I was trying to reply to a message without being rude, even though I knew the original message to be wrong. We can argue philosophy and say there’s your version of the truth and mine, but we should be able to call a spade, a spade without going into the merits of the different brands of the tool in question. Anyway, after a while I went back and deleted what I considered a carefully thought-out polite reply. I realised there is no polite way to reply to someone, however dear they are to you, without appearing rude even if you meant well. Meaning well can also be self delusion.
The truth is that we don’t really mean well. When we are sure of something our delicate ego becomes involved, and when we try to convey that to the other person, that ego attaches to any message we try to send. When the ego attaches to an idea, then we have entered the territory of self delusion, a place in the mind where we can no longer judge between right and wrong. Sometimes, it is best not to hit reply, or if you are lucky go back and delete before things escalate.
When self-esteem is high, we like to correct the expert. I was watching a tutorial on Youtube, and the tutor made a couple of important mistakes, but he made sure to announce the corrections in cartoon bubbles. Our instinct is not to appreciate the correction, but to say ha ha! like Nelson from The Simpsons, then ridicule the expert and proceed to bring down a whole civilisation. This is also similar to looking for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors in other people’s arguments or books. The haha! and its accompanying emojis are now disquietingly universal in our feeds.
Weren’t we all little fundamentalists when we were in our teen years? We were so sure we knew so much more than our parents, which we did, and it didn’t help our dangerously burgeoning self importance that they even consulted us about new fangled stuff with which they were unfamiliar. Sometimes this teen fundamentalism hitches a ride with us for the rest of our lives.
Every time somebody in our feeds laughs at the dumbness of a certain politician and praises the cleverness of their own favourite, this is what it is, our inner teenaged extremist rearing its head. This inner teenaged extremist has an ego, which does not change its opinions and views, once fixed. Google and other social media platforms have made learning something new even more difficult through confirmation bias and algorithms that give you only what you want to see and very little else.
There is a difference between talking with people and writing to them, even in the short messages that are so prevalent online, and in our private feeds with friends and family. At the best of times, writing is a performance art. And even the simple act of writing back, no matter how many smily emojis we add makes those who are doing the writing feel self important, therefore any written reply to anyone’s assumed wisdom appears rude. It is a little better when we talk to people casually or seriously, a lot can be passed off in the clumsy fleeting repartee of conversation. But, you see, it’s unfashionable to talk, and very ‘in’ for people to text each other. We are all tiny columnists now.
People prefer to text each other, probably because it gives them distance and anonymity, which encourages the ego, even in personal texts between the closest friends. Talking with voice is a much more intimate act, conveying instant warmth and meaning, or the lack thereof, through tone. We can even mean well without being rude when we speak, though here again, the self-deluded find it impossible to be polite even while conversing. Emojis were invented to splice in that missing tone for texts, but how much have they really helped? We are all tiny cartoons now. And a cartoon has the power to caricature tone.
We forget that texting, which gifts a certain anonymity, is also a form of writing. And writing is never fleeting. It possesses the quality of hieroglyphs, a certain etched-for-eternity permanence comes along with the act of penning down a thought for the screen.