Or why the world is such a mess.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about introverts. No, you didn’t miss it, I simply never published it. The reason for this is that I was afraid all my introverted friends would never talk to me again. After reflection I realized what I really wanted to lecture about was manners or why there is no excuse to be rude on the internet, including the oft-repeated line about introverts.
So there are two simple rules about manners – consideration and respect.
When you walk into a real room, or a chat room, and you see your best friend who you haven’t spoken to in ages is there your first reaction is probably going to be to squeal in delight, talk really fast, and give that person a glomp or hug. This is fine, cute, and normal. The problem arises when you proceed to completely ignore everyone else in the room.
I don’t’ care how long it’s been since you’ve seen this friend, what news you have, how excited you are, or if your only reason for entering the room was to find that person. I don’t care if everyone else is a bunch of boring dweebs. If they say hello, you have a moral obligation to say hello back. Don’t like being around people? Deal with it. A little socialization, no matter how uncomfortable, will not kill you.
So! Point two on my list! People who don’t like socializing will hate me for this one, but it’s still true. If someone is talking to you, you have to listen to them. Even if you really want to be talking to your best friend. Even if the person talks a lot and is really, really annoying. Even if the person is a moron with no clue what they’re talking about. You don’t have to say much, or get involved, but you need to appear genuinely interested. If the person is obviously just trying to get attention you can bend the rules on this a little bit, but as a general rule “I don’t have time for you” is one of the rudest things on earth to do. And a simple “Mm-hmm,” before going on about a completely different subject is essentially the same thing.
And that brings me to my next point…
So the person you’re stuck talking to is a moron who has no idea what he’s talking about. Guess what? Not only do you have to be polite and listen to him, but you’re not allowed to tell him that he’s a moron with no idea what he’s talking about. Why? Because it’s rude. And you don’t want to be rude, do you?
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how wrong. You are welcome to disagree, politely. With grace and dignity. Without becoming heated, dismissive, or snide. At no point in time is it acceptable to say “That’s ridiculous. What kind of a moron would believe such a thing?” or even this: “Well, you’re entitled to your opinion but if you bothered to look at your facts you’d realize I’m right.”
Not only do people have their own opinions, but sometimes they decide to act on those opinions. They’ll get a job, or not get a job, or get a new haircut. They’ll get hair dye, or wear nail polish, or decide to get married. They’ll live with their parents, or decide to make a career of astrophysics. You may not agree with them. You might think that astrophysics is the most boring and pointless subject ever, or that blond hair looks hideous on them. You might think living at home is old fashioned, or that they could get a better job elsewhere.
You, like the rest of the world, are entitled to your opinion. The better you know the person the more strongly you are allowed to present said opinion, as long as it’s presented in a polite and non-judgmental way. However, there comes a point when you’ve said everything you have to say and *gasp* your friend still doesn’t agree with you. They’re still going to get that apartment or keep that job. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it.
At this point you have two choices. One – act like a rude, selfish jerk, fight for your own way, throw a tantrum, and ruin your friendship. Two – back down and wish your friend luck in their endeavors. Ultimately the decision is theirs and you have no right to try to force them to do what’s best for you. You’re welcome to say: “I think this is a bad idea,” but only if you’re willing to add “But I think you should do what feels right to you.”
Respect: Life, Liberty, and Property
In the era of the internet it can be very difficult to deduce people’s ages. This leads to a lot of down-talking, and general condescension. Most people on the internet are morons, and therefore we assume they all are. One has only to read comments on Youtube to see this.
So here’s the question: do you want to sound like a Youtube commenter? Do you want to be the rude, self-centered moron people are always rolling their eyes at? If not then the first rule is to stay off of Youtube. But other than that it’s a very good idea to remember that we’re all people. Every ignorant child, every weird old man, every needy acquaintance is a real person, with a real location, living a very real, very painful life. And you treat them like worthless dirt and walk away.
A character in a movie ones said of the Roman gods: “Privately, I believe in none of them. Publicly, however, I believe in them all.” Take that as a motto for dealing with morons on the internet. Privately expect them to be as ignorant as children. Publicly treat them like wise, experienced men. Be respectful. Be considerate. Don’t scoff at their knowledge, or laugh at their ignorance. Listen to them when they chatter aimlessly. Support them when they make difficult decisions.
And maybe, at some point, in the vastness of cyberspace, crawling with creeps and rogues and morons, if you’re polite and outstanding than maybe, just maybe, you’ll make a friend.