Despite my typical bemoaning of social media, I’m on twitter. I know, I know, spare me the lecture; I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015. To my defense, almost none of my personal, real-life relationships are on twitter, and mostly I do it as a means to interact with the media that I’m now – on a thin technicality – a part of. Plus, I was advised by someone I dearly respect that it’s a must these days, in order to gain access to the type of audience that any aspiring writer wants to. And, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Quite honestly, my twitter activity is pretty mild-mannered. 90% of my tweets coincide with a fight card of some sort, and the rest are split between miscellaneous tongue-in-cheek comments and pictures of my dog. I’m not headed for twitter stardom any time soon, nor am I really trying to be; it’s a begrudging, necessity-driven relationship between twitter and I.
It took me a bit by surprise, then, when I was recently blocked by another user. Not that nobody has ever disliked me before, or disagreed with me, but I can honestly say that whenever I’ve had conflict with people in the past, I’ve been aware of the part I played – at least in retrospect. I’m the first one to admit that I’m a dick.
But in this case, it was a genuinely surprising turn of events. First, because it had never happened before – as I mentioned, I really do keep my tweeting to a sober minimum – but mostly because it seemed completely unwarranted. Without detailing the back and forth exactly, which would come off as puerile and unnecessary, myself and the gentleman had a disagreement about music. The one detail I will indulge is that he claimed Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and Aretha Franklin were not considered Motown artists. Which is incorrect. So I corrected him. Though I did reply with a hint of snark, I also conceded several of his points, I just noted how he was not wholly correct in his assertions on what makes great music. I even apologized in advance for coming off as a dick, clarifying that I was only engaging in the discussion. His response: “Fuck off.” And of course, the block.
That I’m blogging about this may belie my true feelings, but honestly, I don’t care about it, at least not in the way that I’m upset by it. Rather, I’m curious, puzzled, even fascinated by it all.
Though social media has changed how we interact, people are still basically the same. Today, as it has always been, nobody likes to be wrong. My fiancé and I share the same argumentative trait: we will admit we’re wrong when we argue, but that doesn’t stop us from arguing. Fights tend to take a humorous turn once one of our angry selves realizes that we’re in the wrong, devolving into “yeah well, you’re right, who cares, I’m still mad about it!” And then we laugh, say a couple fuck yous, and after a few minutes it’s over.
Of course, I don’t expect anyone, let alone a stranger, to give me the leeway my fiancé does, especially when I’m being an asshole. What I’m more intrigued about is why, with years of experience under our belts, it is so hard for us to admit being wrong. The “us” is not pandering, mind you, because I am no exception to this rule.
The ego behind being right, and the contrapositive damage the ego takes when wrong, comes from an existential validation of our worth to others. Nobody wants to feel like they’re useless, but that’s essentially what is received when someone tells you you’re wrong. The problem comes from our inherent inability to distinguish between ourselves and what we produce. If someone says “you did a shitty job,” we often construe that as “you are a shitty person.” It’s natural, unless we intentionally did a shitty job, in which case the response would be a grinning “I know, right?” After years of being wrong – an experience all people share, without exception – you’d think it would get easier to deal with, but it doesn’t. It still stings on a level deeper than “what I said/did/thought was incorrect this time around.” People are naturally fragile.
Conflict is unavoidable. Even if you manage a functional hermetic life, you will have conflicts with yourself and whatever elements are around you. It’s a more appropriate partner for Death than Taxes. You’d think that after so many years of being wrong – knowing that we have been and will continue to be – and dealing with the conflicts that result from it, we’d be better at resolving those conflicts and admitting our missteps. But we’re not. It may be human nature, but I think it’s also fortified by technology.
Nobody wants to be wrong, but most people (definitely not all) don’t even like being in a disagreement. Before I made my Facebook exodus, it became progressively more noticeable that my contacts basically mirrored my opinions and values, a not-so-strange occurrence given my predilection for de-friending people that annoyed me, and the coincidence that those who argue with me tend to annoy me. I know, it’s crazy. Embarrassingly, I made conscious efforts to engage with the few people who I knew to be on the opposite side of the political spectrum, only to cringe at how fake I was forcing myself to be for a neurosis that probably only mattered to me. It was like I was trying to prove to myself that people matter more than politics, which I “believe” in the same way I believe that all you need is love.
We need to be called out, told we’re being stupid, and corrected when we’re wrong. It’s OK, it just means we’re still alive, and still human. In non-internet life, we can’t block people, any more than we can pretend not to hear them. The idea that conflict is bad, and something that needs to be blocked, or that mistakes need to be backspaced, is a corrosive one, one that weakens our humanity and limits our ability to grow. Thank god for that awkward silence and air of tension, without it we’d be as boring and predictable as we are on the internet.
Now if only I could condense this to 140 characters.