…you probably think this song (post/status) is about you.
So sang Carly Simon many a moon ago. I believe she wrote it about a guy who had done the dirty on her in some way or another – but, for all the emotive inspiration, she had a point!
It is frighteningly easy to take offence at someone else’s writing, especially on the social sites, and to assume that a generalised rant (however intrinsically unwise) was crafted with you, and you alone, in mind. It is terribly easy to zoom in on key words which trigger certain strong emotions and to read the poem, the article, the paragraph from that perspective alone, to assume that the writer is having a go at YOU.
But, in so assuming, certain very obvious truths are overlooked. In the first place, unless the writer is a close personal friend/partner (in which case he or she would almost certainly have told you to your face!), how on earth can he/she know your trigger points? And why, if you are on the emotional periphery of that wordsmith’s life, would he/she have any wish to deliberately provoke you anyway?
I think Carly Simon did chance upon a truth about humanity: the vanity that comes from our feeling that we are centre of the universe, that everything is about us one way or another! Thus, songsters clearly write their lyrics with US in mind (even if they died before we were born!); writers who annoy/upset us set out to do precisely that; sculptors who chisel out an unflattering human figure vaguely reminiscent of us do so out of malice; political comments we do not agree with are paraded as a kind of childish taunt to anger us – and so on!
I can only speak for myself here (obviously), but I write as catharsis and emotional release. I focus on aspects of life which upset, annoy, anger, arouse, delight, amuse and interest me. Sometimes these inadvertently push buttons in others, but I do not set out to have this effect. I do not, that is to say, write to wound. Why would I?
At times, pieces written on Facebook disturb me greatly – and I will admit that I have been tempted to have a go at the writer. But something stops me each time – and that is, I guess, my own recognition of Carly Simon’s words: the anger expressed was not directed at me and I would be vain to assume otherwise.
When that emotion is directed at me, this is a different matter and one upon which I have to make an ad hoc judgement call each time. Generally, I allow a certain amount of latitude because I am aware we all have bad days and can rage unwisely. But, if it goes too far, or becomes a habit, I will take action: on here, I will Spam such comments; on Facebook, if a gentle but firm response does not work, I will privately message the individual concerned.