Feb 152013

Up at the top of my blog, I’ve scrawled “I HATE POSTING MY OPINIONS ON THE INTERNET.”  I’m insecure and have social anxiety. I’ve internalized a lot of awkwardness about interacting with people and generally assume most people don’t like me, so I hate giving them more reasons to do so.

That’s ridiculous, of course. Those are anxious/depressed thoughts, they aren’t sensible or reasonable, and I logically know that the truth is very different from what I fear.* When I remind myself to separate fear from helpful motivations, though, I still hate posting my opinions on the internet.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”

I don’t remember if it was Joan of Arc or Dumbledore that said that, but the point is that when I hear about something, the first thing I think is almost always wrong. It may take a few hours or a day or two, but if I publicized my first stupid thoughts about most subjects, I’d be forever writhing in embarrassment. The winning strategy for me is to wait, read more, listen, and then — this is the big thing — be willing to change my opinion.

Let’s talk about examples. First is the “Orson Scott Card writing Superman” thing. OSC’s a douchebag revisionist and I despise his anti-gay views.** There was a petition calling for DC to “Make sure your brand stands for equality and drop Orson Scott Card now,” which sounded like a good idea to me until I read Steve’s post about it. Anyway, you can read my comment there if you want. I thought about it some and ended up agreeing that, yeah, I’m fine with talking about disliking OSC and being disappointed by DC’s move, but not with trying to get him fired. Doing something wrong with good intentions is still doing something wrong (and actually, Ender’s Game is a book about committing genocide unknowingly and in self-defense, so maybe one could draw some sort of parallel). But I’m glad I didn’t retweet the petition everywhere.

Moving on, there’s the Glitter & Mayhem anthology, which has 20 hours to go on kickstarter as I write this. I backed it the other day when it was called Glitter & Madness. Some people told them that using “madness” in the title is ableist language; hence the change.  My first thoughts? “Man, just because some people got whiny and offended, they have to fuck with a title that I liked!” I went to bed. I got up this morning and remembered: oh yeah, I don’t give a fuck what the title is and also those offended people are right. If the name had changed without me seeing the conversations about it, I wouldn’t even have noticed. Glitter & Word-Starting-With-M is still something I want to read. Also, I’ve spent plenty of time complaining about the word “crazy” used as a tactic against women, so why did I have that initial reaction?

When I first got all pissy about “some people” who were “ruining everything” I was really just annoyed about being in the wrong. I’m embarrassed I thought of the issue that way instead of in terms of just not being rude. Pointing out an offensive word in a book title isn’t ruining anything, it helps everyone to have a good time.

Again, I’m glad I didn’t spout off on twitter about that. Now I’m going to eat lunch, and then come back and revise this. Not because I’m afraid to put my thoughts on the internet, but because I want to consider them more before I do.




* Also, if you had no idea I have that kind of social anxiety, good. I try to cover it up, because manners are all about making people comfortable and shit.

** Also, I very recently read some gorgeously inflammatory stuff (this, which references this) so I was extra inclined to say, fuck that guy on a rock.

*** Having realized this about my own reaction, I wonder if something similar was at work when G&M creators wrote the name change announcement, which begins, “Some people were uncomfortable with our original title, so we’re changing it…” I really wish they’d opened that with “The original title was offensive…” or something similar that owns the issue instead of blaming the people who brought the issue to their attention.

  13 Responses to “Instant Reactions and Shutting Up”

  1. Brust’s Law states: Truth is counter-intuitive. In other words, when we first about how something actually works, we go, “Huh? That doesn’t make sense.” Then we learn in detail, and go, “Oh, okay. I get it now.” I mean, shouldn’t a 10-lbs weight fall faster than a 5-lb weight? Everything is like that.

  2. Everyone has stuff they wish they could change. Unlike most of us you actually work on yours. I’m proud of you!


  3. I like this. You’re right and sadly I know myself well enough to know I won’t remember to be as careful. What I am able to do though is when I see I’ve got the wrong end of things, I just as quickly will admit that.

    I also really admire you’re writing about the anxiety thing. My son has severe anxiety, agoraphobia and selective mutism as well as depression ( he’s 14 and fine about me sharing this). He also had the misfortune to get very sick three years ago and that made things worse, for a long while he literally could not step foot outside the house. The best book I read during this was Quiet by Susan Cain because it made me realize that his being an introvert was ok. It’s hard for me because I am the person who will talk to total strangers at the table next to me when dining out and then they become friends for life or I will ask someone on the beach what they’re reading and they end up coming back for a BBQ etc. Anyway, I like seeing interesting p, funny, smart people post about this stuff because it makes me see that Noah will find his own way as he gets older.

    • In high school I spent some time almost entirely unable to leave the house. In fact, I dropped out of my traditional high school and finished at an alternative school because of that. I’ve struggled a lot with this stuff. And much as I hate talking about it or telling people about it, it generally always winds up to be a very good thing when I do.
      I’ll look up that book, and I wish your son all the best. It isn’t easy, but it gets better.

  4. I wonder if having depression (instead of/alongside anxiety? there is definitely a component of anxiety to the depression, but I’m not trained as a therapist/neurologist to do more than wildly speculate) makes me more prone to do the opposite: jump in and say something right off the bat, even knowing and accepting that it’s entirely likely to end up being wrong–because if I wait, I’m *much* more likely to come to the conclusions that 1. I have nothing worthwhile to say 2. if I did, somebody else has said it better. Most of what I’ve accomplished in life has consisted of flinging myself off cliffs without thinking about it too much beforehand. And “accomplished” is a double-edged sword. When I have any capacity to take risks at all, I’m much more inclined to go ahead and take the risk and accept the consequences. If I’m going to pay for it later either way, why not?

    On the downside, this means that I have inserted myself into discussions very badly on more than one occasion, as well as saying some astoundingly stupid and painfully inconsiderate things. On the other hand, as a result of having experience saying those things, I also have experience at being able to listen to people telling me I’m wrong, think about what they’ve said, come to different conclusions or change my opinions–and apologize. And if somebody’s got to be the object lesson in a discussion, I don’t mind it being me.

    Of course, sometimes it’s not possible, when the depression is too strong a barrier. And sometimes, especially in a long discussion with many people that I’ve come into late, even taking the above into account I still feel that I don’t have anything useful to say, and if I did somebody else has already said it better than I would have. Sometimes, it’s not a risk worth taking; sometimes there are other extenuating circumstances. But I never regret the things I’ve done or said as much as I regret the things I didn’t do or say.

    None of which is to say I disagree with you, just rambling about my approach to similar situations.

    • Thank you for coming over and talking about it – I’m fascinated by other people’s experiences and strategies for this stuff.

      I think I often conclude that I don’t have anything useful to add or it has been said already, but I think in those times I see it as a good thing. I take it as a cue to listen to what is being added, maybe express my agreement with something, or just be relieved that I don’t need to say anything. I don’t always fall into that, but it is a comfortable zone for me.

      If everyone approached social situations like I do, we’d just sit around and stare at each other all the time, until we invented snarfblatts.

  5. Thanks for writing this. It can be daunting. to say the least, when brilliant, quick-wiitted and likeable folks are chatting, and you wish to join in. It usually takes me hours to formulate what I really want to say, and too often the opportunity has really passed. For me, this has worsened over the years, and is much worse on line (in writing, however ephemeral) than in person. So some people know me as able to blurt out an opinion while leaping over tall buildings, and others know me as nearly silent.

    Anyway, thanks for letting us know you a little better, and here’s hoping you get out our way soon and we have a chance to sit together talking (or not) for just a while.

    • Daunting is exactly the word! I’m trying to separate out the parts where I’m daunted because I need to listen more before I form an opinion from the times I’m just breathlessly anxiety-ridden. One is thoughtfulness, the other is a disorder. Aren’t our brains fun?!

      I’m going out to MN late next week and will be there for something like nine days! It would be lovely to spend some time together.

  6. I think I’m very much with Cynthia on this one. It’s not really that I’m afraid to talk, or that I don’t have something useful to add, but I’m convinced that no one is interested in what I have to say, and that my very presence is bothersome so I should try to be as little nuisance as possible (which is probably more annoying to most people, but my emotional response is not about logic). A lot of times I just end up not saying anything in favor of listening while I form my own opinions. Alternatively, in the middle of a heated argument, if someone pokes a valid hole in my theory and I promptly start arguing a new one, people seem flummoxed, like I was only allowed to have one thought or opinion and should go off and lie quietly in the field of the vanquished. So in the end there are people who think I’m demure and probably a bit slow, and others who think I’m downright belligerent. I can’t seem to win. Unless I’m in an academic argument, though, people are more likely to meet mute-Casey until I get to know them one-on-one. I’m not sure I have a point in all that, except to thank you for posting. It’s obscurely reassuring to hear other people who seem perfectly socially competent to me also experience some anxiety.

    • Trying to not be a nuisance – that’s something I really identify with. Wouldn’t want to trouble anyone! I usually label that bit of myself “minnesotan” and try to laugh it off.

      Also, thanks for commenting! It has been reassuring to me that other people have been reassured by this writing. I’m not alone, none of us are! 🙂

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