Wiseacre (ewin) wrote,

If you can't say anything nice, you must not be on the internet.

I'm about to be somewhat hypocritical, so I hope you can bear with me.

Please stop spraying your complaints.

For clarification, I'm not talking about "X article offended me and here's why", or "this annoys me" as said to a small, select group, or "you are being rude" to the person who is being rude, or "this situation bothered me and I could use feedback", or "I don't think the majority understands why X popular sentiment is so offensive", or complaints about legitimate political or social issues, or "this hurt me and I am sad".

Here is what I am talking about:  complaints about things you commonly see on the internet.  Open letters to "stop doing this".  Vague, passive-aggressive pleas for people to quit annoying you:  Too many tweets.  Too many memes.  Too many picspams on LJ.  Too much information.  Stop posting things I don't care about.  Stop posting about X big event because I'm sick of it.  Why can't Farmville just die already.  Why isn't your internet conversation of better quality.  Why doesn't anybody have anything valid to say about the things that I talk about.

All of these things said to a wide audience, and all of them said unspecifically.

Why you need to stop doing this:

A)  It makes you look waaaay more pissy than you actually are.  Complaining about annoyances in public is one of the few remarkable behaviors that manages to make you look both arrogant and undignified at the same time.

B)  It's cowardly.  You're complaining about something that only one or a couple of people are doing, but not directly to THEM, because a direct accusation would lead to them rightfully defending themselves, and confrontation is the last thing you want.

C)  You're venting to an audience, which means you are doing it wrong.  Venting is a healthy, necessary thing.  However, healthy venting is done to a trusted one or few friends or family.  Any kind of mass-ranting to an audience of more than ten is only acceptable in politicians and certain comedians, and face it, we may enjoy their acts in a self-indulgent kind of way, but we'd cringe at having them over to dinner.  Don't BE the person that everybody cringes at trusting or relating to in a real way.

D)  What you are doing is the opposite of what you want to do:  you aren't going to get your intended targets to stop x annoying behavior (talking to them directly would be far more respectful and effective), but you are going to slap in the face almost everybody who already tries their best to please others... leading to a vast chorus of, "OMG, is it me?  I'm so sorry."  You're hurting innocent parties and missing the guilty ones.

E)  Most of the time I have seen this done, it's by somebody taking smug jabs at someone else's harmless pleasures.  zoethe probably said it better than I could in here when she requested that everybody stop pissing in other peoples' Wheaties.  Complaining vaguely and at large is a dead giveaway that even you don't actually think your complaint is fully justified -- or you'd be addressing the source.

Obviously this essay appears to be hypocritical, because I'm doing the same thing:  complaining at large to something that not everybody who sees this is guilty of.  However, in my defense, I'm not posting this to vent, or to sling a few darts at my targets while dodging the consequences of going directly to the source.  Yesterday, I called someone on it directly, and she was incredibly receptive and good-natured about it.  But today, I saw three more people suddenly doing the same thing, and dude.  It's all over my internet, because this behavior tends to aggregate.  And those clusters are ugly.

I'm posting this because:

A)  EVERYBODY has done it at least once, I've definitely been guilty (and had my wrist legitimately slapped for it a time or two, as well);

B)  I'm starting to finally suspect that the reason so many people are doing this is because they don't actually know that you're not supposed to do this as a functioning, civil member of society.

That seems strange to me, because I know we've all been taught the old, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  But I think we've abandoned that rule as out-moded and old-fashioned or, gasp horror, repressive of the right to feel and speak honestly.

Let go of that repression accusation.  There is nothing de-humanizing about being asked to lower the priority of your annoyances.  It's your values that must be defended... not your piques.

And accusations of "old-fashioned" merely betray a desire to be cool.  Note:  subcultures that value coolness too highly are typically found in middle schools.  They breed shallowness, spite, and cruelty.

Ladies especially:  drop the desire to be "sassy" and unrestrained -- that meaningless crap is used to sell lipstick, and frankly, you can be gorgeously unrestrained and positive and respect others all at the same time.  There are a billion different ways to love others, and only a few dull, tired ways to hate on them.  Complaining limits your self-expression, it doesn't expand it.  In recent years especially, it's been touted as "brave" to say every negative thing on your mind, but it's not brave and it never has been.  It's brave to confront those who hurt you, and to speak truth to power.  It's not brave to set off stink-bombs in a subway station just to prove that you're secure in your ability to be unpleasant to people.

If you find yourself hating every single thing you see on the internet, it helps to take a break.  Complaining about it to the internet is like seeing a pile of feces and trying to smear it on passers-by in the hopes that they'll find it just as disgusting.  Everybody comes across the occasional crap, and usually it's best to step around it.

While I hope the above is helpful rather than just another example of what I'm trying to prevent, there's no guarantee.  One painful secret of human relations:  even when your complaint is legitimate and serious, it still loses steam once you take out the soapbox.  It's always more effective to address people directly, even if the problem is something you feel should be widely known.  There's no way to stop a few people reading this and absolutely wilting, or getting incredibly pissed off, because I'm laying a lot of weight on something they're probably only guilty of once in a blue moon.

So I apologize for that.  I'm not trying to hurt anybody.  It's just that I've spent a few years thinking that this is something that everybody knows... and now I suspect that maybe, hey, not everybody knows this!  In which case, it might be useful to say it here.
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