One of the reasons that so many have problems with social media is that they don’t understand the psychology of argument, much less see themselves as other people do. You’re not going to affect someone’s opinion by using a megaphone. Or harsh words. Your volume will be heard – but never absorbed. You become background noise in a world that already has sufficient static to dishearten us. People need truth to be whispered to them, preferably with a velvet glove. Addicts don’t hear love, angry people don’t respond to outreach, and most of us must approach new information sideways, like human crabs. It takes time and compassion to affect someone. I hate that I only learn many of my lessons after the class of life is already over. I know I’m wrong about so much, because as confident as I was when I was younger, it is painfully clear that my ignorance held me captive. That process surely still continues, with future days looking back at today in surprise at my slow evolution.
Words are an important component of the process. Actions are another. If you’re polarizing, you are shouting on the internet. People will tune you out. Whether you’re blind to this truth or not, you should pause and consider what kind of conversations and communication have an impact on you. I’ll bet that your vision doesn’t include anger, shouting, or aggressive insistence. Communication requires comprehension. By being tersely aggressive, you’ve short-circuited your ability to not only reach people, but also to put a little bit of ‘you’ inside their heads, much less their hearts.
If your goal is to reach a person’s heart and mind, you must take the time to share a little piece of yourself in the process. People might respond if they recognize a bit of vulnerability in your words. It’s easier to accept someone if the listener observes a bit of humanity. People respect doubt, as it provides a common avenue for us all to recognize that we don’t have all the answers.
Take the time to share yourself. Include your opinions in the process. It’s social media. If you understand the social component, you’ll wisely avoid the urge to do the equivalent of standing on the street corner shouting. You’ll get further by shaking hands, hugging, and relating to people in a way they can understand.
If you can find a way to express yourself with love, it will shine through in your words. Everyone will be richer for it.
We want to get to know other people. We feel like we already know you if your tone and tenor is not tender.
I’ll give an example: I wish we had universal health care for everyone. Life can hammer any of us to the point of bankruptcy, whether we’re lucky enough to have insurance or not. Not only would providing healthcare be cheaper per capita, but it sends the message that we are willing to collectively help one another. It is the purest practical expression of love and compassion. “Do unto others” compels me to agree that everyone should have health care equal to me. Health is the often ignored common denominator to a happier life. In the last year, I abandoned so many bad habits and transformed my life and body. Despite doing it right, my body still threw me a red flag and almost killed me. People don’t deserve the physical terrors of cancer and a list of other diseases. When I hear arguments about universal health care, I don’t hear practical arguments: I hear a lack of “do unto others.”
Don’t “@me” that you don’t know how to write. It’s not about that. It’s about openly sharing your thoughts and yourself. Language is never an impediment to sentiment and feelings that brim over and out of your heart. You will always find a way to express the best emotions. We’re hard-wired to do so. All of us.
P.S. If you want to really break free, open your closet of secrets. So much of our anguish is contained in the things we don’t want other people to know. You’ll never be authentically loved if your secrets and locked in a closet.
Maureen entered the house through the garage. “Mark? You in here?” she half-shouted a couple of times as she pushed the door closed behind her using her left foot. She had two bags of groceries in each hand, haphazardly hooked on her fingers. No answer.
She carried the bags into the kitchen, noticing that someone had done the dishes. She put the four plastic bags of food on the stove near the fridge. “Mark?” she said loudly one more time. Odd, she thought.
After putting the groceries away and tossing the sacks, she made her way through the house. Though she and Mark were married over six months ago, she still didn’t know his routine of how he filled his spare moments. Neither of the two kids was home yet. After checking the far bedrooms and the patio, she made her way across the house to the odd storage room where all the miscellaneous parts of their lives got tossed. She heard movement inside and a faint melody playing, so she pushed the sliding door to one side.
Mark was inside, folding shirts and doing laundry. When he saw her, he said, “Hey honey! What’s up?” and then smiled at her with a huge smile. “Hug?” he asked her, spreading his left arm in a faux hook. She walked to him and let him hug her. She kissed him on the lips, a quick peck. “I’m just listening to some tunes in here,” he said.
“Thanks for doing this laundry! I dreaded it.” Maureen gave him another quick peck on the cheek as she thanked him.
“Maureen. We talked about this. Don’t thank me for doing what I should be doing, okay?” He winked at her. “At least not that way.”
Maureen gave him a look of scorn, then smiled.
He was a keeper.
After giving him a real kiss, one loaded with promise for later, Mark told Maureen he’d be in the kitchen in a few minutes. He wanted her to help him cook a chicken dish of hers before the kids piled into the kitchen and made it impossible to cook. “I already did the dishes and cleared the drain tray,” he told her as she turned to leave. She bit her tongue, silencing another “thank you.”
Life wasn’t like she imagined. And she was beyond happy to realize it.
“Humor is in the eye of the beholder but in the craw of the begrudging.”
Underestimating the distance chasm between intent and receipt is one of my greatest weaknesses. But also one of my strengths. How much love, mirth, and creativity fail to shine because we suffer the illusion that we have any control over the manner in which anything is interpreted.
“That which can be adequately explained by stupidity should not be attributed to malice.” It’s a wise cliché for a reason. My version is better: “That which can be adequately explained by humor, stupidity, or simple oversight should not be attributed to malice unless the other guy is a real asshole; in which case, fire away.”
It’s not that we can’t spout malice with frequency.
The reality is that most of the people we allow in our lives just don’t behave that way, not really. And if they do, it’s our fault, not theirs, that we gave them room in our sumo ring.
For every angry word, a laugh is displaced. For every frown, a smile withers. . .
“It’s always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it’s just hilarious.” -Bill Hicks . “Keep your sense of humor. As General Joe Stillwell said, ‘The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind’.” -Donald Rumsfeld . “I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.” -Walt Whitman . Here’s an old one: “I, for one, like Roman Numerals.” .
Iterate and reiterate: sharing something another person made will eventually cause egg on the face because the internet is a vast repository of not-quite-right things. If people see enough of it, they forget which part isn’t right and ultimately decide everything is suspect. It evidently confers the right to claim false equivalency or worse – to lump you in with those who jump into falsity without considering how deeply. It’s one of the many ongoing lessons I’ve learned from our latest, and possibly last presidency. (I added that last part to poke at some of the Chicken Littles. I’m not saying they are wrong, though. The sky isn’t falling until it is.)
It’s easy to be blasé about it when you’re the one doing it because it’s harmless.
Trust me, fools diligently search for every available means to discount you or as a means to justify their baseless claim that everything is equally right or wrong.
If you post a picture of Abraham Lincoln with a quote of his on it, you should be sure that he said it. If someone tells you, “Hey, that quote isn’t an Abraham Lincoln quote,” don’t reply, “But it fits the spirit of the post.” That’s ego talking, not truth and honesty. You’re doing a lesser version of the same mistake as those openly sharing untrue content. The crazies see you justifying your behavior when it suits you and then shift to false equivalencies, wherein all arguments are equally obnoxious.
You’ve rubber-stamped not checking for accuracy.
If you’re doing it purposefully and to vex people, that’s another story entirely.
Two weeks ago, I had this happen twice. Both times surprised me. I was polite and offered a tongue-in-cheek easy exit for both. To my surprise, both reacted exactly like I described: they doubled down. I didn’t take it personally because I wasn’t emotionally invested in the post or its outcome. (Not being snarky there.) They did react poorly to me, though. Try as I might, a crevice formed in my opinion of them.
We’re all going to make mistakes.
If you didn’t make it or write it, you’ll make more.
And if you make one and respond angrily to its note, you’re making two mistakes when a laugh or ‘oops’ would fix it.
“As you share more content from other people, the odds of you being played or manipulated proportionally increase too.” In another life, Abraham Lincoln said that.
I see so much teeth-gnashing about truth and reality.
Even Grammarly, the proofreading AI I use, told me, “Your tone is angry.” If it had such a mechanism, I’d reply, “No, you’re wrong,” to prove this post. I did chose “ignore suggestion,” which does address one aspect of this post. It’s ironic that I pay for this service only to ignore such suggestions.
It doesn’t matter what the specific conspiracy theory or weird belief is. It is not the particular belief that is the problem. People don’t have a system to examine how they got there or how to get out of that particular belief. Politics, vaccines, covid, religion, astrology, or white people’s alleged supremacy are a few examples. We bludgeon our way through our lives, trying the same tactics and responses repeatedly, even as we paint ourselves into constricting circles.
Our biggest problem is that “we know.” Even when we don’t.
As wrong as I was when I was younger, it is still hard for me to accept that I must be wrong about things now too. Having always been wrong about something indicates that I’m currently suffering from an unidentified bit of idiocy.
To get the hypocrisy out of the way, I have my blind spots. I have a system to counteract it. I hold a very few people in esteem enough to let them gleefully bodycheck me if necessary if I’m trapped in a stupidity loop. If they point out that I’ve suddenly fallen victim to believing something stupid, I’ll take a long look. But I don’t include most people in this circle. For example, anyone trying to discuss politics but doesn’t vote, I don’t listen. (But I do believe that non-voters have the right to participate and opine.) If they are working an entry-level job, I disregard anything financial they say unless they are monk-like in their happiness. If someone hasn’t read a book in five years, let’s be honest – they should sit down and be quiet. The tricky part is convincing a good person that you’re interested in frank criticism. It’s a rare offering. Human beings aren’t programmed to make friends by being honest in that way. “Hey, you’re getting kind of chunky, X” would be a good example of something hard to share, no matter how close I am to that person.
One of my favorite go-to comments is that millions of people think the moon landing was fake – and many more millions are ‘undecided’ regarding its validity. I try to say it like a mantra, as it reminds me that no matter how well we explain ourselves, teach science, or rely on the common bond of truth, the lunatic fringe is not only more than just a fringe, but one that we can’t convince to evolve.
Among my list of popular ‘truths’ that are bogus is the Lunar Effect. It addresses the misconception that the moon (and especially a full moon) affects human behavior and especially strange human behavior. Pop culture, our grandmothers, and countless reinforcements have pushed it into people’s brains in such a way that it is just background noise and accepted. Due to the recent full moon, I saw at least two Lunar Effect posts on social media, with multiple comments and anecdotes. I didn’t interfere. The result would have been immediate contradiction and anger if I insisted. A letter from both Jesus and Albert Einstein would not have diverted their certainty.
It’s not true, of course. Like the ongoing and incorrect belief that an ulcer is primarily caused by stress rather than a bacteria, no amount of evidence, study, or direct appeal can convince people that they are completely wrong about the moon’s effects on behavior.
As you would guess, even bringing this up triggers many people’s defensive response. Their brains immediately react with a litany of learned responses. All are wrong. You’ll see a barrage of misstatements, each based on faulty methodology and study – but also cemented into their rigid structures identified as truth.
If you’re reading this and disagree, you’ll invest a great deal of your time and attention to devise a point to ‘prove’ my argument is invalid. Meanwhile, pieces of your life will pass you by, you’ll lose vital energy, and you’ll still be wrong. The only thing you’ve proven is that you’ll waste much of your time and energy trying to convince someone who probably isn’t in your inner circle anyway.
As with the moon landing deniers, no amount of science, data, or facts can dissuade a closed mind.
Don’t try it.
At any given time, about 1/3 of Americans are on the fringe side of any debate, question, or issue.
You can expose people to the truth, but no amount of words or strident argument will ever turn their attention and convince them. People must convince themselves.
Any effort you expend to convince an unwilling dissident will be a piece of your life that you’ve wasted. There is no magic combination of words that will ignite a light of recognition in people’s minds.
When my Facebook author page started getting readers, I had a smart older gentleman start reading all my posts and interacting. One day, I opened Facebook to discover that he’d angrily written at least a half dozen angry comments, each of them detailing the evil of using the word “xmas” instead of “Christmas.” My post was very optimistic. He focused solely on the word “xmas” to the exclusion of all else. Of course, I politely linked him to multiple sources indicating that he should acquaint himself with the historical and religious context of “xmas.” At that point, he flamed out like a cotton bale on the 4th of July.
Over the years, I’ve had multiple instances of grammar experts incorrectly repeating various ‘rules’ that are mostly just generally agreed-upon ways to communicate. Whether it’s the apostrophe, ain’t, you’re/your, couldn’t care less, or any of the other thousand bones of contention, many people want language to be as concise and static as math. It’s not. As a bona fide older person, I’m supposed to become more rigid as I age. I don’t. Quite the opposite. As late as yesterday, I found myself surprised that there is no agreement whether “detectible” or “detectable” is the correct choice.
Without getting into the weeds, I recently had someone challenge me on the validity of something I’d written. I’d mentioned I could prove it. The person in question angrily said I had fabricated the allegation. Naturally, I did my best to stay calm. I wrote an email and attached a copy of the email that proved what I said and an IP index. The reply was hate-filled. The person writing didn’t stop to think that he/she sounded like an angry lunatic. After thinking about it, I wrote back and said, “Ask _. They’ll confirm. That should convince you.” A couple of days later, another reply. This one was worse than the first. They were furious that someone else knew about the incident in question – and worse, that it made the angry person look stupid and hateful – something out of my control. My final reply was an apology for expecting them to respond critically and that I’d keep their correspondence for myself unless they tried to call me a liar again.
A few years ago, I finally hit the end with my mom. I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d been through the cycle of no contact with her several times. Discovering she had Stage 4 cancer forced me to try to navigate the waters with her until her death. I’m not sure I would do it if given an unlikely chance for a do-over. My emotional deficit made it impossible for me to engage logically.
In the last couple of years, I alternated wildly with my brother, despite knowing that I was inconsistent and probably stupid. One of my go-to people told me that I needed to avoid replying, as it would fan the flames and reward the person trying to victimize me. (This person wasn’t my brother.) It took me a bit to see how right it was. It didn’t stop the other person from being a tool to me, but it did leave me out of the equation. When I did get around to addressing it, I was able to be peaceful and calm about it. (Which, of course, made the person even angrier. No one likes being angry while dealing with someone who won’t’ stoop to your level.)
As a liberal, it took me years to understand that not all the immigration arguments were specious. All the shouting obscured much of the meat and bones of the counter-arguments. As a result, I realized one day that while there were a lot of angles and I still generally disagreed substantially with the conservative viewpoint, I saw the truth in some of the objections. More importantly, I noticed that not allowing any flexibility in my stance was causing me dissonance.
More importantly, living a good life is often 80% the act of not engaging. That part is almost a miraculous ability.
If you’ve read this post and wondered what the theme is, accept my apology. I’ve had a version of this sitting in my growing list of drafts long enough to have children.
I am of the continued mind that we should drop the pretense of vanity and concealment. We should just offer voluntarily the worst possible perspective, the worst possible picture, and the worst possible interpretation of our motives through life.
If you think about the title of this post, it should project the exact tone, imagery, and point that I’m trying to make. Sunsets are beautiful and most of us agree. The world that brings us back to the center is one of necessity and immediacy.
Each of us is engaged in a varying degree of war with other people’s opinions of us. Someone smarter than me pointed out that every person has a different idea of who we are in their head. Each of those images reveals at best 75% accuracy.
When we are reduced to our visceral essence, much of our ego of pretense abandons us. For all our lofty goals and vain ideology, we are all equally engaged in the grind of survival.
For me, what gets me through these days, is the idea that you’re sitting there with an unpleasant picture in your head and wondering how mere words took you there.
Note: I’m using PSA in this post to indicate “Public Service Announcement,” rather than “Prostate-Specific Antigen.” If you googled that and ended up here accidentally, you are really going to be disappointed.
I have two pieces of actually useful advice today.
First, don’t spit on the carpet, even if it is on fire. And even if you live in a trailer. And it is rented. (Unless you have a double first name.)
Second, almost all Facebook accounts that get cloned are because the victim has his or her friends list visible. There is no viable reason to have your settings permit other people to see your friends list. This is doubly true for women and those who are prone to buying things “As Seen On TV.” If you’re unsure if you are one of those two categories, look at your left foot. Not because it will help resolve your doubt, but because you listen to directions.
Today, I accepted a friend request from just such a cloner/hacker. The person attempted to get me to take the bait regarding the 2020 MUSL grant. I assume that’s something I’m dying to get in on the ground floor. Naturally, I wrote them an increasingly bizarre cascade of replies.
I’m certain that by the time the person read them all, they themselves had become MY victim.
I have two-factor authentication turned on. And I changed my password from ‘password1’ to ‘passwrod1.’ They’ll never figure it out!
This PSA brought to you by Asa Hutchinson’s gardener.