My actual least favorite things people do on the Internet are things like identity theft and hacking and being a child predator (or any kind of predator, really). The things listed below are just things that really annoy me. So maybe they’re more “Most Annoying” rather than “Least Favorite.” Whatever.
Just to get this out of the way, a disclaimer:
10. Posting about how annoying some people are on the Internet
The Internet is optional. One can live a full, meaningful life without ever even knowing what a Pinterest is (or so I’ve heard). My parents do. My parents live on a farm and do not have Internet access at their house. The only time they go online is when I take my laptop with broadband capabilities home and force them to look at something -usually a Pampered Chef product or baby pictures posted by someone with whom I went to high school on “The Facebook,” as my mom calls it. They do crazy (read: wonderful) things like go outside and grow food and make jam and build furniture and feed the deer and sip coffee on the porch while they watch the sunset. They accept my Internet addiction, because they watch hours and hours of HGTV, so they understand obsession. They just don’t participate in this particular obsession themselves. And they like it that way.
So I know that life without Internet is possible, and thus that annoyance with people on the Internet is somewhat self-inflicted, which means that this post has the potential to be annoying itself. Negativity in any form is bound to annoy someone. So if that someone is you, feel free to skip this entry. Because one thing that is not annoying about the Internet? There’s always the option to log off.
9. Chronic retweeting (RT…ing)
Dear People I Follow on Twitter,
If I cared what the ten people you retweeted in the last hour had to say, I would be following them. If I am following them, I already know what they said (you know, because I’m following them), and I don’t need you to repeat it. I follow some pretty funny people, but it probably wasn’t so funny that I needed to read it twice. I follow you, because I care what YOU have to say. I understand the occasional retweet, but if the majority of your posts are just regurgitating what others say, perhaps you’ve missed the point of having your own account. Twitter – you’re doing it wrong.
8. Unwanted advances
On the one hand, it can be flattering when someone finds you attractive and wishes to pursue a relationship with you. On the other, much larger hand, if the point of a person’s post was not to say, “Look at me and how attractive I am,” (which for the record, you will never get from me personally) then that very public forum is perhaps not the place to comment on it, much less proposition said person for a date, hook-up, etc. For example, I had a friend who is a yoga instructor recently post a video of herself doing a headstand, because it was a personal milestone for her, and she wanted to inspire and help others reach that milestone as well. She received a lot of kudos for her work, but she also received some pretty gross comments on how well she filled out her yoga pants. Yes, she knows the Internet is creepy. Yes, she knows that posts like that (or any post, ever, really) run the risk of attracting creepy comments. But focusing on what she could do to avoid the situation sounds a lot like blaming the victim to me. Just as it is not okay to rape someone just because her skirt is shorter than conventional skirt length (whatever that is), it’s not okay to post flirtatious or lascivious comments online where they are clearly not welcome. And if it’s not specifically invited (with actual come-hither-esque words or a duck face), it’s okay to assume that it’s not welcome.
7. TMI on my Facebook feed
The people with whom I interact on Facebook vary greatly in their familiarity to me. I’ve met most of them in person, but some I have not met. Some of them are my best friends – either face-to-face or online – but I know little more about others than their names and what their Farmville farms looks like. I don’t use a lot of privacy settings on Facebook, because I don’t post something on Facebook if I would mind anyone in the world (e.g., all my supervisors, the director of Housing, UNT Dean of Students, some of my students, just about everyone with whom I graduated high school, some of my parents’ friends, etc.) reading and posting a response to it. I would like for my Facebook friends, particularly those who are not close friends, to behave likewise. I would like for my acquaintances to realize that my Facebook feed is not the place for minute details about their medical conditions or a rundown of their intense family drama. This is what privacy settings, blogs, and therapists are for.
Facebook has a lot of privacy options. You can set up custom groups and choose which group you want as a post’s audience. Learn it; love it; live it. But that is not enough. One must also accept the inconvenient truth that the Internet is not private. I’ll say it again. The Internet. Is. Not. Private. Just because you are careful to place a comment under a particular filter does not mean that everyone in that filter will notice the privacy setting and keep his/her mouth shut. Their blunder is probably not malicious; they probably just didn’t think about it, because they saw it on the Internet, and the Internet is not private. While I would like to believe that certain social graces and discretion that seem like common sense to me are universal, I have to admit that Voltaire was right – common sense is not actually all that common. For example, I once posted something under a filter that I later found quoted by someone in that filter on her own status, and wanting to give credit where credit was due, she tagged me in it. I caught it before a mutual friend of ours who would not have taken it well saw it, and she graciously removed it, but that was a close one. As stressful as that experience was, I’m glad that I had it, because it taught me a valuable lesson. You know where this is going. Say it out loud with me – the Internet is not private!
Blogs are a different animal. Sure, it’s still the Internet, which is not private, but a blog is a space where one can vent feelings and rant and really work some things out. Write about your medical procedures and intense family drama there. If I want (and your privacy settings allow me to), I will read it there and respond, hopefully with the level of compassion you’re needing. I read quite a few bloggers who often post very personal experiences in very public posts, because their hope is that others will benefit from hearing their experience, and I love them so much for it. It’s a brave, generous thing to do. But public posts of private matters are not for everyone. You can’t control other people’s responses. Sure, you can delete and block the trolls, but at that point, the damage to your psyche has already been done. Before making such posts, it’s important to know what you can and cannot handle, and if reading critical, argumentative, or your-frustrating-adjective-of-choice responses will do you more damage than good, then please consider making it a private post, hashing it out in a Word document, or going old school with a handwritten journal. Take care of you.
Speaking of taking care of you, if the responses to your posts leave you feeling more alone, misunderstood, or confused, this should be a sign unto you that perhaps the issue you’re confronting merits a level of assistance that your Facebook flist simply cannot provide. It’s not that your friends don’t care or don’t want to help; they just don’t know how, because they haven’t been properly trained to do so. And if there are people on your flist who are properly trained to help, schedule an appointment with one of them, because it’s rude to ask someone to work for free. But do get help. In case someone has never told you this, I’m going to tell you now: there is no shame in therapy or the possible subsequent drug prescription. Just as most of us would not hesitate to seek medical assistance for chronic physical pain, it is equally wise to seek assistance for chronic psychological pain. If cost is an issue, you still have some options. Universities with psychology programs tend to offer services at reduced rates, even to non-students. If you are religious, chances are that there is a minister nearby within your faith group who also has extensive training in counseling, and they often have reduced rates or may even have the financial backing of a church so that they can counsel people free of charge. You don’t have to face problems alone, even if they go beyond the expertise of your friends.
6. Using text message shorthand on anything other than text messages
I’m not as strict about this as some of my friends (read: English majors) are. I will occasionally “lol” or “omg” in a tweet or on a blog post (in fact, I might have done so in this particular post). But if I have to say a message out loud to figure out what in the world the writer means, it’s annoying. I like for people to save texting shorthand for texting, and I barely tolerate it there. Regular use of such things in your blog or other online writing pretty much guarantees that I will not be a regular reader. It’s “you’re” or “your,” not “ur.” Using “ur” makes me suspect that you’re too illiterate to know and too lazy to learn the difference between the proper words. Closely related to this is the failure to capitalize where capitalization is necessary (as defined by standard English guidelines). Things like “i was so excited that my friend roxie came to see me when i was in charleston!!!” are not okay. You are not e. e. cummings, so stop it.
5. Causing drama on Pinterest
I expect a certain amount of drama on Facebook. I have even been known to participate in it, because sometimes, I need for people to hear that they are wrong, particularly if they are Republican and/or in a fraternity (and yes, I have many non-annoying Republican and fraternity friends. They’re not the ones I’m talking about here, so just settle down). I expect – nay, demand – drama in fandom, because that’s just how twelve-year-olds (a formidable subset of fandom) are supposed to behave, and it’s freaky when kids try to act older than they are. I even expect drama with blogging, because people get really upset about the things that other people think, observe, and eat, and their voices are important, too (one might suggest that these people get their own damn blogs and project their own damn voices there. I’m not saying that I’m suggesting that, of course. But one might.).
But Pinterest is my happy place. Pinterest is where I go to escape the drama. Pinterest is my proverbial farm away from the farm. It’s a magical place where I collect thousands of recipes for ooey, gooey treats, and then I collect thousands of ideas for how to work off the calories gained from eating said treats. It’s where I can pin things that I think are funny and things with pictures of beautiful men at whom I like to gawk and inspirational things said by awesome people whom I admire, and no one has to care or follow me or comment at all. I like the likes and nice comments (see #2 on my favorite things that people do on the Internet list), but if you comment on my post with something argumentative or critical (even if it’s constructive or even if, technically, you are right), I will delete that post. And if you don’t get the hint, I will report and block you. Anyone who wants to do so can follow my boards, but that does not obligate me to follow theirs, because some of them often say things that piss me off, and I am already putting up with their bullshit on Facebook. I don’t need the double dose.
4. Facebook profiles for children
The most obvious example of this is children having profiles themselves. For me, the earliest age people should be trusted to interact online – and more importantly, for others to be trusted to interact with them – is 16. And still I would mama-bird a 16-year-old like crazy, because the world is broken, and there are a lot of batshit crazy people out there who want to do dirty, wrong things to your precious, unsuspecting lamb of a child.
But the even-weirder thing for me? People posting as their children, seen often with babies and toddlers who can’t talk or type, so you know they’re not to blame for what they’re “saying.” To be fair, I understand the temptation to do this. When friends have children, it is not uncommon for me to visit and be perfectly happy spending an hour or two just watching the wonder that is a brand new person experiencing all the things that we take for granted for the first time. During that hour or two, it is also not uncommon for one of us to do a voice-over for what the child might be saying if s/he knew words and how to say them. But the things that are funny to sleep-deprived new parents and the friends who love them enough to be entertained by staring at their spawn for two hours are not funny to the world at large. They’re annoying. They’re the very worst kind of cutesy – the kind that makes people (and by people, I do mean me) exclaim, “UGH! ARGH! Blech!” and scroll past quickly, lest any of that vile syrup taint the rest of my day. Just say no, and go watch your baby while they sleep, because there is a small window of time where your child will not think that that’s creepy, and you’re missing it while you update their Facebook status.
3. Animal abuse presented as comedy
If your dog gets spooked when you walk around the corner, or your cat freaks out when there is a laser beam, or they do something silly or cute, or you happen to catch them on film running away from a bird protecting its nest, that’s one thing. Post away. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about intentionally putting an animal in harm’s way as a means of entertaining yourself and others. That’s abuse, and people who do this should be prosecuted and heavily fined and/or jailed, not rewarded with “lol’s.” All animal abuse pisses me off, but it is especially infuriating when animals are put in situations where they are hurt or struggling to preserve their lives, and some asshole is just standing there, making it happen or letting it happen, and laughing about it. Do not comment and defend these people. They are not just “acting like jerks,” or “making bad choices.” It is not a temporary lapse of judgment. To do something like this, an individual has to be a straight-up bad, demented person. Period.
Occasionally, I will ask for feedback on my writing. In those specific instances, I don’t mind getting the inevitable “too long; didn’t read” (or “tl;dr” for short) criticism. I know I write long posts, and while I’m not likely to stop writing them, I understand if that is a factor in someone’s decision to read or not. In fact, I go ahead and assume that when I don’t get a lot of response on a long post, tl;dr is the specific reason why, and I’m at peace with that.
But for someone to volunteer this criticism, randomly and unbidden, is totally unwelcome. It’s like rejecting someone’s company before they even ask you to join them. “Just in case you were thinking of asking me to go somewhere with you, I’m going to go ahead and tell you that I’m not interested in you or your conversation.” In fact, it’s not just like that. It’s EXACTLY that.
The sheer amount of asshattery a person must possess to go to the trouble to scroll all the way through a ridiculously long post just to point out that s/he did not read it is staggering. Just don’t read it. No comment is necessary, or in my case, even wanted. Just scroll past peacefully.
Don’t be a dick about it.
1. Writing ridiculously long posts and complaining when people don’t read/respond/respond the way the author wants them to respond
Don’t get me wrong – I am a big, big fan of ridiculously long posts, on account-a I have been known to write them on occasion (and by “on occasion,” I do mean “pretty much all the time”). But I am also a human being with a life, so I understand that reading said posts isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, or, even if it is, that their boss might appreciate it if they accomplish something else that day other than reading and responding to my ridiculously long post. As a rational person, I also understand that it’s not personal when they don’t read everything that I ever write, even if they are close, personal friends of mine. People have other things to do (i.e., lives), and that’s okay. When people whine that they are not receiving enough or the right kind of Internet love, I want to find a way to lean through the Internet and thump them on the noggin in classic could’ve-had-a-V8 style and remind them that the whole world isn’t about them, because clearly, such a reminder is in order.