I have been known to drop the ball in practicing what I preach. Sometimes it can be hard to behave in a manner that matches your words.
I was challenged by this recently.
A few weeks ago, I was at the height of, “THIS MONTH SUCKS DONKEYBALLS AND IT CAN EFFING DIE. DIE. DIE!!!’
One day was particularly bad.
My morning started with my temperature registering at 103.8 and my parents calling to tell me that my sister had MS. It pretty much went downhill from there. Thing after thing after unbelievable THING happened all day long. I am a totally theatrical person but if there were a way to emphasis the suck of this day that was beyond caps, italics and exclamation points, I would totally use it.
Then I opened my email.
Inside was a comment full of disagreement about an old post of mine from someone doing research on a topic.
When I read it my blood began to BOIL.
Normally, even though I have certainly experienced my share of fugly haters from the internet, I still find that the amount of positive love that flows online FAR outweighs any negative things that occur. I am a humor filled, laid back person and it’s usually not that difficult to keep things civil.
In the posts where Jonathan and I discussed both sides regarding health care reform, both of us were very proud of the civil way people handled the discourse. There was a lot of passion on both sides but in all the hundreds of emails I got and the hundreds of comments, NOT ONE person was hateful or disrespectful.
People remained civil about one of the most emotional, hot buttoned issues in the country.
I was proud.
Maybe there really IS something to that whole “pride goeth before the fall” thing.
After reading the comment in my email, I just…lost it.
It wasn’t from a hater, or a troll or from someone disrespectful. She just really disagreed with me.
The thing that got me is that she said I was beyond antagonistic in my post. Because I had tried (so I thought ) extremely hard to NOT be that way. To not offend. To show that I really could see both sides of the issue and that I was truly in support of people who made a different choice then I did.
Because I was a compromised, sick, stressed out person that day, I could see nothing else in the comment but that accusation.
The commenter COULD have have handled their comment better, but my reaction was like taking a sledgehammer or four to a medium sized nail.
I left an extremely heated, biting comment.
She left one back.
When I read it I started pounding out word after ranting word, countering each point with a rabid attack. The comment grew longer and longer and longer until I finished and had my hand over the publish button.
Then I stopped.
I knew at that moment I had two choices. One-I could let my anger get the better of me and hit publish on my scathing comment or two-I could take a deep breath and remember that one of the things I prize most is civil dialogue- even when you don’t agree. Number one would have been VERY satisfying for a moment but in the end…it just wasn’t who I am.
So, I hit “delete” and started again explaining and apologizing that this was not who I was, that I had been caught at a very bad time and that I was taking out a lot of my anger about what was going on in my life on her and that it wasn’t right.
It was VERY hard to start writing that comment.
I was still angry.
But as I continued to write and focused on the truth of the situation I had calmed myself down by the time I reached the end and genuinely felt remorseful for my disrespectful rebuttals.
I hit publish and felt a great deal of relief.
She replied and was much softer and also remorseful and I went to bed feeling much better then when I woke up.
The next day I got an email from her saying that she had been reading the archives of my blog and had been moved and had laughed out loud at many of my entries. I gave her enormous credit for taking the time to get to know me better and told her that often some of my best online friendships have been born out of cruddy situations and misunderstandings.
We have had some emails back and forth and I genuinely like her.
The point of this tale is that it can be pretty easy to get carried away with emotion online and in general. I am guilty of it. I have done it more often then I care to admit, especially when coming to the defense of others. Another flaw is that I often jump to a conclusion without using prudence (Zach Braff is STILL not dead as far as I am aware. Sorry about that. Heh.). I have vowed to correct this and not jump on the emotional bandwagon until I am sure it’s a ride I want to take.
There have been several drama filled and heated events hitting our internet world as of late. Whether it is about Balloon Boy or if MyBottlesUp actually had her child taken by TSA agents or if it is a lie, I am asking, no…begging for civility to reign. Much of the credibility of the blogging world has been damaged, turning into a pitchfork weilding mob will not exactly enhance our reputation.
I am not saying to sweep anything under the rug, to pretend like nothing has happened, to not voice disappointment or even anger over these things. MANY feel their trust was abused and broken and that is not a small matter.
What I AM saying is that people are often carried away in the moment. Also, people WILL disagree with you in the midst of passionate feeling and you need to try your best to not resort to name calling and ugliness.
Passion does not have to equate disrespect.
I appreciate how hard it is to reign in those feeling and to realize you may have gone too far. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO STOP, TAKE A BREATH, APOLOGIZE AND START OVER.
Please fight for civil exchanges and conversations, people.
This lovely community of ours deserves nothing less.