It is remarkably easy to convince your child that Santa exists. After all, the child trusts you implicitly – why wouldn’t they take your word when you tell them there’s a red-suited jolly guy who brings them presents via a venison-powered transportation system?
Still, it’s a little declasse to do victory laps around the block, yelling, “See? I convinced Virginia that yes, there is a Santa Claus! What wondrous proof that Santa exists!”
Yet people do it. They do it all the damn time, particularly when it’s about ex-boyfriends or arguments they’re having with soon-to-be ex-girlfriends.
The reason I’m writing this essay is something a friend of mine wrote a while ago: “The high road sure is a frustrating bitch, sometimes. Luckily, there’s all that rewarding moral superiority.” That stuck with me, because I worry that’s how I come off when I tell people, “I try not to blog about the arguments I’m having with my lovers” – as if the reason I avoid airing my dirty laundry in public is because I’m just naturally superior.
No, it’s because I’ve learned the feedback you get is nonsensical and misleading.
There’s one of three reasons people read what you write on the Internet:
1) They’ve come to trust your opinion enough to want to know what you have to say. (Thankfully, this is the most common reason.)
2) They think you’re a fascinating train wreck, and want to see what sort of dysfunction you’re up to this week.
3) They think you’re an active hazard, and your blog is a lighthouse warning of what deplorable fuckeries you plan on committing.
Now, in the case of #1, you’ve built up a big ol’ well of trust to draw from. People have showed up because you’re either a good friend who they like, or because you’ve dropped enough truth-bombs that they’ve become a fan of your blogsmithery. In either case, whenever you post that Facebook status, you are talking to people swimming in a deep pool of “Benefit of the Doubt.”
In other words, you’re talking to an audience that is on your side already. And as long as whatever you write doesn’t insult them directly, well hey, all your complaints are gonna sound good! I mean, if I’m in an argument and dash off some Chinese fortune cookie complaint like, oh, “You can’t have true love without true trust,” then twenty people will like it on Facebook and the comment threads with my friends will be about how yes, true love needs a partner who believes in you.
But like all advice, that’s good in a vacuum. What if my wife’s complaint is that I’m spending all my free nights with a single girl she has never authorized, a girl who she knows is deeply attracted to me? What if she’s come home to find us cuddled up on the couch, knowing that I’ve been texting her at mysterious times and never letting Gini see what I wrote… And then, aggrieved after she’s been haranguing me for more detail on what’s going on, I flee to my Twitter and write angrily about her neediness and lack of belief in me?
NOTE: This has not happened. But if it damn well did, then my complaint of “You can’t have love without trust” becomes an obfuscated complaint of, “Gini doesn’t trust me when I’m doing sketchy things.”
But hey! I write the posts, so I get to frame how all this turns out. And I’m talking to a veeeeery Santa-friendly audience. They all vouch for my status as a Good Guy. And what I get are tons of attaboys, and you keep dropping that wisdom, and lots of positive feedback for something that I could well be completely wrong on in the first place.
In other words, what I get when I post about my troubles to the Internet is an echo chamber, telling me how wonderfully correct I am. It’s the kid, hanging the stockings by the fireplace. Because relationships are relative things – it’s right in the fucking word, people – any complaint I have, no matter how fucktastically incorrect, can be extracted and made to be true for someone.
“The beautiful thing about being a grown-up is that you get to choose your own family.” – Charlie Manson
“When all else fails, you just have to believe in yourself.” – Jenny McCarthy, head of the anti-vaccine movement
“When you find the right person, you have to follow your heart.” – Britney Spears
See? All true for someone… But not the people I’ve attributed them to.
And what’ll happen if I keep posting discussions on what’s wrong with my girlfriends? Some of the #1s will automatically take my side, whereas many others will quietly slide into the #2s (train wreck) and the #3s (uses your blog as a warning). But they won’t post, generally. Why would they? Your blog/Facebook/Twitter is generally a positive space, unless you’ve been so psychodramatic that you’ve actually edged out all the #1s and now the #2s and #3s are in the majority.
(NOTE: This sad state can be assumed if you’re in high school. Everyone’s nutty in high school. Be prepared to be flayed alive, should you complain.)
So when you do post, what do you actually accomplish? You get a feeling of moral correctness that is not at all justified. You get friends, using this as an excuse to tell you how wonderfully wise you are. You get some people quietly stepping away, not wanting to be on the train that’s rapidly heading for another collision. And you piss off the person you’re posting about, at which point they often post their own interpretations of what’s wrong with your relationship, which gets their own cascades of “Attaboys” and “You go, girl!” and “Santa loves me, this I know, for my friend she told me so!”
What you do not get:
- Actual wisdom.
- Forward movement with your relationship.
- Presents from Santa.
As such, I try not to post about a personal foible until it’s so dead that nobody even thinks about it any more… And usually, I make damn sure that it’s clear that I was the one at fault. Because otherwise, what I get is a big ol’ tide of supportive nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, pals. I appreciate your being on my side. But I want that to be because I’m on the side of genuine truth and justice, not just because I sound good.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.