It’s easy to dislike something. It’s proven people remember when they hurt better than when they are happy. It’s also been proven people react more intensely to the sight, even just the thought, of someone they’ve professed to dislike experiencing pain. Disliking something taps into our most instinctual primary lens through which we view the world. All it takes is the perception of an abuse for us to experience a feeling of mistreatment we can harbor, redirect, project, and wield against not just that which has slighted us but whatever we feel worthy of our wrath.
Maybe this explains me. I’ve been quick to anger all my life. Just take a look at my truck, it’s a veritable journal of outbursts expressed through countless fists against the door, palms to the wheel, and feet to the fenders. I’d like to absolve myself of the responsibility of being so loose with my emotions but the fact is that at my core I’m a bit of an emotionally immature needy spoiled brat whose inability to comprehend his misfortunes causes him to lash out at the nearest thing vulnerable to harm, be it a wall or a vehicle.
Social media has only exacerbated my volatile tendencies. Thanks to online platforms I can rage into the abyss of the online world, deceiving myself that I’m merely expelling my anger when in reality what I’m really doing is sending distress signals to the universe, desperately hoping for benevolent intervention and growing increasingly angry each time those calls go unanswered. I’ve been doing it for eight years, both directly when I engage a stranger on the internet hoping for a fight to satiate my temper, and indirectly when I post vitriol and purposely confrontational content to jettison the misery and venom I’m feeling out of me and into those reading my activity. It’s a pattern I’ve recognized and corrected several dozen of dozens of times, a pattern that’s cost me both real and virtual relationships, marred my reputation and peered me among a demographic of people I myself would never claim association with.
For all this sanctimonious confessing, I will acknowledge I’ve gotten better. At least a dozen times a day I type out a post or a reply, look at it, then double tap the delete button after weighing that not only is this not worthy of my time, not only would it accomplish nothing more than revealing myself to be mentally fragile to the independent social activity of strangers, but also that at 27 I probably shouldn’t be fighting with people online. That shit sticks with you, you don’t want to lose a job because you got into it with @butthammer420 about real versus historical Socialism or that you spent posts into the hundreds trying to get some celebrity to block you.
All that progress flew out the window yesterday when I read a tweet from a blue checkmark (yes I mean that as a pejorative, and, yes, I know I shouldn’t). A one @emerylord recounted an interaction she observed between a father and his children and for some reason, call it historical animosity toward the subject matter, call it a relapse of the worst elements of my personality, call it projection of momentary or underlying pain, call it whatever you want, but something prompted me to not only respond, but to do so in what I must honestly admit was a pretty chickenshit way. Emery, who clearly does not have within her being the same toxic confrontational tendencies I do, responded with this.
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t expecting a response first of all, because it’s not exactly in my likelihood that the elementary antagonisms I pester blue checkmarks with will be answered. In fact if I’m being honest when I am in full relapse and feeling like I need a Twitter fight to turn my day around I’ll usually look for a blue checkmark because I know it’ll more than likely be a safe echo chamber I can hole myself up in and abuse to my heart’s content. However Emery not only acknowledged my attack, she completely disarmed both its efficacy and its source. She opened my eyes to the possibility of a choice each time I’m feeling this way and each time I open my social media apps. I’d always thought of them the way a chronic smoker looks at a cigarette. They’re not good for me, sure they’re more trouble than they’re worth, but I need them. I’m too weak to go without. I have to have my fix. Not any more. I can use these apps as a place of positive interaction, a place to grow my understanding of the world around me and better empathize with the millions of people I could potentially encounter every time I log in.
I’m not going to say the next time you see me I’ll have opened a Facebook monastery with Zuck. I’m also not going to say I won’t lapse again and be right back to arguing with Chrissy Tiegen. What I am saying is I’m grateful to @EmeryLord for providing me kindness when I didn’t realize I needed it, and that I am going to try to do the same for someone else.