Sunday, January 27, 2008

On being nice to jerks, part 2

Every internet forum has two things in common. The first is that the regulars there are always convinced of the elevated nature of their discourse. They are always certain that their forum is home to some of the most intelligent and witty conversation anywhere. And they're always wrong.

The second thing that every internet forum has in common is that they all have at least one regular whom the other regulars treat with great deference and respect as a person of intelligence and even wisdom, when it's obvious to any outsider that that person is actually what mental health professionals like to call "a friggin' psycho." And that brings us to Jerk Number 2 (JN2).

When I look at JN2, I see an insecure, insensitive, neurotic, paranoid, narrow-minded, hostile, whining, lying, plagiarizing, sock-puppeteering, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteous, hypocritical bully, yet his internet friends treat him with respect, as if he were a normal person, or even a good one. I'm not sure where this difference in perception comes from. Are they actually incapable of seeing that he's an insecure, insensitive, neurotic, paranoid, narrow-minded, hostile, whining, lying, plagiarizing, sock-puppeteering, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteous, hypocritical bully, or do they just not care? Or, is it perhaps that they've known him so long that they've become possessive, thinking more or less, "He may be an insecure, insensitive, neurotic, paranoid, narrow-minded, hostile, whining, lying, plagiarizing, sock-puppeteering, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteous, hypocritical bully, but he's our insecure, insensitive, neurotic, paranoid, narrow-minded, hostile, whining, lying, plagiarizing, sock-puppeteering, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteous, hypocritical bully"? It's an interesting question, although not one I'll try to resolve in this post.

Anyway, JN2 and I go way back on teh interwebs, participating in some of the same forums since all the way back in 2000. And there's always been a bit of tension between us. On my part, I guess I just don't get along well with insecure, insensitive, neurotic, paranoid, narrow-minded, hostile, whining, lying, plagiarizing, sock-puppeteering, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteous, hypocritical bullies. I suppose that's an area I need to improve in. On JN2's part, I somehow seem to have touched one of his pet insecurities, which is people who "think they're better than him," or, in other words, people who aren't impressed by him. That seems to be some sort of unforgivable sin in his book, and I suppose I have to plead guilty, because besides being an insecure, insensitive, neurotic, paranoid, narrow-minded, hostile, whining, lying, plagiarizing, sock-puppeteering, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteous, hypocritical bully, he also has a habit of pontificating with great confidence on things he's obviously clueless about, plus he's a bumpkin with no taste in anything. For some reason, people like that just don't impress me very much. I guess that's another area I need to improve in.

Anyway, our "relationship," and indeed his presence in our shared forums, became an endless cycle. He would insult someone, then he would apologize, then I or whoever else he insulted would accept his apology (or just go away). Then he'd do it again. In between, mind you, he would always profess friendship towards me. And nothing stopped him -- I tried insulting him back; I tried being nice; I tried being funny. It made no difference. He always did it again. And this went on for years. So, as this cycle continued, my attitude when he'd apologize gradually changed from "Cool, we're friends again, I wonder what was bothering him," to "Whatever," to "STFU with your insincere apologies, you friggin' psycho."

Well, last summer, the sole remaining forum we were both on was discussing something or other, and JN2 started making personal comments about my life choices, and I snapped a little bit. I cursed him up one side and down the other, and I left the forum. After staying away for a month or two, though, I decided that there was no reason for me to leave. I like most of the other people in the forum -- some of them very much -- and if the conversation wasn't actually especially intelligent or witty, it was pretty amiable; at least when JN2 wasn't involved.

So I came up with a strategy: I would just pretend JN2 doesn't exist. I wouldn't post anything to him, I wouldn't comment on anything he said (no matter how dumb it was), I wouldn't talk to other people about him, et cetera and so on. That way, I could enjoy the forum, he'd have no reason to think I was actively being not impressed by him, and everyone would be happy. Seems reasonable, right? But I forgot that I wasn't dealing with a normal person, I was dealing with an insecure, insensitive, neurotic, paranoid, narrow-minded, hostile, whining, lying, plagiarizing, sock-puppeteering, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteous, hypocritical bully.

Turns out, he couldn't stand being ignored. Although I'd had absolutely no intention of using it that way -- I just wanted the guy to leave me alone -- silence was a powerful weapon. It drove him nuts(ier). He couldn't stop trying to get me to say something to him. And I can't say that bothered me; it was pretty funny, actually. So I just went on ignoring him and enjoying the forum.

After I'd been back a month or so, JN2 went too far with his insults. He threw out a couple of completely gratuitous nasty personal shots at me and another guy (which I, and the other guy too, I'm pretty sure, just shrugged off because of the source). Then most of the regulars came down on him for that, since his insults were so far outside the pale of what usually went on there and his intent was so obviously vicious.

Well, that got JN2's ickle feelings all hurt. He started whining about how nobody had said anything to me for cursing at him three months before (even though he'd subsequently said openly that he was deliberately trying to provoke me), how I was trying to steal the forum, and how everyone was taking my side against him. On his blog, he even wrote a comically bathetic post about friendships coming to an end, complete with photograph of autumn leaves. All this, mind you, when I hadn't said one word to him for three months.

Along with thinking what a psycho he was, I was kind of surprised that he actually had any feelings to hurt. But I guess I shouldn't have been, because I've noticed many other times that people who are brutally insensitive to others' feelings are often extremely delicate when it comes to their own.

Anyhow, the way I saw it, I had three choices. A) I could go on the offensive and drive JN2 out of the forum. That would probably have been pretty simple, since in my back-and-forth with him over the years I'd found him pathetically easy to manipulate whenever I was so inclined. (In the short term, that is; his long-term behavior never changed.) Considering the state he was already in, I think I could have had him foaming with rage and turning on his friends even more with just two or three well-placed posts. Or, B) I could just state my case -- i.e., say why I'd been ignoring him and would go on ignoring him -- and not worry about his friends. Or, C) I could state my case but also try to make it easier for JN2 to make up with his friends.

Since this is ultimately a post about being nice to jerks, no doubt you've already correctly concluded that I chose C). I wrote a post about why I wanted nothing to do with JN2, why I'd been ignoring him, why all I wanted from him was for him to leave me alone. But I also said that there was no fight for people to take sides in and that I wasn't trying to steal the forum. I hoped maybe that would take pride out of the equation and make it easier for him to make up with his friends.

I can't say I actually did that for JN2's sake -- really it was the pain I saw in our mutual friends that led me to do it. They seemed genuinely hurt at the thought of losing his friendship, though I find that incomprehensible. And no doubt they were e-mailing and phoning him and so on, and that had vastly more to do with their reconciliation than my little gesture did. Still, I did what I could to be nice to a jerk.

Like always, though, it did no good. Jerks are incapable of recognizing it when you do something kind to them. JN2 just went right on insulting me in the forum (I think; between rolling my eyes at his neurotic persistence and scrolling down the page as soon as I saw who the post was from, I never read much of what he posted to me), even though I never posted to him again. Anyway, I finally left that forum for good not too long ago; JN2 is probably still insulting me there in absentia.

4 comments:

  1. Damn - we really do think alike. And repeating the list of adjectives was genius. I think I have them memorised now.

    The cycle that you described in your fifth paragraph is something that I found irritating to watch again and again over the years, and I guess it's the very thing that made me end up not liking JN2.

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  2. I understand perfectly why you're choosing not to continue participation in this particular forum, but if you find a good one somewhere, send us an e-mail will you, so we can enjoy an exchange with you again? You're the third of my five favorite people there to leave. You'll be missed.

    MrsDanite

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  3. Tax,
    Finding the right noun was easy, but the list of adjectives actually took some narrowing down. ;)
    BTW, did you get my e-mail? I sent it to the "tax.man107" address; I don't know if you still use that one.

    MrsD,
    Tell Barney to add a comment function to his blog! Or comment here.

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  4. Yes, I got your e-mail. If you ever forget my address, you can contact me via the one at The Mutt's Nuts.

    ReplyDelete

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