Saturday’s post was probably the most cynical thing I’ve ever written. I hope it was worthwhile, but I’m probably never going to know. What I do know is that I’ve burned up some self-respect and likely the trust of several of my readers. I’m sorry for that.
It went like this.
I’m not big on rules. I think that rules about communication are particularly harmful, since they control who gets to communicate. And it pisses me off when people try to control the avenues of communication.
Not that communication doesn’t follow rules, but the rules are local, worked out between individuals–or not. When they’re not, people have basically two choices. They can stop trying to communicate, or they can pretty much butt heads ad nauseum. This may or may not eventually end in the local rules being established.
Most of us tend to take this process for granted. We’ve been navigating the tricky waters of opening communication most of our lives. We don’t think about it; we just do it. We develop strategies, which eventually become habits because they work most of the time.
Not all the time. And when they don’t work, we’ve got not just head-butting going on. We’ve got head-butting between experts, because everybody’s strategy works most of the time and it would be so much easier if everyone followed our rules and they could work all the time and, really, how hard is it to change just a little so my rules work again and they’re not even really rules, just what works, and why won’t you cooperate and are you trying to be difficult and it’s just. not. that. hard.
But they’re still rules. They’re still arbitrary rules based on what works most of the time for most people. And my good friend was the one being told he should follow someone else’s rules, which made my opinion on the matter suspect. I was being limited in my ability to communicate.
So I reversed the situation. I picked a different victim, one I was less associated with. I picked a bunch of things generally considered to be good ideas when communicating online, and I hit my victim with them as though they were written in stone.
It worked. People jumped on board and joined the finger-pointing, in comments and email (and thank you to the one person who told me by email that I was wrong). Despite me saying they weren’t rules, someone called them my rules. Despite me pointing out that I was the last person who should be in a position to judge Janet, only one person commented that I was applying the rules differentially. I was, deliberately. I was a bully, plain and simple, hurting someone based on the fact that she didn’t follow my rules, even as I refused to acknowledge that I was deeming them rules.
It took thirty-some comments and almost two days for someone to point that out. Even Becca, who is so good at spotting bullshit (some would say too good sometimes), didn’t challenge me. I was starting to think I’d need to do it myself.
I can’t tell you how many people didn’t argue because I spoke with an intimidating authority. I can’t tell you how many thought the rules were good ones that everyone should follow. All I can tell you is that it took far too long for someone to tell me I was as full of it as I set out to be.
Nobody should be able to do what I did. Communication requires two parties, and they should both (assuming sane adults) always have a say in the rules.
That part really is just that simple.