Only Myself To Blame

A cautionary tale.

This is part of a three post series for Time To Talk Day in the UK.

This morning, I’ve just spent an hour or so having a conversation with someone that shouldn’t have been done on Twitter. On reflection, 140 characters is woefully inadequate for the subject matter, and there’s so many other discussions from this one start point that have been ignited. The problem with Twitter, and there is one, is that 140 characters aren’t enough to define real intent. That’s why the company’s actively looking at extending the character limit: not simply to allow advertisers and news gatherers more chance to explain, but because when you have to be brief, so much is left unsaid. The bigger issue however isn’t just the medium’s fault: you can’t blame a communication company for their product when you yourself are misinterpreted.

That’s nobody’s fault but your own.

Yeah, well you say *that*…

Having virtual conversations is as hard as doing real ones, and there’s so much else you have to factor into the equation. For instance, if you don’t know someone well and you start a dialogue, and then one of you uses a word that means one thing to them but something quite different to you? The intent is going to be quite seriously skewed. I’ve had that happen to me more times now online than I care to remember: a word I consider innocuous becomes a racial slur, a definition for me becomes a sexual identifier for another. When you have contact which such a diverse and intellectually vast range of individuals, there’s a whole minefield out there even if you speak the same language. What you don’t get with Twitter is the back-story, depth to the front, and this only tends to surface when a contentious subject rises, or you cross areas of intellectual conflict. Often, you never realise until it’s too late: that joke in the week about Republicans for instance didn’t go down too well in certain sectors of my timeline, but in fairness that would have become an issue eventually. Here’s the more significant point: over time, using social media, you can actually get a sense of someone, and as you do, it will become apparent whether the ‘relationship’ you have will work or not. Once you grasp that sense, then you’re able to decide how to proceed.

However, and this is crucial, you must know you’re as much to blame for drama if and when it occurs as the other person.

Sorry Cher, but it’s the truth.

However blameless (or clueless) you might claim to be when drama erupts around you, you’re really not. You can feel free to invent theories and decide you know what Person B is thinking or doing, but unless you actually talk to them and find out? It’s all supposition, theory, and even if you didn’t say a word to start the current flashpoint something you’ve done weeks ago could easily have fuelled the fire. Sometimes the drama itself is enough for you to finally take a stand and remove that person from your feed/life once and for all, and if this is what happens then really, truthfully, that’s no bad thing. The reason why I’m writing this for Time to Talk day is that’s how I finally realised that actually, I needed help, and I couldn’t keep blaming other people for my own failings. It wasn’t either fair or right to do so, when the same things kept happening and the single contributing factor was my behaviour. There’s only so long you can go making other people the reason for your drama. Eventually, if you are hiding from yourself, there has to be a reckoning. When you finally accept that you are as much to blame as everyone else you choose to attack?

Many things will simply change for the better.

DON’T START.

Living with people is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you its not and those people who seem to be able to just sail through life regardless? You’d be surprised how difficult it is for them. Often these are the people who we rely on: parents, carers, hard working people who can’t vocalise their feelings as well as the mouthy, gobby ones who seem to spend their entire existences making noise. Everyone deserves to be listened to, and if you choose to cut anyone out of your life, make sure you are VERY certain and confident in your reasoning. I’m making noise this morning in the vain hope that people get to grasp that actually, you do what you know best in order to help people. For me, that’s words, and these ones are a reminder that however worthy and confident you are in yourself, you can and will be wrong in your life. Many, many times. The trick is how you deal with it, and the ability to come out of yourself and be honest when it matters may be the difference between life and death. Because, ultimately, in a world obsessed with communication, many of us are still unable to string sentences together with certain words or concepts that we can’t or won’t grasp.

Today is a Time to Talk: to someone you trust, to a friend, or even to a relative stranger. Today is a day to reach out and ask for help. This is a moment to grasp and exploit, for your own future and good health. Yes, I know how frightening that can be, trust me, but if you can find it within yourself to do so?

A whole new world is out there for you to discover.

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