I enjoy watching other people have arguments on the internet. All the fun of the fight, without actually getting hurt yourself. It can be immense amounts of fun.
After watching one such fight on Twitter recently – which cumulated in a load of deleted tweets and a half-assed apology – the person involved tweeted the following immediately afterwards:
“Spend time with people you love. Interact with the world directly. Climb/lift/eat/enjoy something. Run. Read. Play. Cry. Smile.
Once you’ve finished vomiting, there are all kinds of issues you could take with that. It seems to be a plea for the reader to step aside from the internet and do other things instead… ignoring the fact that on the internet I still spend time with people I love, read, play, cry, and smile.
If we want to take things further, I’d point out that for some people – disabled, physically ill, or with mental health issues – being told to climb, lift, or run instead of spending time online with people who care about you is not only thoroughly ridiculous, but actively harmful.
And to get philosophical for a moment, the phrase “interact with the world directly” sets off alarm bells in my head. As though there isn’t something direct about how we can interact on social media. And I’ve walked through real places that I should have appreciated in a complete daze. Being there doesn’t always mean that you’re there. Some of the most engaged I’ve ever been with the world has been online.
But all that isn’t the worst thing about this tweet. The mistake here is that this person took their own bad behaviour… and projected it outwards. They knew they’d behaved ridiculously, and clearly thought that stepping away from the net for a while was best for them – which is a perfectly valid choice. But to make themselves feel better, they decided to turn what was best for them into some kind of motto for good living for everyone. A motto which certainly suited them at that particular moment… but is not a general guide to life.
To repeat: that tweet is not actually about helping others. It’s simply about making themselves feel better. It’s merely a useless platitude which is too simplistic to be truly useful to anyone.
My advice would be: when you’ve screwed up, sometimes you should wallow in your mistake. Not for long – doing that can get very unpleasant indeed. (At some point I need to stop beating myself up for mistakes I made twenty years ago, but that’s my own issue which I need to work on.) But sitting back for a moment and simply appreciating your error, rather than turning it into some kind of grand teachable moment for the world, is often the best option. Learn the lesson you need to learn, not paper over your cracked ego by giving out useless platitudes.
Of course, I’m not saying nobody can ever give advice for life. That would not only be utterly ludicrous, but considering this article, ridiculously hypocritical. I’m just saying you don’t need to leap straight to the teachable moment when you’ve fucked up… and that teachable moment needs to be carefully considered, not an instant reaction to your own personal circumstances.
Sometimes, when you’ve behaved like a bit of a dick, the only thing the world needs from you is to recognise that you’ve behaved like a bit of a dick.