social media

You can go now…

We had a pretty dull long weekend. Bill had Friday off because of the Fourth of July, but we didn’t end up doing anything special, despite Bill’s best efforts to get me out of the house. However, I did have a good guitar day yesterday, which I wrote about on my travel blog. My travel blog, by the way, is going to wake up again soon, because I have booked a short trip that starts in eleven days. We will spend three nights in the Eifel region of the Mosel Valley, which is about a two hour drive from where we live. There’s a lot of stuff to do outdoors, so I think we’ll be busy, especially if the weather is good. Bill has been a good sport about my stubborn refusal to venture out, although I think he’s feeling kind of tense.

I’ve mostly been trying to stay out of trouble on social media, although I’m still thinking that it may be time to move on from it. Last night, Red Peters, a hilarious comedian who writes and sings funny songs and promotes the songs done by other people, got really pissed off by one of Facebook’s recent censorship policies. He says he’s going to get off of Facebook by September 1st. I can’t blame him, as I was also recently wrist slapped by Facebook over something really stupid. Maybe I’ll follow suit… or maybe not. But one thing is for certain. Facebook may be a way to keep in touch with friends and family, but it’s also the source of a whole lot of annoyances.

Take, for instance, a recent trend I’ve noticed. Sometimes my “friends” send me private messages. The messages are almost never about anything important. They’re often videos or memes that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to post on their own page, and sometimes they send them without comment. Or they put them on their page, but they also send them via PM to their friends. Personally, I don’t like this practice. I understand that some people do it because it’s something obnoxious or controversial and they only want to share it with people who will appreciate it and not start a shit storm. I get that, and I do have a couple of friends who are very civilized, but have a good sense of humor and they know I’ll think something’s funny and even share it for them.

But– I also sometimes get these PMs from people I don’t know that well and/or engage with often. Sometimes, they’re the annoying “pass it on” posts– you know, like the ones that tell you to post what color your bra is (I rarely wear them anymore unless I’m going out). It’s supposed to be for breast cancer awareness, but it’s really just a stupid timewaster that doesn’t really do anything more than irritate people. Below is an excerpt about the bra campaign from a book entitled Online Activism: Social Change Through Social Media:

Yes, I got these messages. No, I did not participate.

Sometimes they’re just memes or videos sent without comment. If the sender is someone I know well and/or have engaged with more than a couple of times, I may have an inkling as to why they sent the message. Maybe I’ll even care enough to ask them. I still think it’s an irritating practice to PM these things, mainly because I think private messages should be reserved for items that really should be kept private and are actually important. Memes and videos don’t generally fall into those categories. Still, I’m more willing to cut more slack to people I know than people I don’t.

Last night, someone sent me this meme without comment:

How should I take this?

The person who sent this is a nurse. We “met” on a site for second wives and stepmothers, and there was a time when we interacted frequently. She lives far away from me, even when I’m stateside, so we have never met offline. Lately, we haven’t been chatting much at all. So last night, when I got a PM from her out of the blue, and it turned out to be the above image, I wasn’t sure how to take it. I’ve repeatedly stated that I’m not on the mask bandwagon. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t comply with the rules, nor does it mean that I don’t take the pandemic seriously. I SIMPLY STAY AT HOME. While I go many days between mask wearings, I also don’t go to places where I encounter people who could be adversely affected by my germs. On the rare occasions when I do go out, I follow the rules. I just don’t like or agree with them. Fair enough?

Lots of people disagree with me about the masks, and that’s fine. I figure that if I’m mostly staying at home, I’m probably doing more than they are to flatten the curve, anyway. The world doesn’t need me to preach about face masks. Plenty of people are already doing that repeatedly and annoyingly. I don’t need to add my voice to the cacophony. I don’t need to cheerlead about the masks, even if they do help slow the spread of the virus. They still suck. Nothing about wearing a mask is fun, and most people have the right and ability to make up their own minds about them. They don’t need my help any more than I need theirs.

Because there was no comment with my friend’s “meme”, and I have no idea if this person has been paying attention to my social media, I wondered if she thought I would like the meme, or if it was a dig. I suppose I could have responded to her. Maybe that would have been the right thing to do. Ultimately, I decided that the face mask meme wasn’t something I care that much about, so I didn’t comment. But since this is a common practice– for people to send unimportant stuff via PM without comment– I decided to ask my Facebook friends why people do it. I don’t PM people unless I have something important to tell them privately, but people PM me all the time. I try to be tolerant, but I must admit I get annoyed, and I just wanted to understand the rationale behind the PM blitzing. Some of my “regular” friends were having a nice discussion with me, with a few people agreeing with me that this is an annoying practice.

And then, I got a message from someone else I “met” on the same site for second wives and stepmothers. This person, who is now no longer a friend, probably interacted with me more often than the person who sent the meme, but we still didn’t talk much. When we did regularly used to communicate some years ago, we often disagreed.

For instance, she didn’t like that I was vocal about my disdain for Mormonism. She said it was “disrespectful”, although she isn’t herself LDS. I disagreed, since the LDS church was successfully used as a weapon against Bill’s relationship with his children, and that’s a problem that affects many people. She felt that I shouldn’t say out loud that I don’t like Mormonism, out of respect to a Mormon woman who was also in our group. The Mormon woman, by the way, was more than capable of sticking up for herself and her religion, and she did so vehemently and consistently. Besides, I felt that the purpose of the group was to discuss these issues and how they affect “steplife”. Like it or not, a highly controlling lifestyle religion like Mormonism does affect things, particularly when not everyone involved is LDS. But this now former friend felt I was out of line to bring it up, or she felt the way I brought it up was unkind. She had no trouble telling me so, even though it didn’t really change my opinion or behavior. She didn’t seem too interested in seeing my perspective, either.

Anyway, beyond that squabbling, which we hadn’t been doing in recent years, we rarely had much to say to each other, especially currently. Neither of us has a lot of steplife drama anymore. But she still felt the need to add her two cents to last night’s discussion.

She posted: Man, I never wanted to PM unexplained memes so badly in my life….

Again…. not really sure how to take this. So I posted that I would like to turn off the PM function entirely, or make it for certain people, which she responded with a “laughing” reaction. At that point, I assumed that she was making a passive aggressive dig and trying to stir up shit. I figured that if she has something to say to me, but can’t be bothered to just say it, we probably aren’t really friends. Since I didn’t know how to take her comments, we were never close, and I don’t remember ever being particularly close to her even when we did used to frequently communicate, I decided to delete her.

I felt badly about it for a minute, because I grew up at a time when friends were people you knew face to face, and “unfriending” someone was a serious thing. But back then, being friends with someone was also a more serious thing; that’s why we mostly tended to have fewer of them then than we do now, in the age of social media.

As I recently wrote in a post, I’m getting to a point in my life at which I value quality over quantity. A lot of people don’t like me. Many people decide they don’t like me having never taken the time to get to know me. That’s up to them, of course, and I’ve gotten used to it. I still have some great people in my life who do love me for who I am and don’t mind that I speak my mind. We treat each other with basic respect and give each other the right to be heard. We don’t try to stir up drama on each other’s social media accounts or offline. And when we have something to say, we say it. We don’t do immature passive aggressive digs or make fun of each other. Those aren’t things a real friend does.

I’ve spent most of my life being discounted, belittled, berated, ignored and crapped on by people who don’t have any respect for me, some of whom were supposedly “loved ones”. Right now, things are stressful enough as it is. I figure at this point in my life, I don’t have to tolerate it anymore, especially from people I barely know. And, like I said, I’m getting pretty tired of Facebook, anyway. Maybe after we get our next dog, I’ll ditch it once and for all. Dogs are better and more genuine friends than most people are, anyway.

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condescending twatbags

Overbearing people are hard to bear…

Yesterday, I was on RfM and noticed that someone had bumped up an old post of mine from 2011. It was a rant I posted about “overly helpful” people. In those days, I had frequent dealings with a woman I only knew online who rubbed me the wrong way on a regular basis. I knew her from a message board that is now defunct, but the drama followed me to Facebook. Finally, in 2014, I blocked her. That decision wasn’t without drama, either. I remember when I finally made the decision to banish her from my online world, I said to Bill, “You just wait. Sometime today, I’ll get an email from her.”

Sure enough, later that day I did get an email demanding to know why I had blocked her. I don’t know about you, but to me, when someone uses the block button on Facebook, it means they don’t want to talk to you or hear from you. As I recall, I ignored her message. In earlier times, I had patiently responded to her, even though she bugged the shit out of me. I had finally had enough of her passive aggressive digs and obnoxiously overbearing comments, and realized that responding to her would only prolong the pain.

I was kind of amused to read that thread, especially since I remembered how I was feeling that day in 2011. She had pushed me to my wit’s end. At that time, the message board we were on was still active and I hadn’t wanted to abandon it, because I liked most of the women there. We were also both admins on the board, so we kind of had to “work” together. A few sympathetic people commented. I noticed that the person who bumped that thread to 2020 had similar issues as mine, which was why the thread was reactivated. These were the behaviors I had observed from her that were making me nuts:

* Chiming in with a “more informed” opinion whenever I’d try to express an opinion.

* Usually having some kind of unsolicited “helpful advice” or “fake concern” for me.

* Playing “devil’s advocate” or presenting a contrary opinion to any given subject I raise.

* Was rarely just supportive, but instead seemed to feel the need to “one up” everybody else and be the “voice of reason”.

* Doesn’t seem to understand or care how condescending and annoying she is to others.

In 2012, that message board where I had regular dealings with that overbearing woman mercifully went kerfluey, and most everyone moved to Facebook. It wasn’t long before I needed to unfriend the woman who had irritated me so much. I just couldn’t take her shit anymore, especially since I tried very hard not to engage her. Fortunately, that wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t seem to notice that I’d unfriended her, probably because we had so many mutual friends. She did her thing. I did mine. It wasn’t until November 2014, when she went too far with her disrespect that I finally pushed the block button. She’s been blocked ever since, and I don’t miss her at all.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about people like that woman. Overbearing people… especially overbearing women… really and consistently grind my gears. I’m not sure why I react to them the way I do. It could be because some of my family members are overbearing, domineering, and disrespectful to me and treat me like I’m stupid when I know I’m not. It’s gotten to the point at which I can barely stand to be around them. So now, when someone is like that to me, I tend to react negatively. If the behavior doesn’t change very quickly, the negative reaction turns into outright contempt. I may be obnoxious and opinionated, but I try not to dictate to people what they should or should not be doing in their own lives, especially when whatever they’re doing doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t like overbearing behavior in men, either, but they seem to annoy me somewhat less than women do. I find controlling women very offensive.

This morning I was thinking of all of the women who have been in significant conflict with me over my lifetime and I’ve noticed that the vast majority of them were very controlling and dictatorial, and quite a few employ manipulative, passive aggressive methods to get others to do their bidding. When those ploys don’t work, they become openly hostile, aggressive, and rude. And… I tend to respond in kind, because I resent being told what to do by people who aren’t necessarily any more qualified than I am in knowing what to do.

Maybe I’m just as bad as they are, though. It’s no secret that I’m loud and opinionated, and my father used to criticize me a lot for being “arrogant” and “bitchy”. Personally, I don’t think I was that arrogant as much as I was strong-willed and independent. My dad was a control freak, and he passed that trait on to a couple of my sisters. As a child, I put up with it because I had to in order to survive. As an adult, to some extent, I don’t really have to put up with it anymore. But I have found that I now have an unusual sensitivity to it… and if a woman is particularly bossy or intrusive to me, it’s a fair bet we’ll eventually have a conflict. Most of the time, it’s not worth trying to work things out with this type of person, because they think they’re right and refuse to compromise.

I remember back in 2011, when I was having regular dealings with the woman who had prompted that thread on RfM, she was pushing me close to the end of my patience. After she’d left me a shaming, demeaning comment on some topic we were discussing, I wrote something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, but whether or not you realize it, some of your responses to me are very offensive and condescending. It’s upsetting to me, and I feel like you’ve provoked me to respond in kind.”

The thing is, I had really thought about this response before I posted it. I tried hard to be assertive rather than aggressive. I wanted to enforce my boundaries without making things worse. I hoped she could see my side. But she was offended anyway, and didn’t see where she’d done anything wrong. Sure enough, I got a nasty private message in which she spat, “What was the point of apologizing if you were just going to insult me?!”

I remember taking a deep breath and trying, once again, to respond in a way that would not offend her, yet make her realize that I didn’t appreciate her condescending tone toward me. It didn’t work, and the bullshit continued apace for a few more years, with her continuing to feel free to send me private messages and unsolicited emails. The funny thing is, I don’t remember ever inviting her to correspond with me in such a way. She simply felt emboldened to do so.

Finally, about three years later, we reached the straw that broke the camel’s back. She’d left a nasty little passive aggressive dig in a Facebook comment to me. A mutual friend had posted about legalizing marijuana and asked her friends what we thought of it. The conversation was going well until I mentioned that Bill had lived with “pot head roommates” in college and hadn’t liked the way marijuana had affected them. He doesn’t like smoke, and as someone who works with the government, he’s not allowed to use recreational drugs, anyway.

So the passive aggressive bitch writes, “He’s never lived with alcoholics? 😉 😉 “

It’s possible that her comment was completely innocuous, but usually winking smilies imply a hidden meaning… and I had a feeling she was, once again, subtly insulting me, while trying to appear friendly and innocent. And truthfully, by that point, I had become very sensitive to her communications. Like… it was at the point that almost anything she posted irritated me, no matter how inconsequential. But I got the impression that my “frenemy” was trying to imply that Bill is currently married to an alcoholic, and that’s worse than dealing with potheads.

You see, it’s not a secret that I come from a long line of drunks. I drink, too. Maybe I’m even an alcoholic by some people’s standards. However, I have never met this woman in person and we have certainly never hung out over alcoholic drinks. Maybe my personality is because I drink. Maybe it’s simply the way I am. I don’t see how she’d know, since we never met offline. She seemed to be making an assumption or even a declaration that I have a drinking problem, even though we’ve not met and she’s not a mental health professional.

This wasn’t the first time she’d commented on my drinking habits– alcoholic or not. For some reason, she was unusually concerned about what I drink, even when the beverages weren’t boozy. This same woman often used to lecture me because I used to drink a lot of Diet Pepsi. She said that wasn’t healthy, and would frequently offer me an unsolicited laundry list of why it wasn’t something I should be doing. She’s right that diet sodas are bad for one’s health. I have since given up diet sodas, though not because of her “advice”… and I actually rarely drink non-diet sodas now. I mostly stick to bubbly water, if anyone’s curious. But yes, I do enjoy alcohol, and I admit it. Seems like that’s my business and Bill’s, unless I do something that affects other people negatively.

In any case, I’m certain that she knew her comment was shitty, demeaning, and insulting. It might have been one thing if we were friends and she was legitimately concerned. We weren’t really friends, and she was being rude, yet cowardly, as she was trying not to appear like she was insulting me. I didn’t appreciate it, and decided it was finally time for me to drop kick her off my social media once and for all. Even if she hadn’t meant it as a dig, that’s still the way it came across, and I was so tired of fielding those kinds of comments from her. And then predictably sending me an email demanding to know why I’d blocked her– as if that was some kind of serious affront because, according to her, she never does anything wrong— pretty much made me decide that we don’t need to speak again. I might have reacted differently if her approach had been more respectful, but demanding to know why she’s not allowed to harass me in my space is not cool. Taken alone, that comment was easy to ignore. Taken with all of her other little barbs and subtle insults over the years, it was just too much.

The funny thing is, that happened about five years ago, and I have found that I have even less patience and tolerance for overbearing women. I just feel like I don’t have to take orders from people to whom I am not somehow beholden. In other words, if you’re not paying me to work, someone I live with or love, or someone who has the power to arrest me or do something else life altering, I don’t have to do what you tell me to do. I don’t have to accept abusive criticism, insults, or covert hostility. And if you feel entitled enough to issue orders, act holier-than-thou, be hostile, or otherwise act like a passive aggressive creep, you can just fuck right off. Life is too short to deal with people who can’t be straightforward and civilized.

Anyway… I rarely think about her anymore, which is a good thing. I just thought it was funny that thread from 2011 was revived and so many people seemed to relate to it in 2020. I’m surprised it didn’t get more attention when it was a current concern. Clearly, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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psychology

German style toxic passive aggression…

Part of the reason I moved my almost nine year old blog to a new site is an indirect consequence of passive aggression. It’s been on my mind lately, as Bill and I reflect on the four years we spent living near Stuttgart, dealing with the frankly toxic effects of people who refuse to clear the air in a direct way. It’s hard to live in a situation in which a person is obviously angry, but refuses to confront that anger constructively.

What is “passive aggression”.

Most people are passive aggressive sometimes. There are times when it doesn’t feel “safe” to be directly confrontational, so angry feelings are pushed beneath the surface. Sometimes, being passive aggressive is a matter of self-preservation. For instance, when I was growing up, I was often very angry with my father. However, I learned very early not to confront him directly, since it would often lead to painful physical and emotional consequences. So I would often seethe when he was around… anger festered, and I must admit, it’s still an issue today, almost five years after his death. In fact, I would even venture to guess that some of my problems stem from unresolved issues with my father, who often treated me with contempt and disdain. I was rarely allowed to address my issues with him and I almost never got validation when I did address them. The end result is that I have a lot of baggage and very little tolerance for people who show me disrespect.

I think “German” style passive aggression, is kind of different than “garden variety” passive aggression. I think it comes from German culture, which gives it a particularly nasty quality. I’ve noticed it a lot during this stint in Germany. This week, I read about two true crime cases that illustrate it quite well. The first case took place in Fischbach, a hamlet near Kaiserslautern. A lot of Americans live near there, since there is an Army installation close by. An American woman, now living in the United States, had rented out her house to other Americans. Prior to renting out her home, she hired gardener Bernhard Graumann to design a garden for her.

Evidently, the homeowner didn’t like Graumann’s work. They had a dispute. Graumann was angry enough that he booby trapped the woman’s carport with a log that had a bomb within it. The landlady moved back to the States before the trap harmed her. Fortunately, the trap was found before anyone else was hurt; presumably, that would have been the innocent American tenants who were living there. Police determined that if the log had detonated, it would have destroyed a wood stove. They detonated the explosive in a safe way, so no one was harmed. However, other people who had dealings with Graumann were not so lucky.

In Otterberg, a woman and her small child were injured by a similar device left to be discovered by an unlucky person. A 64 year old physician in Enkenbach-Alsenborn died last Friday when he touched a booby trap. Police believe that these incidents were also perpetrated by Graumann, who is now himself dead as of last Sunday. The cause of his death is currently unknown. Police are saying that Graumann purposely made these booby traps to deliberately hurt or kill people with whom he had issues. He’d leave them in places where they might or might not be discovered, completely taking his victims by surprise and injuring or even killing innocent people in the interim.

Police set up a hotline to find out if other people had problems with Graumann in personal or professional relationships. Sure enough, over 100 references have been recorded, some of which is information about Graumann’s life and some which regard personal conflicts people had with Graumann, a man many described as “withdrawn”. Graumann, who was 59 years old when he died and was a member of a medieval club where he worked with “black powder”, was married and had two grown children, one of whom is now a police officer. The son who is a cop is not working on this particular case.

The second case I read about is even more sinister. In the northern German city of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a 23 year old man fell into a persistent vegetative state after ingesting high levels of mercury. Investigators were at a loss as they tried to determine how the man had fallen ill.

Another man, who had worked with the 23 year old on the same shift, also got sick and visited a doctor at least five times, complaining of mysterious symptoms. He was later found to have severe kidney damage. A third man, Klaus Radke, went to the police after several instances of noticing a brownish substance in his sandwich he’d brought from home. Hidden cameras were finally installed in the break room where these three men had worked. That’s when they discovered their colleague, Klaus O., was poisoning them.

Why was Klaus O. poisoning his co-workers’ food? Well, it wasn’t because he was necessarily angry with them personally. A psychiatrist who interviewed him explained that Klaus O. was “interested in watching the effects of poisons on his victims’ health”. Klaus O. had his own home lab, which included lead, cadmium and mercury. Klaus Radke, whose sharp eyes had noticed the “brownish substance” on his sandwiches, had brought one to the police for sampling. Lab tests discovered over 71,000 micrograms of lead within it. The police later discovered that Klaus O. had ordered more poisons online just before he was arrested. Investigators also found extremely high levels of mercury on the man’s property.

What caused Klaus O. to so callously harm his co-workers, with whom he’d apparently had no real or obvious conflicts? It’s hard to say definitively, although the court did hear testimony from Klaus O.’s estranged siblings and other family members. They described his upbringing, which was evidently traumatic and marred by poverty. Was this the reason why Klaus O. felt the need to strike out at innocent people by surreptitiously poisoning their food? Maybe… or maybe he’s just a sociopath who would have turned out this way regardless.

Many people are uncomfortable with openly expressing hostility. It’s as if being angry and expressing that emotion is some kind of sin. But anger is a very natural and normal emotion. Sometimes it’s even a motivating and constructive feeling. Bottling it up is unhealthy. On the other hand, expressing it can also be hurtful. I moved my blog, in part, because I was openly expressing anger that was making other people uncomfortable and they were confronting me in a way that was making the situation worse.

Germany is different than the United States is. Things are done by the book. I now live in a country where a person can be sued for verbally insulting another person and flipping someone the bird in traffic can lead to a very expensive fine. I am not German, so I don’t know what they learn when they are growing up in this society where it’s illegal to be insulting. However, knowing how challenging and frustrating life can be, particularly when you must deal with people with whom you don’t mesh, I can see how the habit of being passive aggressive could develop in a place where venting openly can lead to the courtroom. On the other hand, in the United States, expressing anger and engaging in conflict sometimes leads to violence. Here, people insist on civility… at least on the surface. In the United States, civility is less important and, I think, that sometimes leads to real tragedies.

I notice a lot of jokes about German passive aggression. In fact, just Googling it led me to this humorous blog post written by a fellow expat who has observed it. I have also noticed that Germans are also openly aggressive in some situations. If you do something that isn’t “right”, you can expect to be yelled at by someone. It’s happened to me more than once. This is a very “rules oriented” society, and people are very open about telling you when you’ve messed up. But if they stay angry with you, you might start noticing little subtle things that eventually become less subtle.

A good example of German passive aggression spotted in a public toilet. The sign requests that users not throw things on the floor and use the toilet brush. The handwritten part beneath it requests that the people cleaning the toilets do something about the stench.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love living in Germany and I have developed a real affection for most German people. I’ve made friends here and there’s a lot to love about the German lifestyle. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the German style of passive aggression. I find it maddening.

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