Meta (communicating about communication)

Sometimes I think it’s a wonder any of us manages to communicate with anyone else in this medium we call the internet, which is so lacking in the context most of our communication has, such as visual cues, or real-time responses which enable us to elaborate on what otherwise would be quick, casual comments.

I’m trying not to be bothered by a recent incident in which someone I very much respect jumped down my throat for a rather vague comment I made in someone else’s journal. She just misinterpreted what I said, and I was surprised and hurt by that. But everyone takes stuff out of context or reads too much into it or jumps to conclusions from time to time, even the best of us, and I did my best to explain myself, but maybe it was too little too late.

Anyway, how is everyone’s day going?

16 thoughts on “Meta (communicating about communication)

  1. Good morning, Masq! My day is fine so far..I have had coffee, and a cinnamon raisin toasted English muffin, and I’m getting ready to start getting started.
    I agree that it’s a minor miracle that we all communicate as well as we do on the internet; I have to remind myself that it’s easy to misinterpret what is on the screen when there are no other cues to the meaning than the words on the screen. So often it seems kerfluffles start up over misinterpretations and misunderstandings, because we just don’t have enough information.

  2. That’s so true. I think 90% of the kerfuffles that happened are just misinterpretations and misunderstandings. With so much context lacking, we fill in the empty spots with our own assumptions and hot-buttons, and Boom! Egg on teh internets.

  3. Good “morning” to both of you! (It’s past noon here, heh.) Totally agree that we sometimes make mistakes, and the most innocent remarks can be misinterpreted. I guess that’s why it’s so good to give people the benefit of the doubt, if possible, while still being direct so there’s no further misunderstanding.
    Oooh, but it’s a tricky balance to maintain! *hugs you both*

  4. Tell me about it. I’m still stinging about being run out of my favorite chat room for writing “porn” that’s less explicit than half the books I read in high school English.
    Anyway, I’m okay for someone who was up until 5am writing a paper on a book they’ve never read, and then got up at 6:30am when the neighbor’s dog started its marathon barking session.

  5. Yeah, it’s no fun getting bit out of nowhere for a casual remark. Of course, after one attempt to explain myself, I slink out of the room and go do something else rather than try to patch things up and risk making it worse.

  6. Well, here’s the “porn” that caused the grief:
    And here’s a snippet of the response it received:
    . . . I honestly believe that when Jesus says, “But I say to you that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matt 5:28 he is meaning that sins committed in the mind are as bad as those committed with the body. When I see so much spent/wasted on something so trite and in my mind unclean, even sinful, I get really bummed out . . .
    And when I said the email hurt my feelings, all of my so-called friends accused me of twisting this person’s words, being intolerant of her beliefs and insensitive to her feelings, yadda yadda.
    If you can find logic in any of that, well, do share it.
    ETA: And that’s a terribly inaccurate interpretation of the scripture, btw.

  7. Oooh man. Okay, hear me out, if you don’t mind? See, I actually “agree” with this interpretation of the passage. That is, I think Jesus is saying that a (married, presumably) man who lusts after a woman who isn’t his wife is already committing adultery/being unfaithful. Emotional infidelity can be just as damaging as the physical act itself.
    Of course, I also think God gave human beings our bodies with lust built-in and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, is often even a good thing, to feel sexual attraction.
    Not to mention — fiction? Still fiction, and not reality. The author is not her characters, etc.
    Anyway, my two cents fwiw. Unfortunately, I have no explanation for how your hurt feelings translates into being intolerant of this person’s beliefs 😛

  8. That was my point — the passage refers to a married man, and the sin is being unfaithful to his wife. It doesn’t mean that anyone who ever thinks about sex in even the vaguest terms is sinning. I’m objecting to the focus here on sex being the ultimate (and to some people, apparently) the only sin. Sin has to do with hurting people. Adultery has a victim, murder has a victim, theft has a victim. There are always negative consequences to those acts.
    But to have emotions, to feel physical attraction — that’s just being human. Also, Jesus eventually died for our sins., and He’s pointing out in this passage that everyone has sinned, and that it’s not enough just to follow the letter of the law. The larger teaching from which that quote is taken provides important context. It’s not, “See, the Bible says that even thinking about sex makes you naughty and evil!”
    My character is not married, nor is the woman he’s lusting after in the fic. Nor am I married or in any other way committed to anyone. The passage applies to neither my characters nor myself. So she’s used it wrong.
    My apologies that my hurt feelings are still showing a bit.

  9. You have nothing to apologise for — I’d be pretty upset too if that was the kind of feedback I got on my fic. It must be especially frustrating to have one verse taken out of context as “proof” that you’re wrong and they’re right.

  10. See, batshit feedback doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m used to badshit feedback, and sometimes it’s even fun. But this is a friend blowing up at me, and that’s what got to me, and then what got to me even more was that everyone felt the need to take sides, and almost everyone took hers. She emailed me three times scolding me over the fic before she managed to get worked up enough about it to actually hurt my feelings instead of just annoy me, too.

  11. I’ve held this opinion myself for a long time. Even before I moved into LJ, when I was on email groups or just plain emailing friends, without context some jokes can be misinterpreted or someone thinks you’re angry when you’re not or saying something that you really aren’t. It’s tough. I’ve never found a real good answer other than to put out the fires if and when I can.

  12. What’s interesting is, the internet savvy know this can happen, and will let you explain, “Oh, I wasn’t angry at all!” But people who are not used to interacting with people in this medium (like internet dates), can go on indefinitely wondering why you said such a cruel and rude thing to them.

  13. Strangely enough, I often feel like I’m at an advantage on the internet, or at least that the playing field is finally level as far as communication goes. I’m not the type of person who picks up on subtle signals well, so an environment where all you really have to go on is words is okay for me. Plus, I can study peoples’ interactions and observe a lot more than I can in real life where I have to keep track of so many more things because there’s more input coming from different directions. So I think I’m actually able to understand things better and see more social patterns.

  14. No, I totally understand that. I feel very much at home in a medium where the communication is purely words, because I’d much rather communicate with people in writing than talking.
    What’s jarring, though, is when my words *fail* to communicate as well as they should with other people. It’s not something I’m used to.

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