This morning, I instigated a discussion on social media with one purpose: to start a dialogue on a contentious topic. I didn’t go into the process with the shields up or the weapons out, far from it. I asked questions of the people I knew would be listening, in an attempt to crystallise thoughts on a topic that has become the equivalent of Marmite. I’ve lost followers over my treatment of it, and because I don’t see a problem with the direction the developers of the game involved are taking with their choices? I need to make sure I have some balance. So I ask questions and make my decisions going forward based on this.
Then someone pops up in my feed who takes issue with a word I use, and here I am in a situation where perception becomes a problem. It’s not somebody who follows me either, so I attempt to engage them (albeit defensively myself) and they are not interested. Then, when I suggest they could follow me and we could talk more, their automatic assumption is that all I care about is the +1 on my total, and now I’m laughing until it registers. That’s how this works for many people. If I suggest you follow, it’s the equivalent for me of opening my door and letting you in. I’m showing willingness to engage in joint dialogue, but because I do that before following you? I’m only here for the numbers.
What a depressingly cynical place the World can be.
The future does not assume you care. The Future is never about just randomly meeting someone and instigating dialogue: you need vetting, and 37 profiles, and certificates and everything… until you get to Twitter. Then, if you cannot make your message universally understandable to everyone without there being a shadow of doubt or ambiguity, you’re soundly fucked. Forget trying to be friendly or start new dialogue. You’re condemned to the inescapable truth that someone will just look at your 140 word pronouncements and judge your entire existence simply on these and nothing else, before moving on. God help you if they’re tired, drunk or high when they do this, by the way. There’s no coming back. That’s it, you’re doomed.
For someone like me who is now naturally cautious before committing? I’m never going to win at this game. Occasionally, I luck out and the stars align and actually, I’ve found some wonderfully decent people simply by using Twitter. I asked one of those people to look at the conversation this morning and assess what she thought had happened, and the pronouncement was the same: you look at the conversation in isolation, and yeah, I’m angling for followers. I assume a lot of things in conversation that never actually become apparent until you follow me, and in the end I’m not the greatest person to make a first impression with. I have an amazing amount of faults on that front. However, when someone tells me they know what I mean when I say something? You really don’t.
As a writer, I know what my work means to me, and that is an entirely subjective experience, as it is to anyone who reads it. I can hope the major points I’m trying to make show through, but in the end it is inevitable that some people will see things that simply don’t exist. I can tell them they’re wrong, but if they choose not to believe me? That’s it. After that are the people who can only cope with exact definition, for whom there is just right and wrong and nothing else. When you spend your life considering the minutiae of life and relationships and conversations that becomes a little too inflexible as an opening consideration. Yes, I get that it matters to people, and I’m not expecting you to change. In fact, I know how frightening that can be for some people to even consider. I’m not here to push you out of your comfort zone unless you accept the responsibility for yourself.
I am here however to talk, write and try to make people think.
Some days, undoubtedly, I get the balance wrong. Then I suffer the consequences of people deciding to keep trying to shut me up for good because I made a choice to stop talking to them. That, of course, is the ultimate irony: the trolls who try and silence you are doing so just because they couldn’t communicate well to begin with. They never grasped the fact that respect means give and take, joint understanding and a willingness to meet someone halfway. For them, you either agree with their outlook or you’re worthless, and that’s why I feel bad when I decide to block someone after having interacted with them for less than five minutes. I went straight from ‘Hey’ to ‘Fuck off’ in the time it used to take me to hand write the first half of a physical letter. Except in this case, that’s all I actually needed to make that decision.
It’s like the incident my husband related to me after the atrocity in Orlando, when a member of his staff was buying a newspaper in a supermarket with a headline about it. The cashier scanned the item and, obviously looking for a lead in to conversation, decided to open with:
‘Well, it doesn’t matter really does it, they were all gay anyway.’
You see, random person who clearly has an issue with labels I don’t know about, there is a remarkable amount I can learn about you just in 140 characters. If you come into a situation and decide to highlight your issues before I even know your real name? If you make this about attacking my point of view when a) you don’t know me from Eve and b) it is abundantly apparent by the rest of the conversation it’s not meant to be contentious or inflammatory? This will not end well. Mostly, for both of our sakes, if this is the way you open your account in communicating with me?
The problem then comes, of course, with my empowerment becoming interpreted as a malicious and senseless attack on someone else’s ideal and outlooks, when all that happened was I asserted my position in a space. That’s the far bigger problem going forward, and one that has some quite disturbing consequences going forward.
If you want the World to hate you, it will, especially if you give enough reasons to begin with. Sometimes, it isn’t the other person in the ‘relationship’ that’s the problem, it is you.
When you realise this, time to act accordingly.