Harmful Comment or Compliment: You Decide
After nearly a decade of living, researching, and blogging about non-monogamy, I decided it was high time to share a little bit of what I have learnt with the masses. And thus, I am creating a series on Medium.com whereby I am writing a how to “non-monogamy” guide. It is an exciting endeavour and so far, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive. And, if you’re thinking that I am going to rant about a negative review, have I got a surprise for you! No, this post is about something that surfaced when I queried a local Facebook group for input on future articles. (Which if you would like to add some suggestions I would love to read them!) And after I go off on my side of things, I am going to show a completely different perspective of the same events, and then I am going ask you to decide where you sit on the issue. No, it’s not a test, and you don’t have to publicly share your answer. Instead, I want you think about how your intentions are coming across on social media, especially in light of the #metoo movement, because for better or worse, it has changed the tone of how we relate to each other, and more importantly our ability to reason.
So without further ado, I present harmful comment, or compliment: You Decide!
Yesterday, I was asking a group of lifestyle people on Facebook for their suggestions on future articles in my non-monogamous how to series. A female member of the group requested that I write a piece for a male audience, and when I asked further what she meant, it turns out that she has troubles opening or even saying hi to a person in the lifestyle. In short, she explained that she was looking for more of a how to guide with starting conversations with other people in non-monogamy, and agreed this would be beneficial for both sexes. I graciously thanked her, as this was exactly the sort of thing that should be included in a series like this. Now, here is the point of contention, a male commented with the following using our thread:
I think all you would need to do is say “hi”. Pretty sure it would get your point across if he’s from a LS group.
While I kept my reply fairly mundane, in my head I was reeling, and I rushed to type out all of my thoughts. Firstly, a female asked me for help. It was specific to my article, and yes, although it was a public forum and everyone is welcome to add their input, we were in the middle of a question and answer thread. In short, a guy butted into a place that added zero value.
Second, she specifically said she was having troubles just saying hi. So random guy ignores that, and just suggests that she say hi anyways? What point does saying “hi” ubiquitously get across, even on a lifestyle site? Hi, is not consent, negotiation, or really anything other than a pleasantry. And listen, if a “hi” on a LS club is like some secret handshake, then honestly, there needs to be a very bright neon warning sign for all of us who were unaware of this fact.
Third, this woman was a very good looking brunette, and my Spidey senses went off in a flash of an objectifying nature. She asked for help, and the guy turned around saying, no, you don’t need to do anything but show up and all is good.
This in general, is why, I reasoned that women have difficulty asking for help publicly where men are, and why so many of us have private groups for sharing our thoughts and expressing ourselves. I hate writing pieces with such a strong gender bias, but in the social media realm world this exists all the time and the word mansplaining had to be coined.
But now, let’s flip perspective. Let’s remove my biases, and just try and put ourselves into the male writers, or readers shoes.
Firstly, the guy was just trying to give a compliment. He saw a woman asking for help, thought to himself, nah, she doesn’t need that, look at her! She is already amazing, and he wants to tell her so. Completely benign, harmless, and ripe with good intent.
Second, he honestly thought offering her words of encouragement would make her feel better, and boost her ego. Ergo, he was being helpful, and thoughtful. At the end of the day, he is a really great guy, and wanted to tell her that in a way that has worked for decades, the negging method.
Third, he is being completely honest in that he imagined receiving a message from her, and was expressing that truthfully, no further work was needed beyond the initial interaction. He would take it from there. A woman just saying hi, is hot, confident, and should be encouraged. That’s just what he was trying to do. No ill intent meant, and he would be happy to take the lead, after her initial interest.
In summary, he is doing what he has always done on social media. He has typed a comment based on his gut reaction and impulse. Perhaps he cares little for how it is interpreted because he is just being himself. That freedom to do, say, or type whatever you want is what makes online interaction so fun and easy. He doesn’t see her body language, reaction, or any idicators to show whether it worked or didn’t and this he is going to continue acting in the same manor until he is told otherwise. And if she does respond, but not in the way he wants, no sweat, she doesn’t get him and will move right onto the next person.
I hope you have made it to the end of this post. Because what I am about to say gets to the real heart of this two perspective issue. Times have changed. Our online social interaction is, impacted by the #metoo movement. We have all felt it, in one way or another. We have seen even the most innocuous comment get blown way out of proportion, as some of you may think I have done. We have also seen the flip side, of people using humour, or negging, or just saying absolutely anything to get noticed in an interweb where it often feels like you have no voice and have to shout incredibly loudly to be heard or stand out. Any attention is good attention right? Type as fast as you can, and do not spend even a moment to think about how your words will come across because we only have a 3 second attention span, and you need to be noticed above all, good, bad, ugly, it doesn’t matter. Trolls seem to have more followers and interaction than anyone right?
Wherever you initially were sitting on this little choose your own perspective piece, the main thing I hope you takeaway is, right now, everything you put online is being interpreted from different biases. We are not in a place where we are just getting along, and existing in bliss amongst a multitude of diversity and opinions. Instead we are clashing, clamoring, and crying out foul whenever our biases are superseded by that which makes humans so unique, our ability to reason. We keep asking How Should We Behave, but we are not actually doing anything to listen to the answers.
So, pause, and think about how your words are going to be viewed and interpreted online. Decide what your intent is when you type those words on a page, and if they are not received the way you intended, tweak them next time. Change your tone. Find a new way to stand out in this new world of social interaction. Don’t waste the ability to reason and think. There is more to life than just being right.