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Cupcakes and Internets

I think no-one I know has recently made a fool of themselves on any e-mail list, so this is probably a good time to write this entry.

(Note:  If you have recently made a fool of yourself on a list, journal, MySpace, comments section, or dead stump, this post isn't about you.  Clearly not about you, as the previous paragraph would suggest.  Thanks.)

I've said before that when it comes to the internet, we're all five years old.  I'm actually revising that upwards - we're obnoxious eight year-olds, all "I know my rights!", "You're not the boss of me!" , and "I'm not tired!  I can stay up as late as I want!!".  Or I could revise it downwards to two, but most people on the 'nets have a slightly larger vocabulary, if admittedly not much more in the way of spelling skills.

(Man, I'd better not get a typo in this post after that joke.)

In the realm of cyberspace, we have to learn to grow up all over again, and, as we all found out the first time, being a grown-up isn't always all it's cracked up to be.  You don't get to post the posty post of righteous smackdown postiness whenever you want to, and walk away with no consequences.  You don't get to talk smack, make mean fun of people, or spew your fury over all and sundry just because you didn't get what you want without affecting your image.  Being an adult in the SCA, and enjoying all the adult privileges, (possible) importance, and (hopefully someday) power thereunto pertaining means acting like an adult all the time, not just when you feel like it.

I'm sure you are all on board with me so far, but I'm going to use a dieting metaphor to illustrate my point, since I like it:

When you're a kid, if someone puts a plate of thirty really great cupcakes in front of you, with frosting and sugar sprinkles and whatever you like in the cupcake line, and says "dig in", you do.  The concept of there possibly being consequences for mainlining 30 cupcakes (frosting three inches deep, enough sugar sprinkles to cause a three-year sugar high, etc.) simply isn't part of the equation; you're living in the minute, and at this particular minute, there are cupcakes to be eaten as fast as possible in case the adult changes their mind and takes them away.  The subsequent stomachache comes as a surprise.

When you're an adult, if someone puts a plate of thirty cupcakes (or whatever floats your boat) in front of you and says "dig in!", consideration of the consequences kicks in before you even take a single bite.  Will it ruin my diet?  Will I get a headache from the sugar?  Is the bliss of the cupcake eating worth the regret and recriminations later?  Am I going to give in anyway?  How will I deal with the fallout from all that eating?  Maybe I should only take a couple and limit my indulgence?

Adults have to make that kind of decision all the time.  Even on the Intarwebs, where the consequences aren't as immediately obvious as the mess from vomiting up thirty barely-chewed cupcakes.  Sometimes we bite before we realize what we've done; we're all human.  But adults realize that there is a price attached to even the most accidental bite; some of their hard-earned respect will be taken away from them, even if they made a silly mistake. 

A lot of people seem to approach the on-line arena as children - act on impulse, be surprised when things go sideways.  Yes, it would be satisfying to go up and tell Lord So-and-So* to his face that he's always screwed up autocratting events, and no-one wants him to do this one, and everyone hates him and really wishes he's just leave, but anyone with an ounce of adult  sense (or, y'know, decency) in them knows that's not the way an adult behaves. 

We know this, yet people do it on-line all the time.  I can't remember a week going by since SCA e-mail lists first started when I didn't hear about a "flame war" on some list or other.  It's really quite extraordinary that in almost ten years of the SCA being on-line in a major way, that we still haven't managed to work out how to communicate without giving into our cupcake-gorging impulses. 

Really.  I mean, really.

Nothing has ever been solved by creating drama; sure, it's a rush at the time, and everyone gets the impulse to just smash with the great big club of fury now and then, but as adults, we know that every time the club is raised,
the person wielding it will receive the most damage in the end.  Drama, and responding violently to drama, just gets everyone splattered with frosting, and those buttercream stains are a bitch to remove.

"But being an adult sucks sometimes", I hear you say.  "Can't I just let go and do it just this once?".

No.  It's human to screw up and do something you regret, but to go into something knowing (even on a barely conscious level) that you're saying to yourself  "fuck being an adult, I'm going to just let go" negates any shred of forgiveness people might have for your outburst.  Worse, it isn't too long before "Just this once" becomes a habit, and you're flying off the handle every six months or so.  Yes, being an adult sucks, but being known for throwing a wobbly whenever things don't go your way is much, much worse, trust me.  It also gets easier not to scream in public/on-line when you don't do it at all; it's much harder to behave if in the back of your head a little voice is going "c'mon, you haven't yelled in ages.  Do it.  Do it. Dooooo iiitttttttttttttttttttttttt".

And I know whereof I speak - most of you think of me as that icy, terrifying, controlled, evil mastermind that you have come to know and love, but underneath, I am a seething fireball of rage.  I write the most horrific e-mails in my head, or even on my (disconnected) computer, but I know I can't send them, no matter how provoked I feel.  Heck, I won't even write about them here; I keep this journal 99% public to remind me that if I get in the habit of being angry and impulsive, it will spill over into other areas of my life, and I've worked too hard to claw myself up to a level where I'm mostly okay with myself and my behaviour to let all that go just because it would feel good to tell Lady Whats-her-name**  what I really think of her.

Every time we say "I'm not going to be an adult, just this once", every time the temptation gets too much, we erase part of the path we have already travelled.  Once the fallout has ...um... fallen, you don't get to start back where you left off.  In fact, you don't even get to make that decision; everyone who watched you call Mistress Hoodie-whatsit*** a bitch because she told you not to do something has now decided for themselves how far you have reversed your progress.  It could be a couple of months, or it could be two years; you won't know, and it will be longer than you think you deserve.

Because you do deserve to be pushed back if you make a habit of blowing up; not because you hurt someone's feelings (though they may be understandably pissed off), but because someone who regularly decides to act like a child when they're angry is someone who cannot be trusted to make the right decisions at the most critical time.  When the shit goes down, we need cool heads in charge and on hand to douse the flames ( pinkleader  is a master at this.  Hi, pinkleader****!  *waves*).  If you watch the people (you don't have to like them, just observe them, as if you're stalking skittish wildebeest on the Serengeti)***** who hold and keep the top positions of real responsibility in the SCA and handle those responsibilites well, you'll see people who keep a straight head even when everyone around them is screaming.

This is not to say they don't get angry themselves; they do.  But they save it for private moments with people they can trust.

I think there's a part of all of us that thinks at one time or another "it would be so great to be important, because then I could smack down all the people that piss everyone off so bad", but if you'll find that if you make it to the level of importance where everyone will listen to you and respect you, it's because you let those childish impulses go.  And people will be able to rely on you to be cool, calm, and gentle in your dealings with even the most hysterically wrong and angry people.  They may even trust you to be able to see that the hysterical shouting angry person that no-one wants to listen to because they're rude is the one who's in the right.

And if you make a mistake, and bite before thinking?  Apologize.  Apologize sincerely, and apologize often.  And mean it - you made a mistake, now is the time to suck it up and ask for forgiveness.  What most people don't understand is that honestly admitting you were wrong is a tremendously powerful force for good; it also sets an excellent example for all the drama llamas out there.  However, don't make a habit of screwing up, or no-one will take your apology seriously after the third time you do the exact same thing that pissed everyone off the first time.  Make the effort to change your knee-jerk responses if they get you in hot water.

That's when it definitely sucks to be an adult, but the suck is short term.  The payoff is huge.

*Not a real person.
**Also not a real person, but you knew that.
***Totally not a real person. *innocent*
****A real person.
*****Trust me, I know that metaphor sucks.  It makes me giggle when I think about it though, so it's staying in.


( 73 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Oct. 7th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
that's one of the things I really respect about pinkleader, the fact she is so neutral and always publicly so together.
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:27 pm (UTC)
Everyone loves Pinkleader (it are a fact).
(no subject) - thatpotteryguy - Oct. 7th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - isenglass - Oct. 7th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pinkleader - Oct. 7th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
I am always open for linking - public posts, and all that. :)
(no subject) - hsifeng - Oct. 7th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ornerie - Oct. 7th, 2008 02:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:27 pm (UTC)
The little voice in the back of my head sounds a bit like Bob saying "Come on! You know you want to."

My QoC, so not a possibility.
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC)
Bob has a QoC. I'm just sayin'. :)
(no subject) - theodorad - Oct. 7th, 2008 12:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mistressrhi - Oct. 7th, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC)
Personally, I prefer the online flame wars to the behind the scenes backstabbing. I guess I just like to know where the knives are coming from right away. Other than that, great post.
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
Perhaps you are unaware that, on the Serengeti, it is usually the wildebeasts doing the stalking...you know, the ones in polycotton tunics and lycra belly-dance outfits...
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC)
Hah!! Lycra needs love too!
(no subject) - midnightpeapod - Oct. 7th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lorebubeck - Oct. 10th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - heatermcca - Oct. 7th, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC)
...and for the executive summary: one "oh shit" wipes out the pile of "attaboys".
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:01 pm (UTC)
oh... may I direct a few folks to this post?...
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
Yup. (see above). :)
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
Poor maligned llamas - no, not the human versions.... It's like whenever someone curses, you know? and then, like says, "oh! Excuse my French." Like, you know? *tongue firmly in cheek*

Llama wool can be sooooooo comfy. ;)

Yah, so I'm a fiber fiend who likes llamas (the drama free kind) and alpacas, and sheep, and angora bunnies, and angora goats and...and...and

Must have my daily dose of fiber or I get cranky. Just ask my poor long-suffering husband. ;)

Great post and highly relevant. :)
Oct. 7th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
I have to say, I too dislike the "drama llama" moniker. Isn't Drama Queen good enough. I've never seen a dramatic llama in my life, though many an excitable Queen.

We loves the fiber too, though pre-spun in my world.
*minor hijack* - judithsewstoo - Oct. 7th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
I've found that without really meaning to, I put more stock in the way people represent themselves online than how they are in person. How you behave when you feel anonymous is the essence of character.

On the other hand, it does nothing for my misanthropy.
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
I agree. If you’re nice to me in person, is that because you’re nice, or because you don’t have the protection of the computer screen? I can give some on people being a little rude on line, because of the lack of inflection, etc. But when they’re constantly assholes, I’m pretty sure that’s their real personality.
(no subject) - midnightpeapod - Oct. 7th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - etinterrapax - Oct. 7th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Oct. 8th, 2008 10:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:22 pm (UTC)
Great post! I LOVE, love (love!!!) the cupcake analogy. As someone who barfed up her share of cupcakes in her early years (how's THAT for visual imagery, hahahah)...it describes the process PERFECTLY. And at some point...(hopefully) you grow up and develop some restraint.
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)
Well said! This should be required reading for anyone venturing into the black hole of the internet, weekly reading after that and, oh hell, daily reading for some folks I know :).
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
You're talking about me! I just know you're talking about meeeeeeeee!!!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!


Once upon a time, about 12 or 13 years ago, I had a rival in a reenactment group. She disliked me personally and she would oppose anything I did or tried to do. When I presented research, she would poke holes in it. In essence she made me the researcher I am today because I had to make all of my arguments water-tight to get past her scrutiny.

One day, she walked up to me with her hands on her hips and said, "I've been nasty and unfair to you since the beginning. I don't expect you to forgive me, but I want to apologise."

I shocked the shit out of her by hugging her and we soon became friends. We still are friends to this day.

It takes guts to apologise. Really big huge cojones. I admire someone who can put aside their ego like that. The bigger the ego, the more I admire them for apologising.
Oct. 8th, 2008 10:05 am (UTC)
Silly - I only talk about you behind your back.

But that does give me an idea for another post... *evil grin*
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
Most excellently put!

(Of course, I'd *never* behave like that....)
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
One of the really wierd things about this stuff...
A.L, I agree whole heartedly with your post.

I like looking at some of these "Debates" a bit after the drama has settled. What I've usually found is that both sides tend to feel fundamentally insecure about the issue, or else the issue is a placeholder for some other issue that they feel insecure about. Despite insecurity, people feel justified in their own actions (rationalization being a powerful tool to prevent accountability). Usually, both sides end up walking away feeling terribly abused.

The naive child in me keeps screaming at me from the back of my head, shouting "Why can't they just get along? Can't they see their differences of opinion are irrelevant beyond the moment? If they just stopped being insecure, and reached across the divide to offer a helping hand and constructive non-demeaning assistance, everyone would be better off." Then I remember that we are all still 8 year old children inside... And having the emotional intelligence to hear the child, but ignore him or her when we are engaging in adult activities... Priceless.
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)
Re: One of the really wierd things about this stuff...
I always work with the thought that as soon as I start to justify my behaviour (to myself or others), I have stepped over the line. If I have to make excuses for my behaviour, I have let the sulky 8 year-old win.

The 8 year-old may not win. Except for cupcakes. I loves me some cupcakes.

Edit: Argh. Justify. What was I just saying about speling skilz?

Edited at 2008-10-07 03:40 pm (UTC)
Oct. 7th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
This is also something I am working on - not so much the seething rage as the Does Not Suffer Fools Well angle. It helps to repeat to myself, very often, that the fool in question is Yours Truly. Painting one's self in a bad light brings consequences - and indeed, some people never forget or forgive, apologies or no.

Although about apologies - a sincere apology should only be offered AFTER best effort at reparation and/or other penitence or amelioration has been attemped. Just spouting off the insincere repitition of "I'm sorry!" especially followed by some codicil of 'but it's actually YOUR own fault!' does not mean you automatically should get a free pass on the offense.

I am trying to progress to the level that my apologies are as sincere and heartfelt as when I give my word. This means that most (beyond the level of oops! sorry I bumped you there in the crowd) are considered, the exact reparation desired is inquired about, and the apology is offered as the offense was comitted - publicly, if I was so foolish. This means, thankfully, that I am getting in the habit of being much more careful and considerate. The frequency of my needing to apologize has decreased, and I think people are more willing to forgive after some effort in trying to make it as right as is possible is done.

Although, of course, even if you do try to make it right, you are NEVER entitled to forgiveness in return for best efforts and sincere apology. You can hope for such, but the person having suffered your original foolishness has to decide if you should be forgiven or not. The folks who insist merely voicing the word sorry grants them the unimpeded right to be forgiven utterly don't seem to understand this.
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
I wonder what my subconcious thinks I have done as this is the second time in about a week that this concept has jumped out at me. The other instance was re-reading Lois Bujold's "A Civil Campaign".

I do agree it is the right of the offended to decide if an apology merits forgiveness or not.
(no subject) - baronessv - Oct. 7th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Oct. 7th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - albreda - Oct. 7th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ziactrice - Oct. 7th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - femkederoas - Oct. 10th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Oct. 7th, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
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