May 1, 2007 9:57 AM   Subscribe

I sometimes have the habit of (unintentionally, at least I feel), putting people down.

I realize this after I’ve done it, this happens over the internet, a medium in which so much is left to nuance, and I feel very guilty after doing the deed. The problem is, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m also Bipolar, and according to my Therapist, I have the habit of beating myself up over every little thing. My only qualm is, is the guilt justifiable. Am I responsible for the way I behave, or am I putting way too much thought into this.

As an example, just today, I posted this on Mecha, and I replied to essexjan maybe a little too harshly?

Your thoughts, comments would surely be appreciated. Many thanks.
posted by hadjiboy to Human Relations (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I did the same thing to dabitch a few days back for posting a thread of why muslim women have to wear hijabs or such, and I started out my reply by saying that I always hated it when people post threads like this, again, unintentionally implying that "discussion" is bad, which is not what I'd meant, but that there's so much of confusion surrounding the discussion, that it's very easy for people to be misunderstood.

I felt kinda shitty for having said that to her too. Or him. I think he's a her.
posted by hadjiboy at 10:01 AM on May 1, 2007

Response by poster: Oh yeah--she's definitely a her--she was having the conversation with her husband if I'm not mistaken.
posted by hadjiboy at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2007

I didn't see that comment as particularly hash, but then again I'm not ej.

It's like this: We speak to each other as good friends, moreso on Mecha than here (Mecha = village; Mefi = city). Sometimes, I think, we take for granted that basic friendship and get a little too familiar and leave out some of the weasel words (like, "no offense intended, but...") and the other person takes offense.

I've made statements on the net intended as compliments that were taken as digs by the people I was complimenting. When that happens I often lay low for a while and/or send a message to the person with whom I've had the awkward moment, and in the great majority of the cases I find out that when someone snarks back at a perceived slight and I think the person hates my guts, it was just a snark back and that was the end of it, with no lasting hard feelings.

But you never know. Don't assume it will be laughed off, but don't think everything is the end of the world. When you think you've stepped in it, the best advice is the old bit of cowboy wisdom: "The first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging." Just let it lay and see if, after a while, it still bothers the other person... if so, deal with it then, after the heat of the moment has cooled.

Some people will tell you, though, that I am the worst possible source of internet social etiquette.
posted by Doohickie at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2007

I try to give the preview window a good read and then, a good ten seconds ( I actually count in my head) before posting something up. I realize in MeCha this is not as practical, given the sometimes faster back and forth but it helps me here. I don’t know how many deleted comments I have but I know I would probably have a few every day if not for this practice. I practice a good bit of self censorship in meatspace as well, I’ll just take a few seconds before I respond to people. It has helped make me a lot less of a jackass than I was a few years ago. I like many people, and you perhaps, do not have a natural polite filter, so I’ve had to learn to rig one up. Deliberate self moding goes a long way.
As for obsessing about it, by the time you’ve probably gotten into a good froth about a problem, the opportunity to apologize has probably passed, and the time to let it go is just around the bend.

on preview: what Doohickie said.
posted by French Fry at 10:36 AM on May 1, 2007

Put a poster over your computer of a nice auntie-looking woman reminding you that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Not that you should take it literally, of course, but you could try to remind yourself every time you sit down to the computer that there's a person with feelings on the other end of what you write.

When you have problems with a particular person, google around and try to figure out who it is. Maybe you would like this person but the two of you have run into the one subject about which you both have strong, opposing opinions.
posted by pracowity at 10:45 AM on May 1, 2007

I didn't see it as harsh at all. And, as Doohickie says, if you think you're in a hole, stop digging. Usually, although you might think you're in a bottomless pit, to the person you think you've snarked, you haven't moved.

Put a poster over your computer of a nice auntie-looking woman

I am a nice auntie-looking woman and you have my permission to use a poster of me.
posted by essexjan at 11:07 AM on May 1, 2007

You are both responsible for your behavior and over-thinking it. When you find, or think, you are acting like a dick, stop.... take a deep breath and apologize to the person in question. then concentrate on something else for a period of time so you can let it go.

Additionally, this post might be better suited, in general, if it was actually posted in MeCha.
posted by edgeways at 11:42 AM on May 1, 2007

I think we all go through phases where we do this, and sometimes we do it so frequently with friends and acquaintances that it seemlessly happens to strangers also. I use to insult my friends all the time until I realized I had a few friends who did it to me CONSTANTLY and how little I enjoyed hanging out with them. Of course it was always done in a friendly joking fashion - but the older I got the more I realized that playground type of behavior is kind of soul-sucking and I didn't like it. It was easy to break myself of the habit by simply being conscious of it. At first I would slip up occasionally and then immediately realize I had insulted someone and immediately I would turn it around and be friendlier and more positive in my interaction. By merit of you posting here you have taken a good step, you'll slip up occasionally and say something uncool but this thread will enter your head and you will remember to act more adult-like (in my mind the activity of being friendly/insulting is juvenile and as you get older you want less and less of those interactions).

You can train yourself easily. Really. Ever notice how most people can automatically go into "no-swear" mode in front of children or your parents and slip right back into "f-bomb" mode around friends? It's the same skill set.
posted by vito90 at 12:00 PM on May 1, 2007

I sometimes have the habit of (unintentionally, at least I feel), putting people down

What a stupid thing to say.


The "when in a hole stop digging" from ej is really the best advice. It's at least the best way to start.

I always think it is fine to speak to someone you feel you may have slighted and apologize for any unintended offense.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:28 PM on May 1, 2007

I have the exact same problem and the only things I have found to get around it are: think twice about whether what I am saying is necessary, and then I read it as if someone was saying that to me instead of the other way around. Admitting when you're wrong and apologising usually goes some distance as well, so this tends to lessen the guilt a little - especially if you manage to turn the conversation into something a little more productive.

I don't know whether the guilt I experience is justifiable, but I don't think it matters. What matters is undoing the mistake made, and moving on without it burdening the self.

When guilt continues, despite this? I play The Sims 2, as it blocks all known brainwaves for several hours at a time. Sounds silly, I know. But it works. Almost too well. O_O
posted by saturnine at 3:08 PM on May 1, 2007

If this bothers you, the best thing to do is, at the moment you realize you may have offended someone, stop and say "Sorry, that didn't come out the way I intended it. What I meant was X, Y, and Z. I hope I didn't hurt your feelings."

If the person was offended they'll appreciate your honesty and openness. If they weren't offended, they'll appreciate the fact that you were thinking about their feelings anyway.

Just try not to make it a habit.
posted by Brittanie at 3:09 PM on May 1, 2007

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