It has been a surprise for me that some people do not understand the damage they can do, to their own reputation, when using on-line forums. Their anonymity allows them to communicate in a manner that would be outside their normal behaviour. You only have to look at the behaviour described as ‘Road Rage’ to know that the anonymity a car provides can enable considerable changes in a person’s conduct. The enraged people are oblivious to the effect that they may have on themselves and the people around them. For a professional to use social media to trash their own reputation, so publically, they must have something seemingly important on their mind.
I know that sarcasm can be amusing. I enjoy a well-crafted insult – as long as it is not malicious. Most comedians will agree that it is easier to be funny and entertaining with a cutting remark than it is when saying something nice. However, I have been startled by the obnoxious way some people use Internet forums and discussion groups.
For instance, on YouTube, I asked a question about gun control in the USA. I did not suggest anything. I just asked for the clarification of something that was said on a video. Immediately someone accused me of wanting to ban guns. He told me that he would not give up his gun unless the US army and police gave up their guns first and if I did not want that, then I should … [expletive deleted].
What I found interesting was that the anonymous person (no name or picture) should become so angry at what he thought I was thinking. I sent him a private message explaining that he was mistaken about my intent but he did not responded.
More recently, I have had a similar, but slightly more considered exchange that I found equally baffling. Someone who ‘seemed’ to have a greater knowledge than I did in one discipline made it blatantly obvious that he had little understanding of the discipline about which the forum was dedicated. After reading some of his posts, a colleague of mine described them as “The abusive ratings of an uninformed bigot” and went on to suggest that communicating with the person would be a futile waste of time. This did prove to be the case, as the person in question tried to control the narrative by selectively deleting some of his less coherent but abusive posts. He seemed to be so passionate about his paradigm the he did not consider how group members might be privately discussing the ‘insecure thinking’ that may be present when a person behaves in a way that damages their own credibility so efficiently.
What should you do when presented with someone who is complaining about his or her own thoughts, and interpretations, while blaming and castigating you? The response I often see is to tell them that they are [expletive deleted] and they should [expletive deleted].
However, this is counter-productive. If I had indulged in an outright argument and descended into the vernacular of an angry exchange, I would be dismissed as unprofessional as well.
Having said that some people have built their career on being obnoxious, rude and patronising. However, they usually have a superior knowledge and are not just having a conversation with themselves: Simon Cowell for instance. He can often display a caustic wit, while many people highly respect him.
My advice is to remain polite and stick to the salient points. Inject a little humour if you can but do not write anything disparaging. By setting aside any thoughts about ‘needing’ to change the other persons mind, matching their insults or explaining why you are right, you can benefit from the exchange (just remember if one person is ‘right’ it usually infers that the other person is ‘wrong’ – a good way to create and escalate a conflict).
I have new contacts and complements on my restraint and humour. Also, I have learnt from the exchange. Has the other person learnt or benefited? I fear not, but I cannot know.
What I do know is he is just like me. He has his mind, his thoughts, and his conciseness. He is capable of love and a deep connection with his innate wisdom.
I sometimes let my thinking cloud my mind and I become conscious of insecure feelings that I attribute the outside world. It is getting easier and easier to remember that it is not the ‘outside’ that is causing my feelings, but my own thoughts. All I have to do is notice the thought, allow it to stay for a while and then let it go. Next, my ‘clarity of mind’ will come back and my creative wisdom will return with it (and I can write a blog about it).