Looking in the Mirror

Recently I got in a little scuffle with someone on Facebook. Without getting into too many details, she was an acquaintance from college. She posted something I found to be insulting that was based on exaggerations and misrepresentations. This was the third or fourth time she had posted something similar, so without regret I corrected her. However, I also changed my status to reflect my annoyance with her. Turns out she was already annoyed with me because she mistook a joke I made in private correspondence with her. I sent her a private message of apology for the previous misunderstanding, and at her suggestion removed her from my “friend” list.

This whole incident has given me much food for thought in recent days. I’ve been thinking about how all of these social networks, blogs, and forums on the internet can really give someone a sense of false intimacy with other people. They call it your “friend” list, but we all really know that most of the people we add are really just acquaintances. It is easy to forget that just as we don’t really know them they don’t really know us either. Due to the limitations of the media and the relationship, they might not understand when we are teasing them, when we are insulting them, or when we are pretending to tease them when we are really insulting them. And vice versa.

When this person first suggested that I remove her from my list, my first instinct was not to do this. Even though I knew that I owed her an apology and explanation for the earlier misunderstanding, I began to realize that there was no real reason to keep her on my friend list. I haven’t seen her in almost ten years. Even then we really didn’t hang out regularly. There is little chance that I will ever see her again. Obviously, we do not have very much in common. So why should I bother with a relationship with someone that I know will continue to irritate me by posting things I find insulting?

Then I wondered why I felt the need to give her the internet equivalent of the middle finger by changing my Facebook status to something guaranteed to provoke her. Was I just transferring my anger at a certain Honda assistant service manager onto her? Was it just a temporary lapse of judgment or rise of temper? Or was it the result of my own personal demons?

This will not surprise anyone with whom I went to grade school but Hermione Granger and I have a major character trait in common. We both have the temptation to be insufferable know-it-alls. I really try to keep my arrogance and my need to share everything I know in check, but I do think the internet culture makes it easier to succumb to this lesser and very annoying desire. (Why else do you think I’ve kept my blog going this long?) Among my other faults, I am sometimes bluntly honest to the point of being tactless. I have a very hard time admitting when I am wrong. I am also prone to self-pity and complaining. (See blogging is like therapy for me.) I am sure my dearest friends and family could add to the list, but please don’t. I think these are more than I can handle as it is.

Perhaps it is very apropos that I have been given this chance to look in the mirror a few weeks into the new year. Perhaps like many others I can pick one or two particular faults to work on improving over the next twelve months. (I know my husband would like me to admit when I am wrong more often.) And already I am being a little more circumspect about my on-line interactions. Am I commenting because I really have something of interest to add or just to prove that I am as smart as everyone else? Am I writing something that serves a positive purpose or just to hear the sound of my fingers hitting the keys? Hopefully, this incident will continue to stick with me and be an agent of positive change in the coming months.

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