Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A learning process

Well I've done it again. I've reacted to something I read on the web as if I were getting the full emotional value of the message. In the short form of IM, or comment sections, or forums or even blogs the chance that you fully comprehend exactly what the author meant is pretty small. It happens all the time on every online community I've been a part of over the last five years. Suddenly a flame war breaks out, feelings are hurt, hard things are said. All over an understanding that was different than the original intent.

Today I did it to a guy I've never met but whom I know by reputation. And it's a darn good rep. Well known, well respected and well liked in youth ministry circles. Let's face it, he's a wheel and a Big Wheel at that. In the course of a commentary (with which I almost totally agreed )he took a little dig at something I care about deeply. I'm not even sure why it fired me up, but it did. It just seemed unfair and unnecessary and it TICKED ME OFF!

That should have been the warning sign. That someone who I know to be a decent guy probably DIDN'T mean it the way I was taking it. And that maybe I don't need to climb up on my high horse over it under any circumstances. (Question - why don't I sell that damn horse? It's nothing but trouble) That maybe I need to remember that rule number one on the web should be - Lighten Up.

But I didn't. So I sent him a rather frosty little note. Got just the tiniest bit nasty right at the end too. Hit that "Enter" key with just the right touch of righteous indignation (I'll throw that in with the horse for free if anyone's interested). Only to have him come back with a soft answer. A soft answer that made me feel pretty stupid. That's fine, I earned it. So I made nice and ducked out as gracefully as I was able.

It's not the first time. About three months ago I swore off some sports forums because, I'm ashamed to admit this, I was becoming exactly the kind of person I loathe. I was angry, and acerbic, and vicious. I made personal comments about people I'd never met. I finally read something I'd posted and became nauseous. It still horrifies me to think about it. Not to say that some of the folks weren't every bit as vicious. But I have no control over them. I thought I'd found a better person along my faith journey and really become that person.

Turns out I still have some traveling to do.

I've been a communicator all my life. I'm a story teller, trained as an actor, almost two decades as a radio personality. Human communication is only partly about the words. It's about inflection, timing, tone, tempo plus facial expression and body language. I learned that years ago, I've made my living most of my adult life using that very knowledge. Yet I keep forgetting how much info I'm NOT getting in this electronic community. I keep making assumptions about intent without that information.

And I keep making a jerk out of myself.

So Marko, I offer my apology. To the members of the AOL Pirates and Steelers boards I extend an apology as well. If I've done the same thing to anyone else on any of the other boards I frequent I ask that you accept this apology as well.

I promise I'll keep working me.


1 comment:

Gman said...

We're all jerks at times. Some of us are just better at it than others. I'm the king of Jerks ...Thank God for Grace.