I’ve been thinking a lot about the online world lately. Well, I mean, about the big picture stuff. In various and sundry places, I’ve let little tidbits of these thoughts pop out. I’ve talked about how you shouldn’t sell your soul just because you want to get in with the “in” crowd. I’ve talked about how being mean in the online world just makes you look, well, mean. I’ve talked about how being nice is often equated to being boring. But really, there is one key issue that is at the core of all of those posts.
I think people assume that a kind person is a stupid person.
I am not really sure why that is. Is it because the world is so cruel it’s hard to imagine anyone would want to waste their time being nice? Is it because some folks think the meaner you are the cooler you are? I don’t know. I don’t get it, but I feel it. I feel the condescending attitude some people use when they talk to me online or offline. I feel it when people fail to beat around the bush and flat-out insinuate that I’m an idiot for being nice to people. I think some people even think I’m easy to manipulate or a real push-over.
Being kind doesn’t make me stupid.
A little story
A lot of people have told me that they want to get to know me a little better. They note that I don’t tend to talk about myself very much – a rather unusual characteristic to offer in the online world, I suppose. Well, let me offer you some insight into why I prefer to err on the side of kindness. It’s just one story of many.
A few years ago, I went out to dinner with a person who tended to really bust my chops. We had good times, and I came to realize a lot of the harsh criticisms they gave were out of concern and worry. However, we mixed approximately as well as oil and water. This dinner was no different, and I just wasn’t in the mood for it, so I got up and left. I was angry. I was fed up. I just didn’t feel like being raked over the coals, and I figured at some point we’d get together and make up for it.
As it turned out, that was the last time I ever saw that person. They died about a month later rather unexpectedly. I had not heard their voice since that dinner, nor had I gotten a chance to smooth things over.
How often do I wish I had stuck around and been a little more patient? Almost every day. Do I ever want to make that kind of mistake again? Heck no. It’s not worth it. It’s just not.
But that doesn’t mean I’m stupid
My desire to leave as few bridges burned as possible does not reflect upon my intellect. It does not mean that if you walk up to me and say you need $100,000 I’ll smilingly write you a check with no questions asked. It doesn’t mean that I am completely unaware of when I am being picked on, made fun of, offended, or otherwise treated shabbily. I just have better things to do in life than to get all frothy about it.
The glorification of jerks
In the online world, the jerkier you are, the more credit you get. If you pepper your posts with cuss words, call people out, and are generally unpleasant, people seem to want to get all the closer to you. It’s a real paradox. And I think it can make being mean or jerky kind of tempting. Who wouldn’t want to be feared and revered, right? And after all, those kind folks, they’re so “safe” and boring. *yawn*
Well, if that is what it takes to make it big in the online world, I shall be doomed to mediocrity. But from my safe perch, I would say this. One day, you will say something that you regret soon after. You will assume that you have all of the time in the world to make it right, say you were kidding, apologize, or otherwise even out the situation. But something will happen that will steal that option from you. Are you prepared to live with that as a trade for online respect?
Does that make me stupid?
You tell me.