Step Away from the Keyboard…

I broke one of my cardinal rules yesterday – how annoying!  It’s no fun having mantras if you forget to follow them all the time.  The last time this happened to me with this rule was…oh, gosh, I guess about two years ago.  Not a bad span of good behavior.

What was it?  Virtual Fighting.

I love the internet.  I love Google and Facebook and online crosswords and IM-ing.  I love looking up people’s homes because I’m nosy and I love sounding smart but not crediting my sources.  I love that there will always (I hope) be someone out there who knows less about the internet than me – thus making me forever smarter than at least one person.

The internet rates high on my list of “Things I Wish I’d Invented.”  Other items include Microwave Popcorn, the Ped-Egg, those little rubber mats for your dashboard that hold your phone in place and, of course, the Snuggee.  (Actually, I did invent the Snuggee and anyone at Time Warner Media Sales can confirm this with flashbacks of me walking around looking like the Pope.)

But, all great inventions have a hitch. My house still smells like burnt popcorn after a recent incident. The Ped-Egg requires me to actually use it. Those rubber mats collect all sorts of dust and grossness. And the Snuggee doesn’t remind you to take it off before leaving the house. (Fortunately, this is appropriate attire at Walmart).

With the Internet?  Well, it seems to have excused a large portion of the population from maintaining their social courtesies.  I never realized that folks actually used Facebook as a battlefield until I had my first encounter with an angry colleague.  I happened to notice her constant status updates refering to some bitch and how she was going to stab her like she’d been stabbed (Facebook doesn’t require sensible sentences)…and suddenly I realized she was writing about me!

For the record – I never stabbed anyone. The disagreement stemmed from my usual path of thinking I’m doing the right thing only to find out later I’ve been tricked.  I’m that girl – the one who accidently tells a guy that he saw a mutual friend getting busy with some dude – only to find out that mutual friend is that guy’s girlfriend…and I’d just spilled the cheating beans.

Right, back to my slip up.

In an effort to ask a question out of care – I turned to Instant Messenger.  Repeat after me, “Emails, Texts, Status Updates, etc…do NOT offer inflection and therefore are up for interpretation.” The short story is that the question went haywire, the response went haywire and within fifty strokes of the keyboard I was in the midst of an all out Virtual Argument.  Like all arguments, no one wanted to bend so fingers kept fluttering out attempts at being the winner. 

Lesson learned.  Again. 

It’s safe to say that there isn’t a person out there who doesn’t have long distance friends – so, yeah, meeting for coffee/beer to have those awkward conversations isn’t always possible. And yet…Alexander Graham Bell would be sorely disappointed to know that many of us have abandoned his invention to make such chats less uncomfortable.

I think I went the virtual route so I wouldn’t have to hear either hurt or anger or, well, yelling.  Turns out I got all of that anyway – this time in print that I could scroll through it over and over for an hour or so.  And what I wanted to implore – which was really about protecting someone I care about – was totally lost in the mix.

The real problem is – Virtual Fighting…never fixes anything.  I can say pretty accurately that the number of pot shots I’ve taking via the web are minimal – but I can also say that those rare pot shots only fueled a fire that probably didn’t even need to be ignited.  It just so much easy to have the last word when all you have to do is type it and log off.  The problem is, it doesn’t work.

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