Pooping On Your Unicorn

What is up with people raining on other folks’ parades?

You know what I mean. Someone goes to Facebook or Twitter or SnapChat or whatever the kids are doing these days with the specific purpose of expressing happiness or excitement.
“Just bought my first candy corn this year — my favorite!”
“Cannot WAIT for the new Avengers movie!”
“Sitting down with the second season of Orange Is The New Black. So psyched!”
“Looks like it may hit 95*. Awwww yeah! #LoveMeSomeHeat”

Then come the comments. Some – most? – agree with the post.
“I could eat my weight in candy corn!”
“The Hulk is hot!”
“Love OITNB.”
“Yassss! I’m swimming after work!”

Then there are some that neither agree nor disagree – neutral comments, if you will.
“I’m saving my candy corn until it’s October!”
“Wish I had time to see a movie.”
“Don’t have Netflix — is OITNB worth getting it?”
“It’s only gonna be 70* here!”

But then there are the from-left-field, for-no-reason, poop-on-a-unicorn comments.
“Omg. Candy corn is DISGUSTING.”
“Black Widow is the only female Avenger and she’s basically just a prop. Terrible message. No thanks.”
“Watched one episode of OITNB – absolutely hated it.”
“How can you possibly stand it that hot? #Awful”

This happens over and over and over again, and every time, I want to reach through my computer (or phone) and smack the commenter. What prompts a person to see someone being happy about something and then respond with the opposite? Why even bother? Is it to “teach a lesson”? Get a rise out of someone? Spread a little Grinch-y-ness because you’re having a crappy day? Diarrhea of the mouth? NO SERIOUSLY WTF??

Sure, the impersonal nature of the internet has something to do with it. When you’re not looking someone in the eye or having an actual conversation, it’s a lot easier to respond to joy with pissiness. I mean, can you imagine these in person?

“Holy crap! I just won tickets to see The Nutcracker! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!”
“Ballet sucks.”

“We’re headed to Chili’s since their tortilla soup is dad’s favorite. Wanna come?”
“Last time I was at Chili’s, I puked for a week. You couldn’t pay me to go.”

“These new boots are super comfy.”
“I bought those and wore them twice before I realized how ugly they are.”

You’d find new people to chill with pretty fast.
Online, though, people do this ALL THE TIME. It’s as though they see someone’s happiness and just cannot help themselves from squashing it. I HAVE AN OPINION AND BY GOD I WILL SHARE IT.

Look. I love a good online discussion or debate. I have no issue with people being honest – even if it’s contradictory or negative – when someone starts a discussion, asks for thoughts, etc. When you say, “Tell me about Burundi” or “You know you wanna FEEL THE BERN!!!” or “Considering getting a nunchuck – pros and cons?” or “What do you think about kilts?”, you’d better expect some real, non-Pollyanna answers.

I don’t even have an issue with someone jumping in and giving their two (thousand) cents when someone hasn’t asked for an opinion. I mean, presumably, everyone has chosen the people they associate with on their social media networks. It’s pretty much assumed that groups of people hanging out together – even virtually – will, like, interact. Talk. Commune.

So when someone posts a random thought, a conversation starter, a neutral observation, etc. – “Tried to work out today. Arrived at the gym and realized I’d forgotten my sneakers. #fail” – it seems to me like an opening for some give and take. Maybe there’ll be some empathy (“Been there, man. Sorry!”). Or humor (“That’s why I don’t work out!”). Or (constructive?) ideas (“Leave your keys in your sneakers as a reminder!”). And maybe there’ll be some uninvited criticism (“That’s what you get for staying up so late.”). Unless someone goes off on a rant or tangent, all seem par for the course.

The internet is a crazy place; generally, I like it there. I’m not dissing discourse or freedom of speech or expressing yourself or sharing your craptastic mood. I am dissing being a shitty friend and responding in a completely unsolicited and negative way when a pal has posted for the sole purpose of expressing joy or excitement.

What prompts this level of douche-baggery??

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 11.27.23 PM
My grandfather was a big fan of New York Magazine. I remember reading and re-reading (maybe we kept a copy of the magazine by the john?) a 1979 contest titled “Competition 366: 1. What you should have said, and, 2. What you did say.”
This particular honorable-mention entry has stuck with me since then.

Just today, someone I follow on Facebook posted a link to an article/video, accompanied by a heart-eyed emoji. The message was clear: I’M SHARING BECAUSE I LIKE THIS! LOVE LOVE LOVE! Most of the comments were positive (“So awesome!”) or neutral (“That guy in the background is laughing pretty hard”), but then – out of the blue – someone chimed in with, “I didn’t like this at all.”

What the ever-loving heck?? Why would anyone respond to genuine happiness by saying something completely unnecessary and negative? WHY?!?!

Okay, okaaay. If I step back, I can kind of understand.. because I used to do it, too (hides head in shame). I distinctly remember Nick finishing a college a cappella concert, eagerly bounding up to me because he and his group had just premiered a song. He looked at me with the biggest grin (I very much remember the grin) and said, “How did it go?”

My response? “The tenors were flat.”

Womp-womp.

Were the tenors flat? Yes. But why the hell I felt the need to convey that information right then, when he was so exuberant, can really only be summed up like this: I was a self-righteous jerk. Nick wasn’t coming to me in that moment to hear a freakin’ critique of the performance; he was coming to share his joy.

I HAD A LOT OF CHOICES, PEOPLE! I could have shared his joy back (“It was amazing!”). Or, if I wasn’t really feeling it, I could have said something supportive but vague (“You were totally rocking out up there!”). Or, if I couldn’t even muster that at the moment, a hug might have sufficed.

Later, when we actually sat down to dissect the concert (as we college a cappella geeks are wont to do), when he was actually looking for an honest appraisal of the set, I could have mentioned my thoughts about the tenors. But raining on his parade? Just plain mean.

I remember that moment not because of what I said, but because of how Nick’s whole body fell when he heard me – how his face crumpled and his step faltered. And I instantaneously knew that I’d been an ass. No matter how much I tried to take it back or make up for my stupidity with compliments and praise, however, the wind had been knocked from his sails; he’d been so looking forward to sharing that moment with me and I’d ruined it.

I vowed to try to be different. To not immediately chime in with the negative. To be kind instead of right. (Okay, I didn’t vow that right then — that wouldn’t come until I read Wonder with Ella and fell head-over-heels in love with the book’s central tenet: “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” But the idea was there!)

I’ve been trying for more than twenty years.
us freshman year
Nick and me, freshman year, looking exactly like the a cappella geeks we were.

Do I get it right (har har) all the time? Oh hell no. I screw up – a lot. And each time, I know it immediately… Like when Annie proudly brought me a drawing and my first comment was how she’d used markers when she was supposed to be using crayons. Or when Ella giddily showed me her newly-pierced ears and I burst into tears because I was so upset that I hadn’t gone with her to get them pierced. Or when a friend told me she was afraid for me to read anything she posted online because she was nervous I’d correct her grammar.

Turns out? People don’t want to be judged when they’re talking to their friends; they just want to be able to talk. Go figure.

I haven’t corrected any friends’ grammar since.

So, I suppose I get it, somewhat. There are times when I just CANNOT ABIDE what someone else has said — when I am SO CONVINCED of my opinion, there’s an almost physical need to share it. But that doesn’t mean I should.

I’m not – at all – saying that we need to agree with everything our friends post online. I’m not saying you should “like” or “favorite” anything you don’t genuinely enjoy. You don’t always have to choose between the extremes of silent or supportive, either; there are absolutely times when you can say something that offers another point of view. When someone asks for advice or thoughts? Bring ’em. When someone says something neutral? Go ahead and say what you really think.

But when someone is sharing solely because they are HAPPY and EXCITED? Saying something negative or totally contradictory back is not only unnecessary; it’s mean.

For the record: I hate candy corn, I haven’t seen any of the Avengers movies, I’m excited to watch Orange Is The New Black but haven’t gotten to it yet, and if it were 95* out, I’d be crying, not cheering. But if you tell me you’re stoked for your candy corn-, Avengers-, OITNB-, sauna-filled day? I promise I won’t poop on your unicorn.

 

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