Gratuitous Unpleasantness


I am getting heartily sick of ploughing through ever-more vitriolic and, in my view, inflammatory comments whenever I wander onto the Social Sites.

We all have our off days. We all feel angry, wounded and got at from time to time. We all read insult into innocent comments on occasions.

But, as I used to advise the children I taught (though in a different context), ‘Think before you ink…’

I am no whited sepulchre on this matter – and of this I am well aware: can rant for the Known Universe, though I do draw the line at going on to another person’s site with the intention of starting a quarrel.

But I object to the vituperative nastiness of some comments I read. I abhor the way certain individuals use another person’s post or status as a springboard to vent all kind of gratuitous, and often vindictive, spite.

We will not agree with everything we read online; even close friends will push our buttons – usually without meaning to – from time to time.

I want to say a couple of things about reaction. One, I think it essential, especially on Facebook, to adopt a privacy level that keeps egregious trolls off your most vulnerable comments and shares. If you are on a public setting, as I used to be, passing gits and twats WILL be attracted, like sharks to a fresh bleed, to your vulnerable wounds, and they WILL try to wind you up with their ridiculous statements.

Two, think before you put fingers to keyboard: is it likely that the individual whose status has so irked you had you in mind when he or she wrote it? If not, you have, it seems to me, two clear choices: one, read and pass on; two, if really upset by the content, message the individual and express your concerns PRIVATELY. It is much easier to sort these things out between two people than it is when the world and his wife also get involved in mud-slinging and bitchiness.

Ask if you are not sure – privately. Say to your friend, ‘I may have got the wrong end of the stick here, but it seemed to me that you were saying A/implying B, and it has hurt me…’

Of course we have to stand up for ourselves, and that includes on line; of course we have to discourage comments which are racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic. But I do not think that getting into a slanging match actually advances the cause one inch; in fact, I think many people, by having screaming arguments in public, actively set the cause they are defending back because they lose respect from those who would support them intellectually and put off those who have invested in their feelings emotionally. I would also suggest that we need to choose our friends more carefully, and with greater discrimination, if we find they are constantly impugning those matters which we hold close to our hearts.

I have, in the past, had people coming on to my blog site and screaming abuse at me. I have experienced insults and unkind comments on Facebook for no reason.

I would like to move on to a pertinent point: there is a big difference between a blog post, or status, in which one shares one’s current feelings (without attributing blame to anyone else) and the deliberate act of leaping upon another’s words and tearing them apart or insulting the writer or shrieking rabid imprecations, or accusing the writer of, in so many words, being in league with the Devil!

I keep a journal, as many of you know, and I use it to filter out the most explosive aspects of my immediate mood. If, to give you an example, I read an offensive comment on line, I will generally write about my reaction in the journal first – and, once I have calmed down, either ignore the comment or write a reasoned and non-inflammatory response. In other words, I do not go looking for a fight!

I will only take more rigorous action (Spamming, for example) if the individual has a long history of similar ‘attacks’ or has threatened me out of the blue.

I’ll say it again: If you are continuing to receive unwanted and horrible comments, adjust your privacy settings. If you go looking for a fight, you may well find it whirls out of control and causes collateral damage. Use your brain to temper the immediate emotional response – and save your powder for battles that really matter!

Think hard about your definition of ‘friend’. Think about the various truisms involving quality versus quantity! Unfriend as required!

Address people personally and privately if your toleration level has reached its limit. After all, the messaging system has been set up precisely for that purpose!

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10 thoughts on “Gratuitous Unpleasantness

  1. Ah Social media, a breeding place for psychosis driven under achievers hurling abuse from the secure position of anonymity. I have no idea why an intelligent beautiful lady would dip her toes into such a pit of iniquity. I honestly feel anyone making unsubstantiated unfounded comments should make them within arms reach!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen! I feel like everything is becoming more polarized, and it seems that both sides are increasingly sensitive to disagreement that they see as attacks.

    Granted, there are some attacks which are entirely unprovoked, and those are particularly problematic.

    I like your suggestion to consider the privacy of social media. In only rare occasions do I “friend” someone on Facebook that I have not met in person, and that’s only if I trust them based on their online persona. That, in itself, can be a dangerous proposition, but I am pretty cautious…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wise words, indeed, Ali. Sorry to hear of all the “grief” you’re getting! I remember in the Amateur Radio world, it was an unwritten rule that in radio exchanges, hams kept off the subjects of: Sex, religion and politics. We used to talk about antennae, propagation conditions, output powers and other exciting stuff. xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much, David. I have no wish to get into online fights with any individuals, and just feel increasingly repulsed by the online mud-slinging and scattering of insults and threats I witness on FB. Not, to be fair, usually directed at me (though some have been!) – but a trend I find both unhelpful and potentially dangerous. xxx

      Liked by 1 person

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