Recently my friend Heidi tagged me in a Facebook post, bringing me into a conversation that was taking place on an article that someone had shared. Mostly, people were expressing their angst about why someone would be so public about personal decisions (whether or not to shave their legs, underarms, and bikini line) and why other people would share those articles when these particular women (the ones commenting) weren’t interested in reading about these less-than-riveting topics. One of the critics finally laughed at herself and said, “Why do we care so much to even comment on this? That would be an interesting article I would like to read.”
Ask and you shall receive.
Before I answer, though, I’d like to start with some thoughts on subject matter. I am a person with an opinion and a venue in which to share it. Do you have to read what I write? Nope. Do you have to read what anyone writes? Nope. And this goes for books, magazines, blog posts, and shared items on social media. Unless you’re taking a class and there’s something on the required reading list that you don’t like, you aren’t obligated to read anything! (In fact you can skip the required reading too, there just may be consequences that show up in your grades…but it’s still your choice.)
Now, why do people write on any particular subject, especially ones that aren’t interesting to people that feel the need to comment and say so? Well, different strokes for different folks. That’s why. There will always be someone speaking out about something you don’t care about. That’s ok. It really, truly is. I’m fairly certain that no one is interesting all the time to everyone. This might cause me to lose some followers, but I dare say that not even the Most Interesting Man in the World is fascinating all the time. And if he’s not, neither are you or I.
My advice? If you come across a post or story that you don’t care for…let it go. Move on by. Why put your energy into saying something negative? And if you just have to say your piece, read it over before hitting enter. Another friend, Cherry, had this to say, “Everyone is entitled to their opinions, if they can speak them nicely. If they can’t share their opinion nicely then, to me, their opinion means nothing.” Now, Cherry is much more even tempered than many of us, but I think I might try to embrace her philosophy. Except when I can’t…and I’ll get to that in a minute.
I think it’s time to get to why, in my opinion, we find ourselves unable to resist posting less-than-pleasant comments on other people’s thoughts? And I think there are a few reasons.
- We’re standing up for ourselves or others. Very recently someone posted a meme that was supposed to be funny but I thought was significantly over the line. I debated whether to say anything or not. Was it even my business what this person posted on her personal page? I decided that it was. Sometimes it is our place to stand up and say a joke is too far off color and help others see that it’s not funny when it hurts. I didn’t know what would happen, but I kindly noted my concerns. In this case she did take the post down and messaged me to say she didn’t think it was that bad. I left it at that, but felt better for maybe having saved another person from having to see that meme.
- We feel anonymous. If you’ve ever read an online magazine or newspaper and scrolled down to the comments. There are almost always negative thoughts, no matter what the topic. Sometimes people post under their own names, but even so, there’s no accountability. Critics feel safe behind the keyboard. This goes on slightly less on social media, because we’re commenting on the posts of people we know. But it does happen. I’ve seen it when commenting on a mutual friend’s post. Their other friend and I don’t know each other, but we’re both sharing our thoughts. I tend to think this can be done without getting nasty, but apparently not everyone feels that way. In this case you’ve got a few options – let them be a jerk and let it go, stay calm and continue to stick to the facts hoping to bring it back to a healthy debate, or lose it on them – you pick!
- We don’t have a good argument, but we’re right. I think these types of commenters don’t start off trying to be a meanie, but if you don’t quickly agree with them, they’ll lose their composure and start throwing words to try to hurt. There’s no healthy way out of an argument with someone who thinks their poo don’t stink. So, I recommend just stepping away and letting them prove what a sad individual they are.
- We’re reacting to people who present themselves as better than everyone else. This category, although very similar to the last one, usually has attitude in what they speak from the beginning. You can clearly read their disdain for you in everything they type. Like the folks that are always right, people that are better than everyone else are best walked away from as well. They’ll never realize the validity of any point you try to make.
- We think we’re funny. This overlaps with several of the other categories. On its own, though, someone who’s being funny might not realize how rude they’re being…or they might not care. I’ve been accused of being overly sensitive. I’ve also been thanked for saying something to jokes I don’t laugh at. I just saw this video recently and I think Laci Green is spot on. Think about who’s laughing. Are you punching up or punching down?
- We have hot-button topics. Yup – even I do. My biggies are sexual assault and body image. There are some other things I’ll jump up to defend sometimes, but these two will get me out of my seat every time. And everyone has something – abortion, religious freedom, politics, LGBTQ rights, and on and on. When our buttons are pushed, it’s quite possible that we’re going to respond with passion, maybe facts, and sometimes a little “oh, no you didn’t” boldness.
There are possibly a dozen more reasons why, but I think this covers the answers I got from my highly non-scientific Facebook poll of my friends. I don’t think it’s too shabby. My little sister Mary, wiser than her years, said something similar to Cherry. “We don’t have to agree, but we can treat each other respectfully.” Yup. Sounds good to me. And if you haven’t had enough caffeine, missed lunch, woke up on the wrong side of the bed and do comment on a post in an unkind manner, remember that it’s ok to say you’re sorry or just walk away. You don’t need to prove you’re the bigger donkey. Or you can drop the mike like Heidi, with a fun little meme like this:
Words to live by.