Friday, September 25, 2009

A little paranoid, are we?

Beth's traffic jam Yeah, I'm talking to you.

One of the hazards of blogging, one that any of us who have been at this for a while have experienced, is the strange phenomenon in which someone thinks you are writing specifically about them. It hasn't happened to me often, but I've gotten an occasional email from someone wondering if I was writing about them. They've always been friendly in tone, more apologetic than anything, wondering if something they had written in a comment had offended me. I'm always flummoxed when I get such responses, and I usually email them back with an emphatic "No, not at all!"

It's always a good lesson, though, to be reminded that sometimes things can be misconstrued to an extreme degree. I was exchanging emails with someone about this recently, a long-time blogger, and she wrote that it's been her experience that there is often an underlying feeling of guilt in such a situation; something we've written has struck a nerve in someone, and they believe that you were targeting them specifically. I doubt if that's true in all cases, but probably in some. Writing is the poorest form of communication (although I find it the most entertaining) because it takes away body language, tone of voice, and subtle innuendo. It's not always easy to express yourself in writing, and it can be a challenge to retain clarity while still getting your point across.

For the most part, I write about things in general terms, trying to look at the human condition rather than targeting a specific person. I'll write about people in the news, but I'm always specific when it comes to that. If I want to address someone in particular, I will usually send them an email or, rarely, leave an additional comment here. You won't see me dishing dirt about fellow bloggers here, mainly because I really don't operate that way. Everyone seems pretty cool and even-keeled here, at least as far as I can tell. After all, this isn't high school.

Caution sign - blogging Of course, I suppose there might be a few flying under the radar that are raging paranoiacs or obsessives and believe that everything I write is somehow a special message just to them. All I can say to them is that it's not all about you. I've been pretty lucky in not attracting an inordinate amount of such people, knock on wood. (I hope I didn't just jinx myself.) I will break with protocol and send a special message to any of those types of people who happen to be reading: I hate to break it to you, but my life does not revolve around you, and chances are good that I am not writing about you. If you choose to continue to believe that I am doing so, your paranoia and obsession may be getting the better of you. (I’m also not the sole resident of South Bend. There are over 100,000 of us. Private joke.)

I do believe that the vast majority of instances in which someone thought I was writing about them were innocent misunderstandings. Perhaps I inadvertently and randomly hit upon something pertinent to their situation. (Sort of like Michael Scott spreading false rumors in "The Office," and accidentally hitting upon the true one, that Pam and Jim are having a baby. I love that show!) Such misunderstandings are easily rectified by sending me an email, and I will respond and reassure you that I did not have you in mind when I wrote whatever I wrote. For those who consistently believe that I am addressing them or their situation in particular, well...that seems a little egotistical to me. It's a safe bet that you do not hold such an important place in my life, and I'd also be willing to wager that it is wishful thinking on your part. Almost everyone I encounter here is reasonable and super-cool, and I consider most to be friends…but it's that occasional paranoid loon who can really make you wonder what goes wrong when it comes to some people's internal wiring.

Beth's BBQ (Please note that this sign is just a joke, based on the age-old question of a wife asking her husband, “Do you think I look fat in these pants?”)

I'm not talking about simple neuroses or personal issues; we all have those to deal with in our lives. I'm not talking about those who disagree with my opinions; that's your right, but I appreciate civility if you choose to voice your own opinions here. (A better option would be to voice them on your own blog—that way you can be as vociferous as you like.) I'm talking about those who seem to hate me, yet they just can't get enough of me. That Anon a while back who wrote as multiple people, leaving comments that disparaged me or Ken...but couldn't seem to stay away. I honestly don't get the point of such behavior. I don't like everything I read, but sometimes I read things that I really disagree with because it makes for good blog fodder—it gets me to think about larger issues and situations. (It can also be highly entertaining, although sometimes I feel I need to take a bleach bath to clean off the slime.) I certainly don't feel the need to lash out at someone on their own blog, and I definitely don't believe that they are speaking directly to me, unless they make it obvious by quoting something that I've written.

I like this quote from Jean Cocteau: “What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you.”

Sounds like good advice, Jean, but I'll modify it a little. I enjoy flattery—who doesn't? I believe I'll choose to consider the source of criticism. If it comes from those who I know care about me and consider me a friend, I'll understand that it is constructive criticism and that they have my best interests at heart, or simply disagree with something I am saying. If it comes from those who want nothing more than to hate on me, my life, my family, my opinions, or my integrity, I will know that I'm doing something exactly right, and I shall cultivate it.


  1. Hmmm, very interesting~
    I doubt there is much I could add to that entry because you already touched on all the stepping stones, very nicely I might add.

  2. Actually, I do want to disagree with you. Yay, thats right, I'm stepping up to the plate. Batter Up~
    I do think writing can be an in-depth form of communication when used specifically to inform someone of what exactly you are thinking. Sometimes, without the distraction of body movement, pauses, and vocal interuptions, a person can convery everything they need via the written medium.
    However, for it to be truly effective, it does need a follow up 'talk' ~ Just my oh so very humble opinion. For example, I think this written entry is detailed, nicely conveyed and leaves little for the imagination to expand on. I had no doubts or confusion about your thoughts.

  3. LMAO!!!! That's a great post, Beth. Love the little signs around your community! Linda in Washington who should be out mowing her lawn.

  4. What, you made my traffic jam just to tell me I look fat in these pants? Dammit, Beth, what did I do to cause this?

    I have been very lucky with my blog, just getting the occasional spelling and/or fact correction. I, too, want a happy blog - I have enough turmoil and drama in the rest of my life, why encourage it here, too?

  5. I KNEW IT!!! You have been blogging about ME, every day, this entire time! AND YOU THINK I'M FAT!!!!

    Oh my God, I gotta get outta here!!! But I can't - the traffic is horrible for some reason...

    BTW - I love my Stalkers - and I love that I get to approve or reject their comments before they get published. It makes me feel all Dr. Evil and shit... :)


  6. LOL at David and Howard! They stole my comment ideas! :-)

    be well...

  7. GREAT POST! Interesting topic and I love the Signs!

    Enjoy your weekend.

    Hugs, Rose

  8. It has been fascinating to see how innocent entries have resulted in such anonymous and irrational comments/retorts :o)

  9. okay, how;s you do those pictures? They're hilarious! Great post too!

  10. damn it!

    that should've said, how'd you do... (slow down Doug, pay attention.. smell the roses!)

  11. I know what you mean and I won't get you started. lol

  12. I know you write about me all the time, but I love it! I have a SUPER big ego that can never be satisfied. BTW: Like dmappin, I must know how you do those pics. They're freaking hilarious!!!

  13. Well, you know that quote you used by Jean Cocteau is something that I have realized since I was a little boy. I am who I am.

    The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon would describe what happens when you mention something that someone thinks is about them or referencing their experience. I think that there is but ONE existence, and stuff randomly happens and affects us all basically the same.

    Or something like that. Anywho, being happy for a success or being broken hearted over a lost love or the passing of a loved one is generally the same. What we make of our individual circumstance is when our ego makes us feel as though it is unique to us ...

    ... and it is unique when it happens to everyone else as well.

  14. Great entry! Only once have I experienced this, and it really did blow my mind, because the person who thought I had referenced them was nowhere in my thoughts when I wrote what I wrote. But you DO seem to inspire the paranoics out there, don't you?

  15. You're so vain I bet you think this blog is about you, don't you? I usually have that issue with family thinking I am calling them out in front of the I interwebs. Um, no I was bitching about someone random, totally unrelated.

  16. Damn! I was going to ask if you were talking about ME - but David Dust beat me to it! ::snaps fingers, walks off in a minute-and-a-huff!::

  17. OK, so I've put on a few pounds. Big deal.

    Some folks seem to think everything is all about them.

    I'm not one of those folks. Blog on.

  18. I think you will always come across people with those feelings because a blogger's writing always have a target, a subject or focus on a particular issue. So there will always be someone that our point will hit. Some will take it too far to think a blogger is writing about them especially when it is a serious topic. Most times though it is never about them.

  19. My problem is similar. On my blog, I want to write about people -- their quirks and bad behavior as well as the good things about them -- because it is, after all, a blog about the people I meet. But I am reluctant to do so, lest they read it later and recognize themselves in situations that may upset them. Some day I'm going to write my book using a pseudonym and expose it all!

  20. Is this about me?

    I think it's about me.

    But then, if it isn't about me, does it even matter?


  21. Well Beth you are not alone apparently. Seems I have became very unpopular since I was giving updates on my SIL, age,neighbors, family but still have a few readers on my Day to Day blog. Don't think my rant on healthcare helped but so be it.

  22. Great post Beth! I had a "stalker" who posted mean comments on my journal when we were still over at AOL journals. It was a little wierd. Linda

  23. knowing you as i do, i totally believe that if you had anything to say to any of your friends, me included, you'd send an email using tact and kindness but still getting your point across. It is really easy for people to not get the point when they read the words but can not hear how a person means them.

  24. I feel so horrible, so guilt-ridden ... I'll bet you're singling me out in this post. What have I ever done to offend you other than pray for your Immortal Soul lest you and all of your readers end up roasting in Hell. And trust me, anyone who doesn't think or act like I do will definitely end up burning in Hell because that's just the way it is. If you don't believe me, read the Bible. Excuse me, now, while I go to Confession. Nothing beats a good Confession, you know, because you get to remain ...
    Love and Kisses, Anon

  25. I've had a few miscontrued assumptions made. I've even been accused of thinking I was better than everyone, simply because I talked about myself on...oh I don't know...MY blog. There are alot of insecurities out there.

    The worst be far is when someone latches on to you in blame instead of searching withing themselves. Great post!

  26. Okay, I'm not going to wear those pants ever again. LMAO! One of the many things that I love about your writing style is how good you are at taking on a serious topic and blending it with humor so that the reader is informed, motivated to engage in thought, and gets a good laugh all at the same time.

    I think that people who leave anonymous comments are to be pitied. How sad to be so insecure that you fear identifying yourself when expressing your opinions and beliefs. What's the point in declaring that you are offering honest and sincere statements meant only to save us all from the fires of hell when you're such a lily-livered coward that you are afraid to sign your name to your thoughts. I'm definitely praying for Anon.


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?