Underneath my yellow skin

The more things change…part one

I have been thinking lately about changes in my life and how they have crept up on me, but that post will have to wait for Wednesday because it’s my blog and that’s the way I want to do it. This post will be about the lack of change that causes me to lose interest in something I once liked/loved. Specifically, websites and social media, but it applies to other things as well.

Let’s start with Twitter. I used to be heavily involved back in 2008. Or rather, the lead up to the election. I tweeted for hours a day, and I was heavily engaged with other tweeters. I didn’t have that many followers, but I had a lot of interaction. I tweeted a lot about politics, and I kept up with all the minutiae that surrounded it. Over the years, I’ve just…faded on it. Not for any one reason, but all the things that drew me to Twitter eventually turned me off it as well. The intense interactions. The free-for all nature. The tendency to scrutinize every little thing to death, and just the constant noise. The things that made it exciting back in the beginning began to irritate me, and then I just hated it. These days, I mostly tweet about cats, a video I like, and a video game once in a while. I check it maybe twice a day if even that. I don’t follow politics at all for many reasons, so I rarely read my TL any longer.

I noticed the same thing when I was deep into politics and visiting different political sites on the daily. I was heavily involved in a few (and I’m not naming them because that’s not the point), and I commented regularly. After some time, I started to feel constrained because there was a staleness to the interactions. I knew who was going to say what in response to each post, and I did not want to have the same conversations over and over again.

Side note: I know I have issues with relationships in that I either cling too hard or I let them fade away for one reason or another. These days it tends to be the latter rather than the former. I’m not saying it’s an issue in general because relationships don’t have to last forever, but I’m just mentioning it because it’s something I’ve become aware of in the past decade or so and it’s relevant to this post. Online relationships aren’t the same as IRL relationships, but there are some similar landmarks. The difference is that it’s even easier for me to let them go because the person isn’t in front of my face. In addition, online websites are even less real in my mind than online friendships. Therefore, it’s easy for me to walk away from a website that no longer holds my interest.

Side note II: I am going to say something that is going to make me look like an arrogant asshole, but so be it. I think of things on many levels, which is one reason I am that irritating person who always brings up another point of view. I used to think everyone thought the way I did, so I would earnestly try to explain my point of view. I fell into the trap of thinking if I could just find the right words, I could get others to see what I was saying. One of the best things my last therapist told me was that most people overlooked (or didn’t know) the other part of the Dunning-Kruger experiment–that smart people underestimate how much smarter they are than other people.

That hit me in the gut (and it’s something I passed on to my brother) because up until then, I tried so hard to explain myself. Once she said it, it was as if the scales fell from my eyes. i thought if I could just say it three hundred different ways, or find the words that made the most sense, the other person would understand what I was saying. It was hard to accept that it wasn’t me fucking up shit. She went on to say that I was talking on a Level 5  (for example) while others were on Level 2. They weren’t maliciously not understanding what I was saying nor was I not explaining myself well. Another way of viewing it is that we are speaking two different languages. I just thought of that, so I haven’t fleshed it out, but it might be two wildly divergent versions of English in which there are some similarities, but more differences.

We all know I read my stories on the daily. The advice columns that give me life. Well, they did. But the same problem is coming up here that does with other websites. It’s starting to get…stale. I can predict what the main person is going to say, and I can also predict what most of the commentariat is going to say. There is one exception, and I’ll get to that in a bit. Part of the problem is that advice columnists have to work with what they’re sent, which is usually a pretty limited view of the situation. It has to be otherwise each letter would be thousands of words. In addition, people come into the letters with their own life framing how they view things. I mean, that’s just psychology 101, but it’s amazing how many people don’t realize that the way they see something is not necessarily universal.

It’s very easy to see when there’s a letter on a topic that is highly divisive such as religion. Many people who are Christian in America have a really distorted view about their religion, how it fits into America, and how it’s viewed by others. Even very liberal progressive people in other areas can fall into the trap of ‘woe is me, the Christian in America’. There was a letter at AAM from a queer woman who worked in a very relaxed but conservative company where they all swore in Disqus. All the uppers were in this chat, and they swore, too. Someone wrote ‘goddamn it’ about something, and there’s an automatic message chastising them for taking the lord’s name in vain. On the other hand, the uppers said that any LGBTQ concerns were too controversial.

It took no time at all for the Christians to be all over the comment section explaining how it was offensive to take god’s name in vain and how religious freedom something something and oh yes it was bad to be homophobic, but we don’t want any controversies in the workplace. It got ugly. Despite many queer people pointing out that their basic humanity should not be in question, the Christians continued to get their feelings hurt all over the comment section. And, yes, I’m letting my bias show as well.

One person even went so far as to blatantly say that if their religion wasn’t respected, then they might have to side with the religious homophobic bigots. It was jaw-dropping that they actually trotted out that tired old trope that I honestly thought was more urban myth than reality. “You were mean to me, so I will strip you of your humanity.” Who the hell thinks that, let alone say it? But I know the reason for it. Oftentimes people in the majority refuse to see or can’t see that they have the privilege, so they use a false equation when talking about interactions with someone in the minority. In this situation, it was the fact that someone might dare to refuse not to take the lord’s name in vain (their personal belief) equated to them with, you know, basic human rights for queer people to exist at all.

I gotta say. I have never met people more invested in their own victimization than Christians in America. Yes, that is hyperbole, but it’s not far from true, either. The problem with the letter as written is that it has many separate issues that people were trying to conflate into one. In addition, the Christians were honing in on that as the most salient part while glossing over the LGBTQ comments. Nothing anyone could say would change their mind that they were the victimized ones in the situation. Nor could they see that something like ‘do not take the lord’s name in vain’ is not something a non-believer would really need to adhere to. In other words, they can say that for themselves, but they have no control over what others say or do.

Side note III: I myself try not to swear around people who find it offensive (such as family), but I’m not going to beat myself up if I slip now and then. My swears tend to be more ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ than goddamn it or anything god-related, but the point still stands. Yes, I’ll do my best, but at the end of the day, if a ‘fuck’ slips out, so be it.

AAM is the best of the bunch, by the way. Which is depressing given what I wrote above about it. Alison herself is really good at keeping people in line on her site while still allowing for a robust discussion. In addition, she’ll readily admit when she’s wrong, and she often thinks about someone’s point and incorporates it in her response. On the other hand, if someone is saying something outlandish or hurtful, she reins it in firmly but without rancor. Honestly, she’s the reason I keep reading the site. Plus, there are several thoughtful commentators who are ready to come correct or tell others to settle the fuck down (but in a much nicer way).

The point is, I come to the end of things (and people), and it always causes me some distress. I know it’s part of life, and I know it’s not a bad thing, but it’s hard for me to let go.

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