Ever see those people who like to complain about how horrible someone or something is on their Facebook or Twitter status updates? Or how they might post too much information there? How about when it erupts into a huge public forum for humiliation, name-calling, and petty arguments? Those people are rather annoying at times–I was one of them before, and at some point in time, many of us have had our moments when we were those people.
Recently, I’ve stopped posting angry status updates and sad messages on Facebook and Twitter. Even if my friends list has a good number of people who are interested in my well-being, I also have people who don’t have the relationship that those few do, and at times it leads them to forget we are all actual human beings with feelings too. Hidden behind the faux security of a computer monitor screen, it’s easy to forget we are interacting with other people and there are consequences.
Other times, we are quicker to judge their human shortcomings that everyone has online because of the limited ways we can express and portray ourselves through our online personas. In spite of technology’s leaps and bounds–it still doesn’t accurately represent who we are in person, because these are just fragments of our being.
Add to the fact most people are focused on their own selves and little universes they create, as well as the time they don’t put into other people without asking a few essential questions, it is very easy to gloss over what someone is saying and misunderstand–especially because it may not actually be what they are trying to say.
Whenever someone complains about a person or a thing, I ask myself “Why are they bothered by it? Who is this person? Why do they want other people’s attention? What kind of responses are they looking for? What do they really want? What do they really mean?” Knowing this, I tend not to jump in and comment more than three times because I want to avoid embarrassing them and myself in public space.
Oddly enough, when I contact others privately, they react as if I am either oversensitive to their jokes, or that they feel it must be a really serious offense for me to contact them privately (which is usually the case, but if anything it’s more for respect and courtesy).
I’ve had years of bad experience with know-it-alls who think Google is their doctor, lawyer, engineer, and college diploma; blokes who like to insult others anonymously because they think other people’s feelings getting hurt scores them more points as though it were some video game; or that it’s just the Internet, nothing should be taken too seriously. I’m sure that they would not think it’s just the Internet If I were to give their employers print-outs of their abusive comments and linking them to their anonymous personalities online, or if I forwarded e-mails that had offensive pictures attached that they had already posted on Facebook for everyone else to see.
Who we are online is not who we really are, and though it may sound strange I say that, because it’s a defense that these juveniles use to justify their behavior, please stay with me as I elaborate. These are projections and facets of ourselves, and if we choose to change ourselves to be ignorant and arrogant online, then there is a part of us that needs either a creative outlet or have a lot of issues that cause us to degenerate to name-calling and cyber-bullying, usually because our “real” lives aren’t that fun.
I can choose to anonymously insult everyone online and act as though I had impunity, I can cry for attention in my status updates (without being aware such attention is usually negative), and I can keep exposing myself to bad music, people, sites, and videos that reinforce the negativity.
Or: I can choose to not affirm that and try to use the Internet as a filter. Instead of talking about a bad day, I choose to talk about how I am very attracted to Ellen Wong, the beautiful Canadian actress I have a crush on, and what I admire about her. I can post pictures of me having a good time with friends on one day instead of how the other six days I dealt with people pissing me off. I can reframe my bad day as a series of events that had a couple bad highlights and a dozen good ones that made it complete. No day is perfect, but each day is another one I am alive and I appreciate what I have and celebrate it by reframing my understanding.
No more crying or whining. I will still post updates when I’m sad if I feel I need friends, I will still let people know I am upset too if I feel there are things they should know. But if there are serious matters bothering me, I will talk to people privately, because the Internet is public space.
The image I have whenever I need a reminder of how I need to conduct myself is being on the street full of people, good and bad, famous and insignificant, intelligent and uneducated, and every conversation I have is something everyone can hear and repeat to one another later on. So if I call someone names, if I embarrass people, if I cry about how unfair life is, I’m the equivalent of a homeless person shouting at random people in the vicinity. If I conduct myself with respect and dignity, then I am the well-dressed gentlemen people admire or ignore because they are in their own worlds. I choose to be the gentleman with a sense of humor that though not everyone will get, is infinitely better than a screaming homeless lunatic on drugs with absolutely no hygiene.