A couple of years ago, I went through a … phase. I was working in Tanzania at the time, and I was really active on Twitter. I made a hoarde of online friends and when I came home for a two week holiday, I decided to meet all of them. In those two weeks, I crammed in maybe 15 tweet-ups, meeting two or three people every day. I realize it would have been easier to have a big party and invite all of them, but I don’t do well in crowds and I can’t multi-task to save my life. I prefer to just have tea with one tweep at a time – if I must – and not many people are comfortable with that. Anyway, I met all these people, liked some, got liked by some, scared some. I even did a post about it, though I’m sure I deleted it in one of my rages.
The sad thing is that out of all the people I met, I’m only actively in touch with two. Some people I wanted to meet again, but it never happened. Some people I must have put off, since I never heard from them again, online or off. Some people I pestered for a while before I took the hint and stopped trying. It was an interesting few weeks.
I’m an overthinker, so I’ve spent hours analyzing the situation, figuring out what went wrong and all that. I’ve come up with a whole bunch of theories and none of them are quite satisfactory. I haven’t met any online acquaintances since then – except for business purposes – and honestly, I’m afraid to. I’m generally a loner, and the question I ask myself most often is what possessed me to individually meet 15 strangers in two weeks. I blame it on the short term coffee addiction that I had at the time.
This morning, I was reading this article and it got me thinking a lot. It lists 7 reasons why people in 21st Century are miserable, and most of the points were true. The third item in the article rang truest for me. It says when we meet people online, a lot of what we type is misconstrued. So you may end up liking or disliking someone simply because you didn’t really understand what they were saying. For most people, this is fine, since social media is just a big game anyway. But for me, the line between online and offline is blurry, so I take the game way too seriously.
You then meet offline, and even if the person isn’t a hairy one-legged dwarf, even if they look exactly like their avatar, even if you’ve been talking every day for months, you’re still left sitting at a table with a complete stranger. I don’t worry about that so much, since I express myself pretty clearly. But lately I’ve realized that what I say and what people hear can be two very different things, especially in written media. Sad.
One thing I get accused of a lot – both on and offline – is being judgemental. I generally take it as a compliment. See, I form opinions really fast and articulate them really loud. The average person will look at, for example, a woman dressed in screaming orange spandex. They will think, ‘Oh boy.’ Then they will subconsciously – and very subtly – look around to how other people are reacting. They want to see if anyone else is disturbed/amused/shocked. They might quietly sneer or snigger, or simply wait for someone else to comment. They can then respond in the affirmative or whatever.
An opinionated person might look at the woman, decide the dress is too tight, the colour is unflattering, the woman is a show-off, or that the woman is extremely sanguine. She might admire the girl’s guts, or be put off that any girl would dare to demand attention quite so blatantly. The judgemental person will then say all that to whoever will listen. Some may even walk up to that woman, tap her shoulder, and tell it to her face.
The people around will then look at the judgemental person and wonder. ‘How dare she? She should just mind her own business. She doesn’t even know the girl ! How rude. What balls!’ But of course, none of this will actually be said out loud.
Being opnionated is interpreted as being rash. The average person might get to know the girl in orange, spend time with her, see her for a few days or weeks to check out the rest of her wardrobe. Then … maybe … six months down the line, they might make an observation about the dress. Maybe. They could just as easily hang out with the person for years and say nothing about the dress. They could decide to keep quiet to spare Lady Orange’s feelings, or they could decide that they’re indifferent to the dress. They could decide it doesn’t matter one way or the other, and be content knowing that while they like the girl, they wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress like that. Live and let live.
The judgemental person, conversely, voices opinions about everything, and doesn’t have six months to spend on an orange dress. If she liked the orange dress, within six months, she could have loved, wooed, and married the dress. Figuratively speaking of course, and assuming the dress didn’t run off screaming or hit Ms Judgemental with a large handbag after that first tap on the shoulder.
Nobody likes to be judged – not even people who are judgemental. The charismatic people of the world know this, and they remain friends with everyone by smiling, saying nice, funny, entertaining things, and keeping their opinions to themselves. Being controversial works too. Just think Justin Bieber vs Lady Gaga. Opinionated people, conversely, either don’t know any better or don’t care enough to shut up.
Some of us go about the world rubbing people the wrong way, others hole themselves up in igloo, and become famous for their wise, misanthropic sayings. You know, people like Jonathan Swift. But reading the 3rd of the 7 reasons for world misery made me reflect on a lot of things, and igloos came with ice skates, no?