Humans are social creatures, and as social creatures, we exchange thoughts and opinions in the search for friendship. Remember The Sims? Yeah. That was actually pretty accurate. When we interact with people, we bring up subjects, safer, broader ones at first, and look for consensus. We like people who like what we like. For better or worse.
So why is it, when we all just want to get along, there is this inexplicable instinct to interrupt a conversation, whether invited or not, to tell people you do NOT like what they like?
Okay it happens more on social media, where every person is basically standing on a platform, shouting random thoughts to the ether. “I like pumpkin spice! There should be more mindless movies with space battles! Aren’t cats cute? Go Browns!”
(I think I just wrote a four sentence summary of my entire twitter account.)
(Minus the detailed chronicle of my bike commute and the weather.)
When someone responds to my post, (which is, of course, open to the world because I am an exhibitionist like that), with “Pumpkin spice is nasty! Movies should be thought-provoking! Dogs are better! Your team sucks!” – my reaction is not “Oh gee, that better informs me on the popularity of my own opinion. Thank you.”
Nooooo. It’s anger. Outrage. Betrayal. The urge to unfriend, block, or reply with, “I wasn’t talking to you, freakish pumpkin-hater!”
But, in a public forum, in a public post, you are talking to them. You are talking to everyone.
I am guilty of this.
Inevitably, as the days shorten, one of my friends will post about how excited they are it is FINALLY getting cooler and they can’t wait for snow and I will respond with a bitter, vitriolic rant about the dying of the light.
What is going on with us? Why do we have to harsh on someone else’s squee? We just had this conversation in reverse when I was rhapsodizing about the summer and my friend cried in anguish at the heat. We are never going to agree. Why get upset about it?
Maybe it’s our tribal instincts, rushing to defend “our” values against “them.” (And football IS important, thank you very much. Don’t listen to them, Wilson McPigskin.)
I’ve seen too many different tribal divides to buy into the fiction that our opinions are not informed by class and social status. (Isn’t it amazing how record companies always KNOW what middle class pre-teens want to hear?) I love a lot of things I know I only love because of my blue-collar background. I love a lot of other things I know I only love because of my liberal-elite adulthood. (Yes, my music IS noise. That’s why I like it.) Other things I only love because I always felt like a robot from outer space.
It’s up to me to remember that I could just as easily grown up white collar, live in a more conservative area, or even (*shudder*) have been born a Steeler’s fan. (eeeew. I can’t believe I typed that.) AHEM. I mean… yeah… it’s hard, but we have to remember that there but for the accident of circumstance go I.
And think, “Does this person NEED to know this?” before you feel the need to inform them of your difference of opinion. You think you’re saying “Hey I have an opinion on the raised topic, too!” but what the speaker hears is, “Hey your taste sucks!” So do the translation in your head and ask yourself if that sentiment adds to the conversation.