Monday, February 17, 2014

Pain avoidance

I have a rule on all social media: I never strongly dismiss anything in pop culture—movie, song, book, performer. There’s a reason for that: I respect other people too much to be a dick.

I've noticed that on social media people seem to need to pontificate and pronounce: A movie is the worst ever made, a song is absolute garbage, an actor is overrated, a singer has no talent, etc., etc. But what if whatever they’re passing judgement on is the same thing I happen to love dearly? Or, if not me, maybe hundreds of others? What does that say to them?

This is the reason I came up with Arthur’s Law in the first place, of course: I’d noticed how much some people hurt other people by pronouncing their often brutal assessment of something in pop culture. I thought that sort of hurt was uncalled for, and Arthur’s Law was born.

Today Roger Green mentioned unfriending someone on Facebook for the first time, and it was for essentially the same sort of behaviour: Utter dismissal of what someone else was saying. I think it’s clear the break wasn’t because Roger cared deeply about WHAT he said, but rather the person’s reaction to it. From what he said, the other person seems to have made a strong judgement based on her own views without ever considering the thoughts or feelings of anyone else.

I said in a comment on Roger’s post, “It annoys me how often people have to express negative opinions about things—pop culture stuff in particular. If they do it with some humour or irony I don’t mind, but to declare that something is awful—which is what they usually do—devalues other people and their opinions, it seems to me, and that’s just not okay with me.”

And that’s the heart of the issue: I actually care about what other people feel, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to hurt anyone; because of that, I won’t trash something in pop culture that someone else may very well love to bits because, well, what’s to be gained? I’ll still feel the same, but someone else could feel a sting.

Someone I don’t know said on Twitter, and I’m paraphrasing, that on social media we're basically having a conversation with ourselves, hoping someone else will join in. That’s a bit harsh, but there’s an element of truth in it. When it comes to pop culture criticism, at least, it seems to me that people are often only speaking to themselves; maybe that’s why they put things far too harshly.

None of this matters compared to the very real problems of the world or the people in it. Obviously. But there’s so much emotional pain in the world, why add to it over things that really don’t matter? Is it really necessary to score points at another’s expense?

We’ve all heard, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” People REALLY need to keep that in mind before they make a comment on social media. Someone will always see what we say—do we really need to be dicks about saying what we think?

For me, the bottom line is that I think we should be better than that.

And that’s why I never strongly dismiss anything in pop culture.

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