We have a culture that seems to grow through the internet. People who state they are offended by something someone posts or shares online through social media, blogs, and websites. They are the ones who unleash a firestorm for something religious/political/[insert favorite controversial topic here] and usually end with, “I’m unfriending/unfollowing you!” We have open letters, apology letters, and blog posts that center around perceived offenses and it just multiplies each day.
There are occasions in which it is appropriate to take offense, but we don’t have to. If I were to call you the pimple on an elephant’s ass, you have every right to take offense. I attacked you personally. Or you could just ignore me and go on with life because I likely did it just to get a rise out of you.
If I am stating something that is my opinion, my experience, my perspective, it is about me and no one else. If you tell me you’re offended by something that is about me and expect me to fall on my knees and beg for forgiveness, it won’t happen. It just won’t because you are choosing to get angry over something that has nothing to do with you.
I felt the need to write about this after a little Twitter exchange earlier this week because it applies to our health issues. If you’re reading this, chances are you have Celiac, non-Celiac gluten intolerance, and/or food allergies. Or you’re a good friend/family member being uber supportive of my folly. It is easy for us to get angry and lash out online (or in person) when someone doesn’t understand and we feel like they should because we’ve been dealing with this long enough, dammit. Right? We want to scream and yell because the person made a joke in an attempt to understand, but it failed. Or it came off sounding like a joke, but you interpreted it wrong because they only have 140 characters to convey their message. Seldom, do we step back and think about their position because we are so wrapped up in our own.
Go ahead, be offended by these people. But understand that taking offense and railing at them gets you and us nowhere. They are no closer to understanding than they were to begin with and they will likely make generalizations about all of us as militaristic and crazy.
Right or wrong, many people make jokes as a coping mechanism to deal with an unknown. So we need to take a hard look at what we choose to take offense over. Is it a personal attack? Is it a troll whose sole purpose is to offend? Is it someone sharing their experience and we just don’t like/agree with it? Is it someone trying to gain understanding for our lives but flounder over what words to use?
“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” (Abraham Maslow). And, no one wants to interact with Oscar the Grouch 24/7 whether in person or online. I minimize my time with negativity because it adversely affects me. I pick up and absorb moods, attitudes, accents, words, phrases, etc. I am acutely aware of every vibe the people around me give off, even online. Example, if Chaz gets mad at another driver and is still enraged about it ten minutes later, I’m on edge and jittery. Because of this, I have unfollowed bloggers and tweeters who put out nothing but negativity. The beginning of this month I declared a Facebook break because I was seeing too many people being judgmental and negative about little things that shouldn’t even matter. I’m a lot happier not scrolling through my Facebook feed even though I miss out on what my family and friends are up to.
If I were to yell, put down, and condemn every single person in my life who made a mistake about my health conditions when all they really were doing was trying to understand, no one would ever invite me over again. If every Christmas I responded to one of my in-laws saying, “The ham is gluten-free!” with an angry retort of, “How do I know you didn’t add poisonous gluten to it?”, it would be the end of Christmas with the in-laws. If I showed up to every family function with the expectation that I be catered to and was not happy with the gluten/allergy-free choices then ranted to the host, it would be the end of family functions for us. If every person who made a joke online about gluten when they were only trying to understand and I made a snide comment in return, I would only alienate them.
The tweet that enraged some people was about gluten in shampoo by a celebrity chef. It seemed to me he was making a joke because he didn’t understand and he said at the end of the tweet that he was confused. I knew this was a teaching moment and he had already received some angry tweets, including one from a blogger I stopped following long ago because of the constant negativity. I acknowledged that he was likely making a joke and told him that gluten in personal care products is an issue for those of us with Celiac. It really doesn’t take a lot to be nice. He tweeted back and thanked me while the other blogger tweeted us both ready to condemn. I refuse to go there when we need to be responsible. If we want society to understand our medical condition and needs we can’t beat them over the head when they get it wrong no matter how much we want to. We need to partner, be kind, and educate. We’ve already seen that media misleads when it comes to teaching the general public about gluten and the gluten-free diet. It is up to us to re-pave those roads and make sure everyone takes it.
Offended by this post? Refer back to paragraphs two and three above.