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Dear Internet, Please Stop and Think

A while ago, my roommate introduced me to the site “Dear Blank, Please Blank”. It’s about as simple as it sounds: people write short letters (the length of 2 tweets or so at most) in that form, and post them. There are several buttons beneath each submission to indicate how one feels about this letter, and a comments section for each one. 

Well, I got hooked on commenting (I’m ch1ck4do0dl3 there, if anyone cares). I’m not a completely different person there. I still write heaps of text where only a few words will do because SO MANY WORDS; HOW DO I CHOOSE?!, just as it always has been for me.

Recently, there have been a spate of really controversial letters going through; letters dealing with bullying, with homosexuality, with judgement on other’s sex lives (or lack thereof), with judgement on the type of clothing people wear… it’s kind of awful.

I’m a very live-and-let-live sort of woman. If I find myself in a neutral position on something, you will often hear me say/read that I’ve written something along the lines of “can’t we all just get along?” It’s not that I don’t want people to have opinions; rather, I wish people would be respectful about discussing them. Alas, this is the internet. We all know how that goes.

I’ll admit, there are times when I do get sucked into conversation, or (often more accurately phrased) into an argument. If you’ve read most of my posts, I’m pretty passionate about some things. Most of these things boil down to equality and treating everyone with basic respect. I was one of those kids who really took Second Step (you know, where they teach you how to deal with tough stuff when you’re in preschool/kindergarten) to heart. I’m big on “I” statements and backing up things I claim to be facts. I’m also very careful about indicating the difference between opinion and fact, as you tend to get smacked down if you claim your opinion as fact.

For instance, someone commented on this letter all but claiming that because most of the lesbians they knew were obese, overweight women becoming lesbian is a choice. Logical carnage ensued. Honestly, I wanted to ask how big a sample size this person was working from, and how many of these people’s sexual orientation they knew for a fact. I mean, holding hands with another girl does not make one a lesbian. No physical action can change a person’s orientation, as far as I’m aware. By this, I mean that you’re attracted to who you’re attracted to.

I guess the problem with a lot of this is labels. Nobody really knows who anyone else is on the internet, and so it’s just easiest to say “I’m X, Y, and Z, and not A, B, and H” (HAH! You thought I was gonna write “C” there, didn’t you?).  I’m gonna go a little out there, here, but why do we need to make such classifications? Yes, it’s important when you’re filling out medical forms to indicate medical conditions and stuff like that, but, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t matter, putting yourself into a box of Qs, Js, and/or Ms isn’t really productive. We’re all human. Why don’t we treat each other that way?

Okay, yes, I know it’s hard to do. I won’t claim that I’m perfect at it. But I try to sit back and think about what a person is like and what their situation is (based on what, if anything, I can glean from their writing) before I respond to them. I suppose it does help to think about their differences there, so that I know what I’m addressing and how, but I try to keep in mind that unless they are disputing hard facts with opinion, or claiming that their opinions are facts without evidence, they’re not inherently wrong.

My kindergarten teacher had two puppets: Impulsive puppy and Slow-down snail. I was bitten by Impulsive puppy once. On the nose. Impulsive puppy didn’t understand why I felt bad. Impulsive puppy didn’t understand a lot of things until Slow-down snail said (in a slow, deep voice) “Sloooooow doooown. Stop and thiiink.” I think this is advice we’d all do well to heed, especially in arguments.

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