrite.” Insulting comments, by the way, are much less socially acceptable than being too loud in public is. Shall I blame those very personal, hostile, rude comments on the diagnosis? Or can people with autism, who get dragged for speaking too loudly in public, regulate themselves enough not to insult strangers on the Internet? If they can’t regulate themselves, should they be allowed to post?

Just as I was about to give up hope, someone posted this to the “no excuses” lady:

i got my diagnosis at 54 years old, and i started asking people close to me to help me be better at containing myself when i get excited, angry, whatever. most of the time they just say to tone it down when i get a bit over the top, and it’s been really helpful to identify the situations where i can improve my listening and communicating. it’s actually made my life easier.

Wow! How refreshing! Someone is taking responsibility for themselves and trying to modify their behavior so that people don’t think the worst about them. I realize that this is a difficult thing for a lot of people, and maybe for some it’s impossible. Still, I think it’s commendable that they are willing to try. I know some people think that asking people with the diagnosis to try to modify their behavior seems “ableist”. But other people probably see it as a way of improving their situation. I was impressed that the above commenter chose to respond without hostility and shame. I wish more people could do that. The “no excuses” lady sure seemed to. She wrote this:

great work, this is exactly what I mean, you’re choosing to benefit from feedback and I bet your friends and family appreciate this about you.

And this made me conclude that the “no excuses” lady isn’t an asshole, even though a lot of people were assuming that about her. She responded with kindness, appreciation, and empathy toward the person who posted that they had a diagnosis and were trying to learn how to fit in better with people who don’t have diagnoses. I really think that was her main point. You can have a diagnosis and use it as a crutch, or you can have a diagnosis and work to move beyond it. The choice is up to you, of course, but if you choose the crutch route, don’t be surprised if people don’t understand your difficulties and negatively judge you accordingly.

Listen, folks… I can understand how difficult it can be to deal with people when you have a personality that people think is “weird”, “obnoxious”, or “annoying”. I’ve struggled with such a personality all of my life. Plenty of people dislike me after meeting me once and never getting to know me. I had a field instructor when I was getting my MSW who accused me of not being very introspective. He was definitely WRONG about that, but then, he didn’t actually know me very well, and based his assumptions on his short term experiences with me. If he knew me better, he might know that I am actually very introspective. But I’m also eccentric and outspoken. That’s what he saw, and he drew conclusions about me based only on what he saw. We all do that, to some extent. He’s not in my life anymore, so honestly, who cares what he thinks?

I finally decided to quit reading the Facebook post after someone posted this:

it’s not a choice, my parents tried to change the way I spoke when I was a kid and I literally was not even aware of when I was doing it even after it being brought to my attention. Since I got in trouble randomly (from my perspective) all the time for talking I became really uncomfortable talking and instead spoke super quietly for the next 20 years

“No excuses” lady wrote this response, which I think makes a lot of sense:

If it’s not a choice then not changing is understandable and others need to be compassionate and understanding. But if it can be changed, and it often can, then it’s the responsibility of the annoying/inappropriate/whatever person to change it and that’s not going to happen if we just assume “oh, they must be autistic, they can’t help it.“ Behaviors like giving good eye contact, not interrupting, and not talking incessantly in a loud voice in public can often be changed.

Naturally, she got “laughter” reactions for this comment, as well as a few more accusatory, hostile, name calling responses. I gave her a “like”, because I think she makes sense. I think the vast majority of people on the spectrum must be able to make some choices, as we all can, to some extent. Otherwise, what would stop them from committing crimes that would put them jail? I know some of them do commit crimes– there are a lot of mentally ill people who are incarcerated. But do most people on the spectrum do that? I hope not, and I wouldn’t want to assume such a thing about everyone who is “on the spectrum”. If people with diagnoses can learn not to commit crimes that would put them behind bars, most of them probably can learn to modify some of their behaviors, with effort, competent therapy, and empathy from people who know and care about them.

But really, I just wish people who preach about kindness, acceptance, and tolerance would actually practice what they preach. If you want people to be more understanding and offer forbearance toward you when you’re trying, don’t come at people with meanness when they misunderstand. If you want respect, act respectable. Meanness is a deterrent to communication.

When people are hostile, judgmental, and make assumptions about who I am, it doesn’t make me want to understand who they are. I just want to get the fuck away from them. And that’s one thing that these folks who are aggressively demanding acceptance, respect, tolerance, and for people to stop judging them, don’t seem to understand. I also doubt these kinds of hostile interactions online do much to change people’s perspectives toward problematic behaviors or people with “issues”. They sure don’t make God’s page any more fun to visit or read.

communication, condescending twatbags, first world problems, social media, stupid people

“You better tell that girl to shut up…”

Back in the early 1990s, I was a college student who worked at the campus radio station. In the beginning, I loved being a deejay. I was pretty good at it, as I have a voice that sounds good over a microphone. I used to make commercials for my parents’ business and announce at horse shows, so it was only natural that I would enjoy being a disc jockey at the campus radio station. Another reason I liked being a deejay was that I would get exposed to music I wouldn’t ordinarily hear on my own. One band I was introduced to in those days was called Transvision Vamp.

The alternative band, which hailed from Merry Olde England in the 1980s, is now defunct. But they had one funny number that I still enjoy listening to called “Tell That Girl to Shut Up”. The song was a hit in 1988, when I was in high school, but I became familiar with it when I was a Longwood (College) University student in the early 90s. And I’m thinking of that song this morning as I think about something that happened last night. Some of you who read this are going to think it’s ridiculous that I’m writing about this topic today, but it’s Friday, and I’m not quite ready to review Jill Duggar Dillard’s new book. So here goes…

Yeah, you tell her… STFU.

Below are the lyrics to “Tell That Girl to Shut Up”:

Well you got that girl and she lives with you
And she does just want you want her to
And when I call you on the phone, she says you’re not there
But I know you’re home-

You better tell that girl to shut up
You better tell that girl I’m gonna beat her up
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl

Well we used to be the best of friends
Now all that’s gonna have to end
But there’s just one thing that I can’t see
How she’s got got you hanging up on me

You better tell that girl to shut up
You better tell that girl I’m gonna beat her up
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl

Well I guess you’re like that all of the time
But it takes more than that for me to lose my mind
Don’t you know that I don’t care?
Maybe if I hit her, maybe if I pulled her hair
Oh oh hey yey yeah

Well, she likes to seem intellectual
And to be a musician she goes to school
And the way she acts is so uncool
I just can’t stand her

You better tell that girl to shut up
You better tell that girl I’m gonna beat her up
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl

Ooh you better tell, yeah you better tell, oh
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl

Girl, girl, girl, girl, girl, girl

You better tell that girl to shut up
You better tell that girl I’m gonna beat her up
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl
You better tell that girl to shut up!

This is a really catchy song written by Holly Vincent, and it captures the mood sometimes. Mind you, I don’t condone violence, nor would I ever beat someone up, unless they somehow provoked me into physically defending myself. But sometimes the urge is there to just slap the taste out of someone’s mouth, because they are deliberately being an asshole, and trying to stir up shit, when all you want to do is just be in the world.

Such was the case last night, as Bill was having an online session with his Jungian therapist. I was sitting alone at the kitchen table looking at Facebook. I had meant to be reading Jill Duggar’s book, but just never got around to it. I happened across a post by Bitchy Waiter.

Granted, no question has been asked, as there is no question mark.

I don’t often post comments on Bitchy Waiter’s page, or any other page, for that matter. Far too often, I’ve run into rude cretins who just want to start trouble with strangers. But last night, I did choose to comment. This is what I wrote.

I preferred food service because it paid better. Also, I had better bosses.

Nothing wrong with that comment, right? It’s actually pretty boring. I wouldn’t have expected it to attract a rude comment, but hey– it’s Facebook– and confrontational jerks abound there. Someone named Pattie tagged me and wrote something along the lines of “That wasn’t the question.”

I gave Pattie an orange anger emoji and wrote, “Shut up!”

Maybe I should have just posted this video.

I had a feeling she’d come back, even though I think I was clear that I wasn’t interested in engaging with her. Sure enough, she didn’t disappoint. She came back and wrote something along the lines of, “Shut up? How old are you?”

I blocked her, because there were just too many answers I could have given that would have turned our conversation into a huge spectacle. For instance, I could have told Pattie to “go fry herself.” Or maybe she should “go flame broil herself.” Or maybe she should go be an all beef pattie somewhere else, with someone who has a grill big enough to accommodate her. I wasn’t in the mood to flame her ground up standard cuts into taco filling.

Pattie just wanted to pick a fight with someone, and she’d decided to try it with me. It takes two people to fight, though, and I wasn’t interested in giving her narcissistic fuel supply or wasting energy on an online confrontation with her, especially since I’d been drinking. So I hit the block button and ended the pain. But I was left wondering if this was really what she wanted. Was it Pattie’s goal to be blocked by me?

Then I was left with more questions. Does Pattie work as a server? Did she ever? Is being confrontational how she interacts with her tables? With people she meets on the street? With her friends and family? They say something innocuous, and she comes back with a confrontation or an insult? Why do people feel the need to be so rude and hostile to people they don’t even know? Pattie and I have at least one thing in common, and that is the fact that we both follow Bitchy Waiter. Why is that an invitation to be rude to me? There was nothing about my comment that called for her to address me in the way she did. She very quickly showed me that I don’t want to talk to her, hence why I advised her to shut up.

I’ve actually been thinking about unfollowing Bitchy Waiter, though, because I feel like I’ve outgrown the bitterness I’ve had after the experience of waiting tables. I also get tired of reading constant demands for people to tip their servers ever increasing amounts. I think restaurant owners should pay their staff appropriately, since they are the people who ultimately hire the servers. Customers who wish to tip should certainly do so… or not… since tips usually aren’t mandatory.

If the owners were paying their staff, it would mean that the staff is definitely compensated for their hard work, instead of relying on the kindness and generosity/guilt complexes of strangers. And maybe people could enjoy an evening out without constantly being pressured to order more than they want or need. Dining out in America is a stressful experience, mainly because servers are pressured to get people in and out as quickly as possible, with a bill that is as high as possible, so the tip is as high as possible. I like how it’s done in Europe, where people get paid appropriately regardless, have adequate time off, and are grateful when someone tips them.

That’s just my opinion about tipping, even though I’ve worked in the industry and completely understand why the system is the way it is. It doesn’t mean I need someone to explain why I must tip, nor do I need a primer on how things work, or a hostile lecture about why I’m “wrong” about the practice of tipping. This is just my view, and it’s not been formed in ignorance, nor is it up for debate. Opinions aren’t facts, so they have to be taken with a grain of salt. I know my view isn’t popular, but it’s how I feel.

That being said, of course I tip properly and generously, especially when I’m in the United States. I know that most servers don’t really get paid anything but tips. But I still think the system sucks. I don’t want to argue about it, because I’ve thought about it long enough to know how I feel and why I feel that way. If someday, I get new and compelling information about why tipping is better than employers actually paying their staff, I may change my mind.

Because I don’t want to argue about subjects like the importance of tipping, I don’t often comment on Bitchy Waiter’s page. I find him entertaining, and I think he’s got multiple talents. He’s worth paying attention to sometimes. That’s why I follow him. But I don’t agree with constantly pressuring people to tip more and more, so I don’t engage too often with him. When I do comment, I try to keep my comments banal.

Last night’s comment was pretty boring; so why did it attract Pattie? I don’t know. When I saw Pattie’s confrontation, my actual first instinct was to tell her to “shut the fuck up”. But, instead of posting that the f-bomb, I simply wrote the marginally more polite “shut up”. Most people know what that means, but I guess Pattie didn’t. It’s basically an invitation to go away, because I don’t owe her a conversation or a defense of my comments. She didn’t accept my invitation to leave me alone, and came back with negativity. So now we won’t be interacting at all. It’s probably no big loss to her. I know it’s no big loss to me.

I do wonder what the hell happened to Pattie to make her think it’s okay to approach people in such a way. Maybe that makes me a late 80s relic. I don’t think today’s people even think about this stuff. Younger people have apparently skipped the part of home training that includes basic manners and engaging people with respect and dignity. However, I also realize that I’m becoming a crotchety old hag with no patience. I’ll own that, as I tell that girl to shut up…

The older I get, the less patience I have for people like Pattie… total strangers on social media who, for whatever reason, feel the need to be egregiously aggressive and rude to people they don’t know. I wouldn’t tolerate it offline; so I don’t tolerate it online.

I’ll bet Pattie is pretty cheesy, too…

May deformed all beef Pattie be turned into Wendy’s chili meat.