Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Coexisting with Jerks

Most people one meets are reasonably nice - or fake it well. Sadly, there are exceptions, and the Internet seems to give those exceptions license to behave as badly as they can. Case in point: my friend,* Casey Liss, who is one of the three hosts of Accidental Tech Podcast. As the title suggests, the podcast is a tech show, but the guys occasionally veer off into other territory, including their personal lives. Some listeners apparently don’t like this, which is their prerogative.

Then Casey shared this particular piece of feedback - anonymous feedback, of course.
Listening to Marco and Casey droll on and on [sic - I presume the listener meant “drone on and on,” but it’s fascinating to me how many angry people are also bad at basic communications skills] about their sh**** defective kids is the worst thing to have happen to you on a long commute where you can’t play with your phone to change the track. Worst 30 minutes of my life.
Casey provides a few more choice examples of these kinds of uncalled-for comments, but the above quote is the epitome of the genre: ugly, with unnecessary profanity, and taking a cheap shot at young children, along with the general level of whininess about content.

It’s a widespread phenomenon that crosses genres and political boundaries. The anonymous trolls of GamerGate. The (usually) anonymous hate mail that conservative columnists such as Michelle Malkin receive. And neither side in the Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards nonsense has distinguished itself.

Now, everyone has bad days, and I’d hate to be judged on my ugliest behavior, but I’d venture that 95% of us are decent people and, of the rest, 80% fake it well. It’s that last one percent that feels compelled to spew vile insults and generally make lives miserable.

Why are you wasting your time on this? (Part 1)

Our anonymous jerk complains that he lost 30 minutes of his life listening to something he didn’t want to. Well, get a grip. If you know you’re going to be in a car unable to change what you’re listening to, either accept that some minutes are not going to be to your liking or find something you know you’ll like. I don’t listen to podcasts in the car for this reason; if I find a section I don’t find interesting, I’ll skip it. Instead, this guy is so annoyed at the 30 minutes he can’t get back that he wastes still more time writing a nasty comment.

Why are you wasting your time on this? (Part 2)

Of course, one might ask why I’m wasting my time on a low-life. The answer is that I don’t like bullies, and that’s what this guy is. He’s taking advantage of the anonymity afforded by the feedback form and the fact that Casey was likely to be offended, quite rightly, at the cheap shots at his family.

This is my little reminder that we can’t do anything about people like this out there on the Internet, but we can control our own reactions to trolls. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Easy to say, hard to do, I know. This kind of crap comes with the territory, though, and the more listeners a podcast has, the more of these reactions the podcast will get. The response isn’t to eliminate feedback; feedback is useful, and polite feedback should be cherished. But vitriolic comments are just noise. Don’t pay attention to them, and don’t let them ruin your day.

* Okay, he’s not really my friend, never met him, he’s just some guy with a podcast. I spend 90 minutes or more each week with these three guys, which is more time than I spend with a lot of actual people I know and like. It’s a strange world we live in. Still, Casey seems like a likable human being.

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