I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I don’t like people very much. Oh, I have friends all right. But generally speaking, I think people have roughly the same intelligence and moral compass as a rabid wolverine. All one has to do is read a couple of comments on YouTube to know that the world is filled with illiterate, bigoted trolls (and even if they’re being stupid on purpose, that’s hardly helpful, because it means that they have the self-awareness to be decent, but choose not to.) The most hateful person I ever met was an ardent gay rights advocate who insisted on getting close to me thanks to something I’d written on Facebook about my coming out experience. What made him so horrible? Simple: that he refused to take “no” for an answer. When I told him that something he’d said offended me, he told me that there was nothing to be offended about. He didn’t tell me that he disagreed, nor did he say that perhaps he just wasn’t being clear enough. No, he told me that there was nothing to be offended about. And since I was offended, this essentially amounted to telling me that I don’t exist.
I don’t feel like recounting everything he said. The wounds have healed (mostly), but there’s no need to expend too much energy talking about someone who was clearly lashing out due to his own insecurities. Besides, it’s more fun to make fun of those people. At one point, he seriously asked me if I’d want to go back in time in a few years and beat up the person I am now. How can anyone say that to another person and not immediately want to kill themselves? Not to be overly aggressive, but I’m pretty sure there was only one person in that conversation who needed to be beaten, and it wasn’t me. Even when abusive people apologize, they have a way of sounding like an asshole. When I finally convinced him that I had a good reason for being offended, he told me he was sorry, then added that he wouldn’t have said those things if I hadn’t said some horrible things first. I’d say I felt like a battered wife, but ultimately, I think I gave as good as I got.
Is it just me, or are there far too few people out there who depend on others for approval? I never “like” anything on Facebook, mostly because I think feedback should be more substantive. There’s also the plain truth that so many of what is written on the Internet is nothing more than a desperate bid for “likes” (if I see one more “Thumbs up if you’re still listening to/watching this in 2012” comment on YouTube, I’m going to hunt that person down and sell their family into slavery.) Funny thing is, I have no problem “liking” things on websites that offer a dislike button. I think that’s because some remarks don’t really warrant more than a simple expression of approval (“Women are people too!”) or disapproval (“Science says Mexicans are less intelligent than chickens.”)
I used to make the mistake of being completely honest on Facebook. When I was fired from a job that had meant a lot to me, I posted a status saying so. This, in the real world, would be a cue for every person present to tell me that they are so sorry to hear that, they can’t believe anyone would ever fire me, etc. Instead, a friend remarked that he found the whole thing and the same two people who commented on everything I did told me that they were sorry. It’s possible that some people, much like mourners at a funeral, merely didn’t know what to say. But just as many people must have read my status update, then kept scrolling so they could read about what people they barely knew were making with their deep fat fryer. As with everywhere else, Facebook has a social code. It’s not just a website; it’s a place. And like a crazy uncle who brings his hooker to the Christmas party, there are situations on Facebook to which people don’t know how to respond.
Carving out space is a time-consuming process. One has to learn the difference between a friend and someone who only wants approval and the difference between a want and a need. The only solution that works for me is to point a middle finger at anything that makes me feel uneasy. Anytime someone tells me something that begins with, “You just need to accept…”, I walk away. They are speaking from a place of privilege, telling me what I deserve and don’t deserve rather than realizing that they had to go through the same thing that I did one day. If they had listened to the people who told them they couldn’t have something, they would never have gotten anywhere. And when you’re starting out, everyone tells you what you can’t have. Hearing a “yes” is like winning the lottery. But it only comes after a leap of faith.
There is very little that I say that doesn’t sound vaguely like a standup routine. Louis CK has one I like a lot about useless people. His suggestion is that we release lions into our cities and malls so that everyone is forced to stay on their toes. It’s a good suggestion, but I would have gone with something more direct: give me a knife and let me stab those people to death. If an airline passenger refused to carry her own baggage, I would simply murder her and leave her corpse in the aisle as a warning to everyone else that they should pull their own weight…or else. The only obstacle is convincing others to give me that power. It reminds me of another idea I had that involved mounting a rocket launcher on top of my car so that I could detonate any car that cut me off or parked in my spot. I had to drop it because I wasn’t sure how, once I obtained a rocket launcher, I could prevent others from doing the same. Yeah, I get it: it’s not my place to judge. But that would be easier if so many people weren’t begging for it.