Try Not To Take Things Personally

Back in 2011, I wrote an article titled Taking Twitter Unfollows Too Personally. In that article, I talked about the strange reaction Chris Brogan received when he decided to unfollow all the people he’d been connected to, even though his reasoning was pretty just at the time. I was pretty amazed that all those people took it personally, even though he wrote about it to explain what he was doing.

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Caroline via Compfight

I’m going to admit that there are times when I struggle with not taking things personally. Sure, sometimes things do get personal, and in those instances you have to deal with it directly in some way. My favorite way, at least on social media, is to block people so I don’t have to bother with them anymore. It keeps me from saying something rude or from escalating things to an extreme.

Every once in a while I’ll stay calm and try to diffuse a situation, especially when I don’t really know the people I’m suddenly in conflict with. For instance, some years ago I got into a confrontation with a couple of millennials about something called Gamergate, which I really didn’t understand but had read a story about. I let them fuss and fume, called them on a couple of things they said, let them calm down and then had a nice conversation with them that ended well; they thanked me for listening to them and their side of things. I could have really gone off the deep end but in that case I felt it was better to see if I could find a way to talk to them instead.

I could bring things closer to home by talking about people I know. In at least 3 cases now I’ve asked people if I could interview them, only to see them do their first interviews with someone else. Each person started off with something like “I’d be too nervous to do an interview” or “I don’t know what I’d say”. Each of them I pursued more than a couple of years. Eventually… well, I already stated what happened.

Now, I could take it personally, wonder what I might have done, wondered if I wasn’t as compelling a person to be interviewed by them and sulked. Truthfully, I did sulk briefly each time I found out about it. Then I moved on; after all, I’ve interviewed a good number of people anyway, including one of the people I’ve talked about above, though I’ve struggled to get anyone to let me interview them in the longest time.

One of those things we all have to learn is that it’s not always about us. Sometimes it’s timing. Sometimes a person is having a bad day and decides to take it out on you. Last year I was having a conversation with a guy on Twitter about something and he said he was tired of being called a racist. I said I hadn’t called him one. He looked back through his stream, saw that I hadn’t (I hadn’t even come close lol), and apologized for his overreaction. His assumption that, based on what he was saying at the time, was that I was going to call him one, which was strange because I’d began the conversation by saying I agreed with him on something.

It’s hard enough in life to not take everything personally. It can be harder on social media, especially since we can’t always see someone’s facial expressions and, let’s face it, the English language is so goofy that you can look at a sentence and take it many different ways sometimes, depending on how you’re reading it at the time (proper punctuation might help; just a suggestion…). Even with emojis, there’s not enough to cover some of the emotions you wish you could share that aren’t over the top or doesn’t capture what you’re feeling at the time.

By the way, here’s something to know, at least on Twitter (which I’m presently still boycotting). Back in 2016 I was vehemently against the orange guy (I live in NY state; we knew a lot about him that people in other places didn’t), and supporting Hillary Clinton, who’d been a pretty good senate representative. I mentioned that only once on Twitter, and suddenly I was being swarmed by tons of responses with all mentioning the word “deplorable” (that was their talisman after Clinton mentioned it in a press conference).

Initially I was overwhelmed, before I remembered that Twitter allows you to block words and phrases you don’t want to see. Of course I blocked “deplorable”, then blocked the orange guy’s name; all messages immediately stopped, which proved to me that they were all bots (well, it’s possible that one or two weren’t, but the majority had to be). That’s one of those times where you definitely know it’s not personal, and shouldn’t ever get upset when something like that happens.

You can also block people on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. The processes are different for each platform, but if you’re not being bombarded it’s a better way to go than trying to get the platform moderators to get some relief; if you’re reading this you probably already know that.

Enough of that mess. In any case, try your best not to take things personally if you’re being piled on for something you might have said that pretty much means nothing, block where you can, and see if it makes you feel better and helps you communicate better, online or in person. I feel compelled to add that if you actually said something that you should have known would inflame others… well… that’s on you, Boo! Otherwise, do what I do when I just can’t handle things in the moment; go to McDonald’s and buy a fish sandwich with small fries and a large drink; yeah! 🙂

14 thoughts on “Try Not To Take Things Personally”

  1. It has been a long time since anything happened that I took personally. Perhaps it is my current life style that precludes such occurrences but, whatever the reason may be, I am quite content with the way my life has evolved.

    1. You’ve been a humble guy in all the years I’ve known you. I try, but being a minority in a country, sometimes it’s a hard thing to overcome. Still, I think I’m good most of the time, but I have moments…

  2. I rarely take things personally with anyone on the internet. After all, they don’t pay my bills or otherwise influence my life. That said, in the past, there were some intense forum “discussions” with a few RWNJs, but I bloody well enjoyed those, never stooping to their level and relying on wit and intellect! When they started calling me names, I knew I’d won. LOL Good info about the bots! They’re everywhere these days. TikTok is especially rife with them.

    1. I think that being an only child who was used to a more diverse group of people with similar backgrounds (military kid, lots of mixing of racial backgrounds but the common thread was our parents having ranks and certain status along with moving around to places where we almost always encountered other kids who’s traveled around a lot), once I got into the “real” world as a permanent thing, I’ve never quite gotten used to not taking things personal. I’ve gotten better at ignoring most of it when it’s constant stupidity, but I have moments where I wonder if I’ve actually connected with someone I thought had common ground with me. I guess we never stop learning, do we?

      1. I can relate, Mitch, as an army brat myself. I was born in Germany and when we moved to London, Ontario had a terrible time at the hands of xenophobic bullies. That experience gave me a thick skin and a “take no shit” attitude.

        It’s disheartening when someone we thought we had a good connection with turns out to be an asshole or an idiot. Yup; live and learn!

      2. I like that word, disheartening. It’s interesting that some of the people I went to college with changed their mindsets from when they were there… and not in the correct direction in my opinion. Sometimes the people you know aren’t really the people you know. Still, there are ways we can protect ourselves and our peace; no one has to remain a potential victim to anyone else. And, as one of my stories indicates, sometimes a window of opportunity for a good conversation comes up.

  3. The problem with online interactions is that you don’t even know if the person is real or anything he/she is telling has any element of truth. I often come across people who tell me things. When I dig deeper they go unresponsive or go back on their words. I like the idea of blocking people who are negative so that they don’t dampen my mood. On the other hand, I have met many people over the years and still communicate with them. And most importantly, I learn a lot from them.

    1. Hey Joe! It’s a crapshoot, that’s for sure. I play on the side of caution because, as you said, you just never know. At this point in my life I’d rather be wary than play the puppy dog game. 🙂

  4. I’ve become better at de-personalizing interactions realizing that preferences evolve from different walks of life.

    There was a time when I responded to every situation. Now I realize that being quiet and not responding (in most cases) is the better reaction.

  5. When I am happy and things are good I am good about not taking things personally.

    When things are rough for extended periods I have to sometimes remind myself that most of the crap that I am irritated by has nothing to do with me.

    Most of the time I am good about not getting too crazy, but I have my moments as we all do.

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