musings

A little “Clarity”…

It’s dark and rainy outside, here in Beaune. I have a few minutes to write this as I wait for Bill to get out of the shower and make coffee. I would make it myself, but Bill is better at making coffee than I am. I wasn’t even much of a coffee fan until Bill and I met. Funny, isn’t it, that he is better at making coffee when he was once a Mormon? But then, before he was a Mormon, he was Methodist, Episcopalian, and Catholic, so I guess that’s where he got his mad coffee making skills.

Last night, I wrote a post about how I think using generic names as insults is “stupid”. I still think it’s stupid to call someone “Susan”, “Becky”, “Patty” or whatever when your intention is to insult them. It was probably cute when the first couple of people did it. Now, it’s become old hat. Or, at least that’s my humble opinion. I don’t enjoy being insulted. I don’t think anyone enjoys it. However, I have much more respect for witty insults than cliched ones, and that was the idea last night’s post was ultimately regarding.

I wrote last night’s post in response to being labeled “Susan” and “Karen” on a New York Times comment thread I started. This is the third post I’m writing that was fathered by my innocuous, matter-of-fact comment about getting spam from people in India. The first post was about how bewildered I was that some people either took apparent offense to my comment or decided to hit on me. The second post was about how irritating it is when someone comes along later, revives a comment thread, and then doesn’t even have the decency to be clever and funny when they hurl insults at me.

This post is about a comment I got on my official OH page. A reader decided to explain to me why I got called “Karen” and “Susan”. I’m afraid my retort was a little snippy. I apologize for that. I’m ragging, have a cold sore, and am still wondering if I’m speaking a foreign language. You see… I completely understand why some people were insulting me for daring to comment about Indians losing their Internet access as I continue to be spammed by people in India. For the most part, I think people were having some fun at my expense, although one or two really might have been offended that I commented about spam. To be clear, I was also having some fun replying to the commenters who took me on, although I was legitimately baffled as to why the race card got thrown out there, especially when I noticed that other commenters made much more offensive comments that were legitimately racist and sexist, yet they didn’t get hit with a ration of shit. I figured it’s because I’m a middle-aged blonde woman who can’t possibly know anything about the world… or so it may appear from the outside. If I happened to be a swarthy man from Asia daring to comment about India, maybe people might take me more seriously. I also understand that when you put something out there on social media or elsewhere, you invite commentary. It’s too bad so many people choose to be uncivilized rather than understanding.

However, to my knowledge, no one commenting on that thread has ever even met me in person. In fact, while some of my regular readers know me offline, most of them don’t know me at all, other than what I’ve written in my blog or on Facebook. So it’s strange to me that someone would presume to know what’s in my head. Last night’s commenter used the word “worried” when she explained why I got labeled “Karen” and “Susan”. She wrote that I was “worried” about being spammed when people in India are suffering. The fact is, I don’t “worry” about spam. It is what it is. We all get it in our inboxes and those of us who write blog posts get it in comment sections. It’s a problem that affects everyone, and I’ll never change it by complaining or “worrying” about it. I also wrote in my initial post that I understand that people in India are having a tough time. I even explained why I knew they were having hard times and expressed concern for them.

And yet, somehow, people are still under the faulty impression that I’m more concerned about spam. The fact is, I’m not. If you’d heard me say “And yet, people from India still constantly spam my blogsā€¦” in person, you probably would not have come away with the idea that I’m worried or upset about that. Online communication is different. You don’t have the benefit of body language, facial expressions, or vocal tone to get the nuances of what a person means or what might be in their heads. Non-verbal communication is extremely important in everyday speech, but online, you don’t usually have non-verbal cues to help express your point. And so, people often inaccurately translate what they read. They interject their own interpretations into words and make assumptions that may be incorrect. Or they simply decide to stir up shit for fun and adventure.

This phenomenon is fascinating to me, which is why I was inspired to write about it. The first post was about the many reactions I got from other New York Times Facebook followers. The second post is about how annoying it is when someone revives a dead thread with stale and unfunny insults, rather than insight, wit, and empathy. I wrote last night’s post while drinking wine after having spent hours in the car, which also affected its tone and color. I was blowing off steam. I doubt people will stop using “Susan” and “Karen” as insults, simply because I think it’s stupid.

Anyway… I hope this is “clear” to Clare and any other readers who feel the need to explain Lacey’s “Susan” and “Karen” comments to me. One might assume Lacey was “offended” that I “care” more about spammers on my blogs than the poor Internetless people in India. Personally, I think Lacey just wanted to be rude to a stranger and figured I was an easy target. But I could be wrong.

Maybe Lacey stays up nights worrying about people in India. Maybe she’s launched a “free the Internet” campaign for Indians who can’t get online. Maybe she is the biggest, baddest, and best darn social justice warrior there is… Perhaps she’s even written a dissertation on racism toward the people of India. Somehow, I doubt any of that is true, but it could be the case, for all I know. After all, just as Lacey doesn’t know me, I don’t know her. Well… I do know that lobbing witty insults isn’t a strong suit of hers. Or, at least I didn’t see any evidence that it is. Maybe she saves her best put downs for the “Pattys”, “Beckys”, and “Chads” out there.

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