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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Comment Battle - Crazy Style

Imagine yourself sitting in a room full of people. Perhaps you are at a PTA meeting or in a night class at the local college. Maybe you are attending a book club meetup.

As everyone mills around, chatting about their day, catching up on their lives and exploits, one woman, we'll call her 'Sarah', laughingly says to the people gathered around her, "I can't believe how much I hate the treadmill. It's like torture! I'd much rather be sitting on the couch eating cupcakes and watching a bad lifetime movie on television. You guys should join me! I'll share the chocolate!"

A few women around her laugh, nodding their heads in understanding. Their days are a cluster of appointments, obligations and work schedules. Fitting in a workout involves epic time management skills for they not only have to work around all their personal crap but they need to find an hour or so away from their little ones as well. And with a husband who works night and day at the office, well, you know how hard that can be. Sarah made them laugh a little. She has described what they would all like to do but are all educated and adult enough to know that it was a joke. Sarah isn't really advocating that her friends all stop exercising. In summary, most of her 'audience' can relate.

Continue reading to see how Jane reacts...

However, one person in the crowd, we'll call her 'Jane', overhears Sarah's remark. Jane ain't fucking laughing. She storms over to Sarah and her group, throws down her fresh-squeezed, home-made orange juice in the recyclable cup that she made from old egg cartons at Sarah's feet and shouts, 

What the hell is wrong with you? Where is your responsibility to these people? You should be educating them on obesity and the benefits of proper workouts, not convincing them to eat garbage and lay around on their floors drooling grease on the carpet from the miasma of deep fried chicken legs and fast food burgers! You make me sick, Sarah! Look at you. You're no skinny minny so I guess we should expect you to have no understanding of the strife in America. The obesity is out of control! You ingrate! How dare you act so irresponsibly? I bet your husband and kids are fat too!

As Jane shrieks at and berates Sarah, the immediate group as well as the rest of the room now reacts in several different ways.

Some shuffle their feet and look uncomfortable for having laughed at what was clearly just an off-hand joke. Some roll their eyes at Jane and wonder where she gets off being so adversarial and controversial. Others feel attacked along with Sarah. Some even stand up and tell Jane she is being ridiculous because Sarah was kidding. Almost all of the bystanders wonder how Jane so completely misunderstood Sarah's intentions.

Jane doesn't care. When she has finished her self-righteous diatribe she huffs off to the other side of the room, convinced that Sarah is now shamed into doing and acting as Jane sees fit. There is no room in this world for humor or a difference of opinion. Jane is also pretty sure that because her dressing down of Sarah was so eloquent, Obesity in America and likely even Michelle Obama herself will soon be contacting Jane to beg her to act as spokesperson in the war on fat.

Sound like a crazy, ridiculous situation? Sure does right? Who seriously acts like that, even when they hear someone make a comment that they don't necessarily agree with. Who actually wants to stage a public hissy fit? It's not like Sarah was kicking a baby seal right there for all to witness, for that would require some heavy-handed intervention.

No, Jane is a commenter on the Internet. Jane hides behind her computer, over-reacting to tongue in cheek humor. 

I've been noticing a trend of rant-like comments lately. Perhaps people are just generally stressed out after the holidays making them quicker to jump to negative conclusions and more likely to be confrontational. I get it -  January is probably the suckiest month of the year. But that is exactly why we need people like Jill at Scary Mommy. If you follow her at all you will have noticed the familiarity in the hypothetical situation outlined above. Jill wrote what I considered to be a funny piece for The Stir by Cafe Mom entitled 10 Great Reasons NOT to Exercise. The Stir has some great contributing bloggers including Jenny Lawson from The Bloggess and Aunt Becky from Mommy Wants Vodka (a couple of my favs) among others.

My reaction to the piece itself was that (in my humble opinion as I obviously have had a total of.. um, let's see... zero conversations with Scary Mommy at all, ever) Jill was presenting a sort of comic relief to all of the well-intentioned, inspiring, post-apocalyptic eating, holy shit I have to keep my NY resolution for at least a month posts out there telling us all how to exercise and eat right. 

And then I scanned the comments. Evidently, this one little '10 Reasons' list is going to kill everyone in America with fat. Yep. Way to go, Jill. Aside from the negative commentary in response to the list itself were personal insults thrown at the writer. Excuse me

Name me one person who read that article, threw down their free weights, stuffed a giant double fudge brownie in their mouth and sat down to write up a plan to turn their healthy active kid into an obese layabout.

Commenters - if you really want to further your cause and do some good, try raising awareness in a better way. When you type in all caps, fling insults and rant with bad grammar and punctuation, like it or not your message gets lost.

Jane could have had better results with a reaction like this:

Hi Sarah, hi guys. How are you all? Sarah - I heard your funny comment about the treadmill. I like running but I can see how some people would find it tedious. I've found some ways to keep myself motivated and sneak in bits of exercise, even some tricks to involve my kids/family so that they stay healthy too. We all get how hard it is these days to find the time to stay in shape, am I right? Ugh. Let me know if you want to chat about it. In the meantime, thanks for drawing some attention to this.

Everyone wins.

PS: Please don't leave mean comments below. I'm fragile today O_o
PSS: Dissenting opinion is welcome. As long as it's in a nice way.
PSSS: My dog just got in the garbage. *sigh*


Caitriona said...

Totally know what yout mean...the anonymity if online is grossly misused alot by some.

Does she not have a filter which means she has to approve all comments before they are published?

Have a fab day. Caitriona

Leslie said...

Hit home for me today. According to two fellow coworkers, I "tattled" on them yesterday (I told my boss they were doing things that are completely against rules and could get my place of employment shut down), and one of them posted this as their facebook status:

"people who talk behind your back to get you in trouble are not your friends.

and i wont forget."

Shows how a 21 year old deals with issues with coworkers. Talking shit on Facebook. If only she had the courage to actually confront me with her problem, then we could really have a conversation :)

Thanks for sharing this!

Tracy said...

Caitriona - I'm not entirely sure if the contributors can moderate comments on their articles on The Stir. I'm actually doing a follow up post for later this week addressing the only anonymity situation ;)

Leslie - dude. People can be so ridiculous on facebook that it stuns me. "I won't forget" - who says that? What's she going to do? Post another crabby status tomorrow? And the next day... and the next day...? i

Have a great day girls :)

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