Losing My Temper
I don’t handle criticism well.
I can pretend to shrug it off, but truthfully, it’s hard. It’s hard to have someone say you’re wrong. It’s harder for someone to say you’re dumb. And it is downright scary for someone to say vicious, even threatening, things about you.
Two years ago, I tweeted often about my political stance, which is decidedly liberal – and always has been. (But bear with me, if you are more conservative: this really isn’t a liberal or political post). I often engaged with other political tweeters, commenting frequently with like-minded posts and sometimes, not often, arguing with the other side.
And then – inevitably, I suppose – I was attacked. I got sucked into a conversation that I should have avoided, since it is highly partisan and emotional, and it escalated. I should probably say that I sucked myself into that conversation, since no one forced me to add my two cents.
But regardless, we went back and forth with heated arguments that of course would never convince the other side – our relative positions were cast in concrete. And then, a third party jumped in and threatened me. I’m not exaggerating – an outside voice came in and threatened my life. And said she would laugh when I was killed.
Looking back on this incident, I am not even sure it was a human being. Bots were and probably still are rampant, but this attack was really vicious.
I totally freaked out. I believe in my cause and I’ve attended a rally or two. I even marched against two wars.
But I have never felt threatened. I have never been threatened. I always felt safe to express my opinion. And felt that others could do the same, by the way.
But I found out that I am not brave. I am astounded at the political figures on both sides who shrug off attacks. I wanted to change my name and go into hiding.
And in a way, I did.
First, though, I reported the threat to Twitter, who responded that the threat was somehow mysteriously “within their guidelines.” (Update: I believe they have improved upon this ridiculously low standard. I recently reported someone who I thought was threatening someone else, and they agreed and suspended the offender.)
Then I went through all my posts back to the beginning and deleted EVERY tweet that was even slightly political.
And I changed my Twitter handle from my own name, which I was using since I wanted to promote my books, to Not Quite Old, just like here on this blog. Of course, I am still promoting my books both here and on Twitter, so it’s easy enough to find out my name, but that one tiny extra layer of security is reassuring.
And I started to post only nice or funny tweets. Sweet and kind, like I try to do here.
And I no longer rise to the temptation of commenting on political or issue-related posts. There are enough comments. They don’t need me.
And lately, as you know if you are a regular reader here, I’ve taken to writing sweet little snippets of advice, from my dog Theo.
I like it. It works. I feel good.
And the best promotion for my tweets, and my blog, and my books is to also comment as Theo on one of Twitter’s most popular sites, Thoughts of Dog. When I comment there, I tend to use the same strange grammar, punctuation, and invented words that the author of Thoughts of Dog uses. He gets tons of traffic, and many people like my silly quips, and come over to my Twitter site. And from there, sometimes to my blog and even my books. But if they don’t, there is no harm done. I’m having fun and so is the audience.
But here’s where we loop around to criticism again.
Recently, I wrote a cute, dumb comment on Thoughts of Dog, and some guy retweeted it, commenting “imagine writing something this inane and thinking it is good.”
It hit a nerve.
And I immediately rattled off, “I have 3.500 followers. Have you reached 200 yet?”
I mean, really?
I’m not exactly screaming obscenities, and yet, it shows that I haven’t learned a whole lot.
I’m an ass. (and by the way, 3,500 followers is not exactly a big deal either.)
I can let criticism get under my skin. For no reason. Truly, the guy has under 200 followers. He wasn’t exactly dissing me to a mass audience. And even if he was – why did I have to take the bait?
Within fifteen minutes, I was sorry. (Probably 15 seconds, but I needed to get my blood pressure down first.)
I could have just deleted my tweet. But what does that say about me? That I can write something nasty and then just pretend that I didn’t?
So instead, I posted again. I said, “I’m sorry for my snide comment. It was mean and I am not a mean person. And so I apologize.”
The guy did not respond. But I felt better.
The next day I posted Theo’s Tip of the Day:
I know why I reacted. Especially now, after a few days have passed. The guy hit a nerve because I KNOW what I wrote was dumb and silly. I want to be respected as a serious writer and I am writing things like “i have to proteck the house from turkeys an hellocoppers.”
But I also know – now that a few days have passed – that being sweet and silly doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
These are stressful times. The news has us angry and fragile. That’s true from both sides of the aisle.
Sure, I am a serious writer. Sometimes.
But I know that if I can make someone smile once in a while, how bad could that be?
I’m not sorry about that.