Feed on

The bulk of my years on the Internet thus far have been spent in communities of genial, like-minded misanthropes who bonded while rolling their eyes over misused apostrophes on gas-station whiteboards, grizzling about people who stand on the wrong side of the escalator, squawking about roadhog SUV drivers, and tutting at the guy whose kid is eating fistfuls of Cheerios straight out of the box in the supermarket.

At first,I was overjoyed to find this commonality with groups of smart, witty people who expressed their irritations so eloquently, but now, I'm afraid I've gotten too comfortable with this sense of validation of curmudgeonhood. I fear that stirring my own deep, still pool of bile and allowing it to spew out my fingertips in a fountain of snark has become a horrible habit. Sneering thoughts and occasionally scathing observations have become something like my default response these days, and I'm not so sure I like myself this way.

I've never been what you'd call a Pollyanna. In highschool, I described myself as a benevolent misanthrope. I believed wholehearted and loudly in various humanitarian social policies, but overall, I detested most people as a species. Like a chow-dog, I was fiercely loyal and ridiculously affectionate toward my family and friends, but raised my metaphorical hackles at any and all suspicious interlopers.

In many ways, the Internet has been a great match for my introverted, judgmental personality. People lay a lot right out there on the table and reveal more than they typically do in real life. Typically speaking, you'll find out from someone online what their stance is on abortion, whether they like cats or dogs, and if they feel violently about whether one should say “soda” or “pop.” You can easily determine that the person posting is a wet hen who believes she's a “faerie” with “magickal” powers and a cat sweatshirt, or an Ayn Rand-thumping, combat-boot-stamping, world-weary, hardened character, age 19. You can, to a great extent, determine whether or not you “like” someone in pretty short order.

Most of the time, I'm well in favor of this—it saves the experience of spending a great deal of time around somebody, only to find out that they are The Crazy, extraordinarily irritating, or come with a complete, matching set of Drama, batteries included. I remember in college, when I was a much less guarded woman, having to go to fairly significant lengths to extricate myself from a couple of vampirous friendships. More than a few of my post-college friendships began online, and I got a sense of, “yeah, she's pretty cool—we could party” before we met up in person. I'm grateful for and happy about these friendships, and the fact that they came about in part by the “preview friend” feature of internet socializing doesn't devalue the relationship one bit.

However, and this is the big however, I notice that a lot of the self-selecting communities that I'm a part of tend to encourage their members' not-so-secret bile reservoirs, and that the support of a large community of like-minded misanthropes seems to encourage and breed a kind of outspoken meanness that I cannot see as being at all healthy. When I catch myself expressing the darker reaches of my own disgruntlement—grizzling about an irritating, avuncular co-worker who imposes himself upon my time with inane small-talk, or mocking some random guy's mullet or some random girl's hearts-and-flowers-pink-cotton-candy LJ I start to suspect that spending a lot of time supporting other peoples' bad attitudes and feeding my own crankiness is making me a much less human person.

I'm too quick to snap to irritation these days, too quick to sneer, too quick to formulate a rant, rather than just take deep breaths and let the petty shit flow on down to the cesspool of intolerance where it belongs. Why should I get all het up about some jackass with the cell-phone and flash briefcase braying about his weekend plans on the subway? Why should I care about the most recent LJ Drama or Wankery. It's not like I can make the showoff shut off his cellphone and carry a more sensible bag, nor can I stop some 17-year-old from fucking her best friend's boyfriend, blogging about it, then getting caught and caught up in the resultant fallout. So really, since I can't do much to stop people from being ignorant, irritating fuckwits, I should get better at ignoring them and getting on with my own life.

It's easy to sneer when it's somebody else's problem. It's easy to scoff when it's not your friend. It's easy to roll your eyes when the other person will never see your face and can never kick you ass. Somehow, it's a lot harder not to take things personally and to live and let live.

I should definitely shut up with the ranting and whining, unless it's actually funny, unique, or I have a solution to the problem buried someplace among all the angst. I should just let stupid people stew in their own drool, as being an idiot is its own punishment. I should tend my own garden, and let others who thrive on turmoil burn themselves out. I should.

Whether I can and will remains to be seen, but at least I have managed to figure out what I should be doing.

Leave a Reply