Monday, August 27, 2012

The world is awash with overly helpful people...

If you're a regular reader of this blog (and I know there are a few of you out there), you may have read my past posts about "overly helpful people".  Those posts were about a specific person in my online life who repeatedly annoyed me by treating me as if I've got shit for brains.  I'm happy to report that Ms. Overly Helpful hasn't been so annoying lately, mainly because I deleted her from Facebook and the Web site where we used to interact has gone kerfluey.

However, because I seem to need "special help", a couple of other overly helpful folks have come out of the woodwork.  People who are overly helpful seem to pop up like gray hairs.  You pluck one from your life and two more show up in its place.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, I ranted about Dr. Lisa Masterson on The Doctors.  I posted on Facebook about how it annoys me when people try to guilt men into having vasectomies.  One of my friends commented that she had guilted her husband into having one... but then added that he was happy to go under the knife.  That's not at all what I was talking about, of course.  I'm not saying that men shouldn't have vasectomies; I'm saying that they should not be pressured to have one.  There is a difference.

So I mentioned what happened with my husband and how he ended up getting snipped under duress.  The discussion was going well, until one particularly "helpful" person said this...

"'s really none of my business, but you've put it out there about your husband and his exwife. Ahhmmm, with my own experience, and not knowing the exwife or your everybody, people try to make the best decision they can with the information they have at that time. There is no shame in it, and there are decisions that can not be reversed. It's not healthy to hold grudges. Your Husband must have married her for a reason. It's as much his fault as hers for his feelings. He can look back and blame her (along with you) but it's over and done with now."

I won't lie. This comment pissed me off on several levels. First off, the commenter admits that it's none of her business, then says she doesn't know the people involved, other than what I've posted about it. Then she applies a rather general statement about how people "do the best they can at the time" and accuses me of holding a grudge against my husband's ex wife.

Folks, it's true I do hold a grudge against my husband's ex, but my feelings about men being pressured to get fixed have very little to do with her. I don't think it's right to pressure someone to have elective surgery that they may end up regretting. I would have that opinion even if my husband and his ex wife had never met. It's true that my husband's situation got me thinking about the issue in the first place, but ultimately, my feelings about coerced vasectomies have nothing to do with my grudge against his ex.

Moreover, I have to wonder what this commenter hoped to accomplish. Does she think that advising me to "let it go" will result in a suddenly peaceful psyche? Like, I just needed someone to tell me that because I certainly couldn't come up with that solution on my own. I really felt belittled by that comment, especially since it came from someone who doesn't really know my backstory. Believe me, it would be great if I could simply forget about all the hurt and anxiety surrounding a person who did her best to drive a wedge between me and my husband and alienated his kids so much that they disowned their father and his side of the family. But healing has to take place in its own time. It's not productive to tell someone to just "get over it", especially when you're not the one who is living with their pain.

In any case, I left my "friend" a rather measured response, ending with the observation that my mental health is my own to abuse. She told me to "have at it", which was probably a much wiser suggestion than "get over it" was.

So then I decided to write about this issue on another forum... I laid out my thoughts in an essay, which was mainly about why I don't think people should be pressuring men into getting snipped. I also wrote about my encounter with the "overly helpful" friend and my observations about her comment about my mental health, which I didn't think had much to do with the original topic.

I got a comment from another "helpful person" who apparently decided that I must not understand how the Internet, and Facebook in particular, works...

on the subject of Facebook, when one puts a status out there, the nature of FB is such that all who see it really are invited to pipe in (same as a comment thread, or a message board, or in an open meeting).

And, as happens in every one of those forums, people will sometimes say inappropriate things, things others would rather not hear, off-topic things, things that are just plain wrong, things that are offensive, etc etc.

It's the nature of 'conversation' - once a topic is tossed open to others, the starter frequently can't reign it back in anymore... It has a life of its own.

My point - if you're going to post a status on FB, people will pipe in. All kinds of people (although you can control who has access to your posts). It's the nature of FB.

Duh.  Of course I know that people sometimes make inappropriate or unhelpful comments.  In fact, I would venture to say that this overly helpful person is guilty of doing just that.  Like most people beyond puberty, I don't need to be told how Internet communication works.  I've been using the Internet on a daily basis for well over a decade.  Moreover, I've been on the planet for 40 years.  This kind of shit doesn't just happen online; it also happens in person.  So you could say that I've encountered inconsiderate people more times than I can count in my 40 years.  I don't need an explanation of how that works because I've seen it happen over and over.  My response, again, was measured.  I basically said that I know that sometimes people say inappropriate things on Facebook.  It also happens on other sites.  ;-)

This person also seems to be telling me to "get over it", which again, is belittling.  Obviously, if I wanted to "get over it", I wouldn't have posted in the first place.  The issue was important enough to me to write about it.  You don't have to agree that it's important, but you also don't have to invalidate my feelings by telling me to "get over it".  If that's how you feel, it's probably more helpful not to say anything at all.

Of course this situation might seem like a minor issue to most people.  That doesn't negate my right or ability to bitch about it if I want to.  To be fair, it also doesn't negate other peoples' rights to comment about the bitching.  I'd just appreciate it if people wouldn't try to feed their egos by treating me like I'm dumb.

No one likes to have their feelings discounted.  Most people would rather you didn't insult their intelligence.  I don't have a problem with people who genuinely want to help, but I do get annoyed by those who are "helpful" by being condescending.  You might think I'm overreacting.  If you were to simply tell me that, I'd probably agree with you and laugh.  But responding to me as if I don't have a basic understanding of adult communication is insulting and isn't likely to be received in a spirit of fun.  I'm not dumb; I'm just kind of neurotic and overly sensitive.  What really sucks, though, is that if you call people on their condescension, they treat you like you're being oversensitive and again, just need to "get over it" and "let it go".

I think "overly helpful people" often tend to be people who have a need to feel needed and helpful.  They bolster themselves by trying to appear above it all.  I think a lot of them want to be looked up to and admired for their "wisdom".  And those who are actually wise should be looked up to for that reason.  However, it's not that wise to state the obvious, offer uninformed or unasked for opinions, or try to psychoanalyze another person that you don't actually know that well.  I'd venture to guess that most people don't appreciate acquaintances telling them how the world works or offering them an amateur psychoanalysis.  If I wanted that, I'd make an appointment with the appropriate mental health professional who has at least been vetted by a state health agency and has a valid license.    

Anyway... I suppose the solution is to become a complete recluse and get off the Internet... Or at least start posting uninteresting status updates on Facebook.

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