A Lesson Learnt

06 June 2006

I've had an interesting lesson in internet (and comedic) misinterpretation over the last few days.

It began with my previous post. Perhaps I should have explained that the idea came from a similar post I read on someone else's blog, found at random, some years ago. That person had very different political views to mine, and basically said they hate everything I believe in. Reading it, I thought "That's amusing, I must write a post like that of my own one day." But I didn't include this explanation, believing that to get the full effect, it would be better if I launched straight into the tirade.

Then I made my mistake: I published a link to the post, again with no explanation, on a forum I post to semi-regularly. I hoped it would get people talking. Well it did, but not in quite the way I had intended. I was flamed to a toasty crisp. Somehow, and I can't quite believe it, people seemed to think I was writing about them, and were personally offended by what I said. People picked up on points on the list which applied to them, and shot back furious insults at me. The zenith (or nadir?) was reached when someone said that whilst they aren't a vegan, they respect vegans rights and decisions!

About there was where I lost it, laughing.

Imagine if I was offended in the same way. Yesterday one of the Big Brother housemates, Claire, said she votes Green because "she's not educated enough to make a decision". But wait! Several of my close friends vote Green. Is Claire saying my friends are uneducated? Well, I hope she's nominated soon so I can vote her out of the house!

But of course I didn't think that way, because that would be ridiculous. I can understand that it's not all about me...but that it is about the context. There is a venerable tradition of the tirade being used for comedic purposes. Whether or not my post was actually funny, it was never meant to be taken seriously. You can see from that list - I offended everybody. Someone posted that if that's the way I feel, they feel sorry for me, but if they can so badly misinterpret something, I really feel sorry for them. I can understand why writers get so fed up with critics who miss the point. If someone said a post was poorly written and the facts were wrong, I could understand. But to be misinterpreted is incredibly frustrating.

However, I'm not going to post this on that forum. When was the last time you heard someone end an argument with "Okay, now that I understand, I can see that I was completely wrong"? But I have learnt a lesson on how humour, and the tone of anything one writes on the internet, can be taken out of context and twisted into any shape the reader sees fit. I won't be posting links to the pod much from now on. (Well, unless I'm posting funny pictures, or talking about things in a completely up-beat way that no one could possibly take offence at. Lobotomy, anyone?)


  1. Well, I like it when this happens. I like it when people in my life verbalise (or blogalise..or something) a loosely tied and not quite completely formed idea which has been floating around in my own introspective world.
    I don’t know what this means, or…the exact psychological dynamic that is occurring here, but I have experienced the same thing. Although in my case, it has happened a couple of times even after a disclaimer.
    You see, I write my blog because…when my life takes extraordinary turns, and I don’t have the capacity to deal with the changes in more normal ways, I take strange action. Albeit planned and considered strange action. This time around it is a blog where I have documented even my more embarrassing or cringe-worthy-vulnerable feelings. Totally subjective feelings. Feelings with no relevance or meaning to anyone else but me. I try to make it clear that I have no intention of making any point relevant to anyone except myself, and when I don’t I suspect its implicit.
    Extraordinarily the same thing has happened to me. Friends…and other people…have filtered these personal entries through their own layer of complex interpretative systems, and the blogs have come out the other side (being…urm…the persons mind I guess…damn complicated metaphors) as being specifically targeted at them.
    Im not a silly guy. I have a couple of Uni degrees and a good job. I read and you know…don’t watch Big Brother…but I wonder about this phenomena. I wonder what it means about the people reading these blogs and taking them in these unintended ways? I wonder if, when assessed by objective and psychologically healthy individuals, there in fact are poignant and relevant targeted comments which should be taken on board by there people? Or, I wonder if they just have…you know…faulty or unhealthy ways of interpreting the world around them? And if that’s true…I wonder the same about myself. And find myself again lost in a post modern dilemma.
    ….umm yeah. But anyway, I feel ya.

  2. Everyone filters everything through their own perspective, as humans we can't help that...but like you said, I can't understand the mindset where people think everything is directed to them.

    I guess in a forum situation, there can also be a form of "collective insanity", i.e. if one person thinks the post was directly about them and writes about it, all who follow will think that the post is personally targeted as well.

    I did try to put the correct perspective on things in the thread on the forum early on, one person wrote that the reason she doesn't have her money ready is if she's struggling with her children, and I replied "yes, that's completely understandable, calm down", but it just took on a life of its own.

    I can only surmise that maybe people were determined not to get it...maybe some people like being offended (that's certainly the impression I've picked up from some on that forum before...But I just hadn't directly annoyed anyone yet). If that's how they want to be, good luck to them...I just won't be posting much there again.

  3. I didn't get offended with any of what you wrote. People seem to forget that it's YOUR blog and you can write what ever the hell you want. This is one of the many reasons why I went friends only on LJ, because people seem to get so offended by what you write.
    I had a problem with one friend, where I said - Its my f@Iking journal, don't read it if you don't like it!
    I have a short fuse myself and I hate many things :P

  4. I am slightly at fault because I did put a direct link to the post on the forum in question...though someone said that was the same as posting my list directly to the forum. Ummm...no it isn't.

  5. I don't want to post on your blog - again - but can you respond to my question regarding the fishnet photo on the December 2005 page? If it's a secret that you don't want to publish widely, can you send me an email?

  6. Anon - sending you an email would be a little hard as I have no idea who you are! However, you'll find the link at the original post. Sorry, I didn't know you'd left a comment - I don't check my archives regularly (just when I get really bored)

  7. Thnaks very much for your help.

    I wish you peace and power.


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