The other day, someone posted a rant on Facebook in which they laid down the law about certain people who have a particular lame habit, which I shall not name here. The point is, their rant totally applied to me, and I involuntarily felt defensive.
Was that person talking about me? I wondered.
Maybe so. Probably not, though, right? Nobody knew but the ranter. But it really didn’t matter either way, because I experienced it as though the person said it directly to me.
Here’s the thing: what we post online pops up on the screen of a phone or a laptop that is looking someone out there in the face. And unfortunately, there’s no disclaimer at the top of the screen that says, “THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. THAT WOMAN IS ACTUALLY GOING OFF ON HER BROTHER-IN-LAW. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.” So being the self-centered people that we are, when we read rants that even might apply to us, our insecure brains read it like it’s a personal text message.
Now the ranter isn’t thinking about how the message might impact the people for whom the message wasn’t intended. They’re too busy patting themselves on the back over the 19 likes they got, and the comment from their old friend who said, “Lol!! I luv u. UR so real!!”
But in the meantime, there’s a whole handful of folks who have a bad taste in their mouths when they think of the ranter (who’s probably a really decent person). As Maya Angelou famously said,
People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
Like it or not, even if our rants aren’t personal, because they feel personal to the people who read them, we’re remembered as being judgmental and ungracious. Bummer.
Lord knows how many people I’ve offended out there with my occasional rant, so please don’t think I’m trying to seize the moral high ground here. Moreover, the irony hasn’t escaped me that there are now people looking at their screens, reading this post like it’s a personal text message, and wondering, Is he talking about me?
Maybe so. Probably not, though, right? Nobody knows but me.
See what I’m talking about?