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Angry Writing

posted Mar 23, 2016, 5:11 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Mar 25, 2016, 7:33 AM ]

I don't like confrontation. I get very upset with it. But usually, the 10 minutes after the confrontation are the hardest. I think of all the things I should have said to be more effectively aggressive. Like why didn't I come up with this awesome snarky response that would have put him in his place. Or why didn't I mention that stupid thing she did. That would have properly humiliated her. I could have really made him feel miserable with that zinger and I would look so smart. I am ashamed to admit that these thoughts do go through my mind soon after a fight. The more I think about it, the more caustic, nasty or cruel, I can be.

But then half an hour later when I have calmed down, I feel relieved I did not say any of those spiteful things. What good would it have done? Either it would have humiliated someone, or it would have made them feel threatened or defensive and provoked them to escalate matters. It would no longer be about addressing any specific issues but who can come up with the smarter insults.

I have found that it is much harder to be mean and scathing when you are face to face with someone than when you are alone, brooding. Of course you can learn to be just as mean in person, but most people, naturally, are not. I think, this is because when someone is in front of you they are so real and you can see their expressions and read their body language and feel empathy. When you obsess about it later, they are just an abstract enemy and then it is all about outwitting and hurting them.

A friend recently wrote an article about how society is becoming a lot, meaner and I was surprised. Because just a day or two ago I was thinking that my daughter is so lucky to be growing up in kinder times. Today parents and schools encourage co-operation among very small children, instead of competition. Very few parents tell their children to hit back at a child who has hit them. A peaceful resolution is usually encouraged. Corporal punishment in schools is frowned upon. Shaming and humiliating children is also frowned upon. Children learn from these attitudes and shame each other less too. Teasing the handicapped or differently-
abled is no longer considered acceptable. So why did she think we were getting meaner?

Ah, I read the article further and noticed she was talking about social media posts. We all have an innate craving to be heard by as many as possible. Social media gives this opportunity to anyone. But the posts that are most popular are the most provocative ones. They are the things I think, but don't express when I am seething after a fight. Before I would just have to let it go, but now I can go write all those mean and clever responses, that I could not think of when I was fighting face to face, on that person's facebook page or tweet it. I can do this before I get to the cool off phase, and now I have started a tornado of viciousness.

What happens next? The person comes up with a whole bunch of meaner and smarter responses and the thing escalates. There is a whole lot of venom and mud slinging going around. Social media is fairly new and there is no etiquette for it yet. The only thing that matters is that you get a lot of views and responses. And that usually happens when you present your thoughts in the most emotionally charged and provocative manner. While the ease of personal and mass communication has dramatically improved our lives in many ways, I think this has been one of its negative side effects.

Social media is a great platform to engage everyone and spread awareness. But the whole thing is still quite new and it will take some time before a widely accepted code of conduct is developed. Until then it is important for us as individuals to use a filter before we post. We can self impose some rules like never post when you are very angry. Or, wait 30 minutes after you think of posting something provocative and before actually posting it. It would be to our own benefit, because being a part of a tornado of viciousness will achieve very little, likely leave us feeling bad and waste a lot of our precious time. That is not to say one should not express one's opinions. But it is good to be vigilant about when a debate has become an insulting contest and pull out in a timely manner.