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It's more of a preference, you see, than so much of a more/manners issue

Every morning I boot up my Twitter stream because, like this guy I know named Ed, I trust human editors who happen to be people I've deliberately chosen to follow, to let me know what I need to know.

In fact, I usually hear on Twitter today the news major media brings me tomorrow. I'm pretty sure journalists are trolling Twitter for inspiration, too. Or trawling. Depending upon the motives.

My motive is definitely to be inspired and informed. I love knowing what has caught people's attention and what has held it. The cultural geographer in me finds Twitter an awesome insight into our culture, mindset, interests, motives, and more.

I have a lot of different intentions behind using Twitter and the Tweets I send out. Mostly I send out links to interesting things I've read or stuff I think you should know, RTs from people I esteem and who said something I found worthwhile, or germane thoughts about twitversations or current events. I've used it for customer service. Chatting. Research. And the occasional outburst about lizards that resemble small alligators in my house. (True story. Yesterday.)

I use it to try to add value to the people in my stream. I use it to find value from the people in my stream. It's an amazing give and take, that Twitter.

What I don't use it for is to diss people.

Quick qualifier: I have dissed specific events -- such as the time Bank of America lost my money and would not give it back, or when FEMA did not respond to my hurricane claim in a timely way. However, I did so purposefully and as it happens, to reach their customer service since I had no luck any other way. These conversations on Twitter ended up bringing a resolution, actually. They also served a secondary purpose: alerted other consumers to my story with this company.

However, a large contingent of Tweeps do use it to diss people and I shudder every time I open Twitter to see "I hate people who..." tweets.

You know what? I hate it when people hate people.

Okay, really. I want a point of clarity here. Language and word choice does matter, and words can hurt.

In point of fact, and clarity, most of the things you hate about someone are really more to do with you. Seriously. Studies say. Studies do not say that you are always right and when you feel annoyed someone else is always wrong.

I'm sort of amazed, actually, by the amount of hubris I see these days. We've got this entitlement issue that "if it bugs me it's horrid and must be stopped."

In point of fact, most of this is more of a personal preference (about you) versus a societal more (about the other person).

Let's take the most frequent call to hate: people who talk on cell phones.

I don't prefer when people talk on their cell phones at the store. I really don't prefer it when they do so loudly.

But I don't hate those people and I acknowledge their right to use the phone as they need, including voice level, just as I hope they extend the same courtesy and understanding to me when I shop oh say with my kids and my Loud Admonishing Mom voice.

I wish folks would say prefer to hate. I wish there was more "I don't prefer it when..." and less "I hate people who..." I'd even be more comfortable with, "I hate it when..." although I really prefer less hate.

It's a real 'love the sinner even if you don't prefer the sin' deal. Dig?

The idea is to discuss the action, not the person. Because truthfully, you don't know the person, or even what's behind the action.

For in-store calls -- I try to imagine this person is shopping for a homebound neighbor and needs to make sure she gets the exact right thing.

For coffeehouse cell chatterers -- I try to imagine this person is having work done on his home and as a work-from-home person, needs space to keep earning a living.

I try to imagine that possibly this is out of character for this person. I try to imagine that although this is a regular behavior, the person doesn't mean harm, and anyway, gave $200 to Walk for the Cure.

I try to imagine something that humanizes the person and so, even while the behavior might annoy me, I can exhale and let it go. More importantly, I can see the other person as a human being with a complicated life that I don't know or understand and I can extend understanding that benefits that person and me. Because now I am over it and not hating anyone, or any group of people.

Also, I just exercised my imagination and who doesn't need to do that more often.


Mr Lady said…
I'm having this conversation a lot with my daughter right now. I'm trying to teach her that it's not okay to say Hate when you're talking about a living thing. You can hate asparagus until you're blue in the face, but you can't say you hate something that has feelings. Because it isn't nice. And we should be nice.

Awesomely enough, my four year old grasps this concept. I wish the great majority of adults could, too.

(Which is to say yes, I completely agree with you here, Julie.)
Excellent, wonderful, and very thought provoking post!

We, as a society, have become so nit-picky of other people's actions. Imagine how much happier we'd be if we looked for the positive in each other....
the weirdgirl said…
This is great! Not that I don't occasionally bitch on twitter but I'm not partial to the word "hate". I also get frustrated by the feuds (I'd guess you'd call them) that go on on Twitter. Where groups of people start ganging up on another person or group of people. I'd love to get more of my news on Twitter but it gets lost in the abundance of name calling. ugh
Julie Pippert said…
Sam, that's it, yes, nitpicky and unconstructive. I wonder if this is seeded, actually, in motherhood. I recall marching rapidly through the store with a crying child and getting dirty looks. Oh how I wished someone would give me instead an understanding one. Sometimes we can't do the ideal or what others might wish of us. So we have to hope for some understanding.

Mr Lady, ha! Great minds! I say the same thing to my kids! My 5 and 8 yo grasp it too. Usually. In the car, for example, I am prone to saying "Ugh that sort of driving makes me crazy!" and it's hard for the kids to differentiate between "Mom doesn't like the action" and "Mom hates the driver." But we talk and talk about it. And they get it.
thordora said…
I'm quiet whiny, but there are days when the level of hatred and negativity is just overwhelming on Twitter. And I leave. I just can't do it. I know we all have days, but there are people who most certainly never received the "if you can't say anything nice, keep your mouth shut" speech.

Normally I don't much care, but yeah, the constant stream of "this sucks/I hate this/why are you people...etc is tiring.
Julie Pippert said…
Thordora, it's the how of it, right? I don't mind expressions of frustration. I do it too! I mean, we all do, right? But I agree with you, sometimes when it is delivered so harshly in such quantity it can be overwhelming.

theweirdgirl, thanks! And good point about feuds. Can we have a true debate on Twitter?
Can I still hate bears? They're so full of themselves and none of them read my twitter stream.
Ed T. said…
I agree with the concern about the use of words like "hate", it is perfectly OK to criticize/dislike actions or events, but transferring that criticism or dislike to the people themselves is one step down the path to marginalizing (and de-humanizing) them. Yes, a "slippery slope" argument, but such is life.

That being said: the length of a single posting on Twitter being limited to 140 characters, it isn't surprising to use "I hate..." (or even "I h8...") rather than "I would must prefer it if...." as a means to conserve bytes.

I do agree that the whole idea of "this is irksome to me, therefore it must be outlawed" is getting waaay out of control. Just as we should stay out of others' bedrooms (unless invited in), we should refrain from micro-managing others' behaviors, unless said behaviors present a clear and present danger to the safety of the general public. And, even then, sometimes the best thing to do is get out of the way, and let what is going to happen, happen (e.g. if you are on the train tracks, and a train is coming at you going too fast to stop.)

Ed T. said…
"Can we have a true debate on Twitter?"

It depends on your definition of "true" and "debate". But, I find it difficult to have in-depth, comprehensive discussions on a medium that is length-limited to a message size more suited to sound-bites.

Julie Pippert said…
Hmm Jenny, I don't know...they also compete with us for honey, but they clear up ant hills (or am I making that up?). I guess it's not for me to say but I hate snakes so take that for what it's worth in your decision. ;)

Ed, I have engaged in one debate on Twitter and I liked that one because it gained attention for an issue I care about passionately and was a REALLY constructive discussion. But yes, the length limits are inhibitive.

That said, with ample space here, I hear you about character limits but i reject the rationale. Maybe we need a new subGolden rule: If you can't say it nicely in 140 characters or less, don't say it at all. :)

Your last paragraph, speaking of golden, = awesome.
Ed T. said…
Bears and snakes... I dunno about them, but I reserve the right to dislike wasps, bees, and other stinging, flying things. Intensely. Especially when I have nightmares about them flying into my... [tmi redacted]

Oh, and velociraptors. I think it should be OK to despise velociraptors.

I don't know about the subGolden rule, but I totally agree (at the risk of repeating myself) that h8ing behaviors is OK, h8ing the people who behave the behaviors is not. And, Tweeting "irks me" contains fewer characters than "I hate people who", and we can conserve even more bytes (1 more) by shortening "irks" to "urx".

Maybe we can start our own LOLanguage:

"Talkin on teh fone in teh lion urx meh. I can haz teh kee lah?"

Deb Rox said…
I always made my children say "I don't prefer" about food they "hated" because I wanted them to be able to change their mind without much investment. Works here too. Keep open, to brussel sprouts and people.
Julie Pippert said…
Deb, oh wow, is that ever a great point!
Julie Pippert said…
Ed, have meant to get back to you about the "irks" issue. I'd be okay with that. It is a better expression than hate by a few miles. It sets the onus on the annoyed person, too.

And that's my main point: OWN YOUR PEEVES.

When you say "I don't prefer..." you are owning your peeve. That's crucial -- people need to understand that their peeves are about themselves.

Otherwise, it's putting the onus of your peeve onto another person, which puts them, in your mind, at fault (which is not to say they bear no responsibility, but understand your peeve is YOUR peeve) and that breeds blame and that dehumanizes and encourages hate. Vicious cycle.

And so easily stopped by instead simply saying "I don't prefer."

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