30 Days of Gratitude:
I am grateful for all those peer listening and peer counseling classes I took in grade school and high school. Conflict resolution vs. conflict avoidance. Only one of them gets you anywhere.
NaBloPoMo: Gossip Kills
I have a serious post today. This post isn't about that thing that just happened or that thing that happened 2 weeks ago, or that thing that is going to happen 2 months from now when you get around to read it. This is about all of it and none of it.
One thing that really held me up blogging the past few months was how very angry I was at the internet witch hunts that sometimes plague the online community. I felt like I had to get it off of my chest, but I couldn't quite bring myself to write about it calmly.
It is absolutely naive of me to believe that everyone in our community is the nicest kind of person. Yet I persist in that mindset because that's how I wish the world was. It really makes me crabby when people insist on cramping my world vision.
Yes, there are people who steal intellectual property or set out to commit fraud. There are also people who inadvertently design the same pattern or who fall on hard times and cannot fulfill their financial obligations. Who judges who is the villain and who is merely the bad business person? In our online community, a few self-appointed arbitors of internet justice love to rile people up. Grab your pitchforks, everyone. We've got someone to tar-and-feather.
Witch hunts go viral in our community faster than the latest side-to-side shawl pattern. As much as I love superheroes, do we really want vigilante internet justice? There are more civilized ways to handle these things, I think. Rational discussion and critical thinking are two methods that come to mind.
Let's just stop for a minute. Before deciding that well-known person X is absolutely 100% right, and unknown person is 100% wrong, let's start doing some research. People do bad things. Sometimes they do very bad things. Sometimes they deserved to be named. Sometimes they even deserve to be reported to the appropriate authorities. But you know what they almost never deserve? Being the target of 500 Ravelers whose personal mission it is to destroy that person, in any possible way, including having them fired from their jobs, destroying their family, following them to their front door, and utterly ruining their reputation so completely that they never, ever have a chance to bounce back.
Even if we never let courts decide our various internet sins, let us at least make sure we have the full story before picking up our drama sticks.
I believe in second chances. She who is without sin, cast the first hank of ack-crylic.
Finally, even if it never hits the internet, idle gossip kills. Trusted friend X tells trusted friend X tells trusted friend X tells trusted friend X. Even if Trusted Friend is trusted, is it not possible that Trusted Friend is human and they got the message slightly wrong?
Unrelated to the non-events that inspired the first half of this post, I had to have 2 embarrassing and awkward conversations about gossip this year. Through a customer, I heard that I had allegedly said something awful about some dear acquaintances and their event. Not only did I, allegedly, say this to their faces, but I said it in public and embarrassed them deeply. Er, I have no recollection of that whatsoever. Through a colleague, I heard that someone who I barely know, but respect a great deal, did not care for me on the basis of where I worked and who I was doing work for. Plus they thought I was a bad dyer. Say what?
I am not confrontational. Confrontation makes me sick to my stomach and interferes with my sleep. My voice wavers a lot when I have to confront a difficult situation. But I am not pathologically non-confrontational, either. If something needs saying, I will say it.
In the first instance, I contacted my acquaintances directly and offered an apology if I had inadvertently said anything that offended them. In the second instance, I had the opportunity to attend one of the person's events and talk to them directly. In both cases, it turns out that idle gossip was just that. Neither party had any idea what I was talking about or where it came from. Whew, because I thought I was going crazy there for a minute.
Here's the thing about idle gossip, it hurts feelings. It can also hurt someone's livelihood and they may never know why. How many times was "Rachel was mean to Beloved Person X" been repeated before I was able to correct misinformation? One person? 10 people? 100 people? Pardon me if the idea that an overheard conversation between the 3 involved parties can get overheard, misunderstood, and "telephoned" along for a year.
Gah! Let's just all be excellent to each other, ok?