Thursday, October 24, 2013

Remember the Nerdy Kid that Always Got Bullied?

I'm usually the peaceful type, comfortable with the status quo and trying to keep the peace in all situations. Perhaps a little like Issachar in Genesis 49:14 but not to the extreme of subjecting myself to forced labour just to keep peace? But some things just ruffle my feathers and I just don't know how to describe it but "pushing my buttons" comes very close to it. And doing the politically acceptable/right things just goes out the window! FIGHT... Round 1! Ding! Ding! Ding!
What am I talking about? My crazy (ex-)friends from high school. Seriously. Crazy. As in over-sensitive smart aleck whose worldview is so narrow. A friend commented that it could be an endemic problem of overly smart science stream students. I was reluctant to admit it (because I myself was a true blue science student until I started working) but it seems to hold some substance. And coincidentally (or not) the two cases I've encountered personally were my classmates from the top science class in school.

These two specimens were oddballs in our form/grade. I hate to use this term on someone as it is prejudicial, but it is (or was - I only knew them in the past) the fact of the matter. They were both bullied in school but they were really smart kids. One was a little effeminate and the other had anger management issues. Ask anyone in our form and if they remembered them, they would tell you the same. The theory is that some (not all) science students are so caught up in their own world that they are unable to understand the gravity of their surroundings, which results in a particularly skewed worldview. 

So what did I do to spark the wrath of these terrible two? Facebook posts. The first case was a couple years ago where I posted something about the inequality we faced in our country. A simple post - around a 10-worder post, spurred by something I had read in the news (can't remember what). While I was having my siesta, I got bombarded virtually by Mr Effeminate with replies that were filled with hate and racist remarks. I was alerted by a friend who called me up. The long short of it, I took my sweet time to craft a reply and deleted him as a friend. To be fair, Mr Anger did try helping out by posting rebuttal replies. But I don't think it was necessary because Mr Effeminate just needed to vent and egging him on was not going to help matters.

Incident #2 is the latest. Happened late last week with Mr Anger and is ongoing. I wonder when I'll need to pull the plug on this? It's quite amusing or optimistically depressing, that I would get such attacks from someone I actually bothered to keep in contact with. OK, I knew that he was (and is) a prickly character to begin with, but I never expected the prickles would fly my way. And what did I do this time? A Facebook post on responsible broadcasting of info/articles/opinions in social media (there seems to be a pattern here... seems like Facebook will be the death of me!?! haha). Mr Anger diligently replied that my long post was useless and subsequently I replied back that "well, at least you read it". I guess that was the wrong way to rub the prickles. He replied back that he did not read it all. And to that, I replied that the post was meant to be a reminder to us in general and if you wanted to heed it or hate it, it was your right to do so. Silence.

Today, Round 2 commenced. I'd shared a blog article about a local education institution awarding an honorary doctorate to a certain controversial leader. Little did I know, Mr Anger took it as a bullet to load his gun and shoot back! Reminding me of what I had posted last week. I gave him some links to cross reference reports on the same in the mainstream and alternative media, and he retorted that those were based on the initial blog article as well and said that it's like 'referencing Wikipedia for your assignment'. However, he had failed (or refused, I don't know) to read the part in the mainstream media report that the education institution had acknowledged awarding the honorary doctorate in a press release. Also, Wikipedia uses citations (the reference column at the bottom of the page) for its readers to view the source of information. And now, it's back to silence. Gee, when's the next bullet coming? *grin*

I don't know why I seem to attract such people. Am I really that controversial? And all the time I thought I was quite moderate. I know I am quite fiery (as a few individuals have pointed out) although I am quiet in person but I have always tried hard to censure/chastise my replies (especially written ones). And I say this in full honesty that in my current job, I have received a number of insinuating/accusing emails on work-related matters and I actually practise breathing exercises to calm myself down before composing a reply. I believe that fighting hostility with hostility does not improve the situation. Win the battle and lose the war? No. 

So most of the time, even though I had done nothing wrong, I'd begin my email replies with apologising for something (e.g. late reply, miscommunication, whatever I can think of) just to set the tone of the email as a humble reply. Choice of words is important too - strictly professional, no mention of "you said this and that", using the shortest possible reply to convey the message and offering to go the extra mile to help. So far it has worked for me at preventing a storm. Disclaimer: I don't know whether this technique is a proven crisis management method or not.

Update: Mr Anger has replied, somewhat less hostile and more of a write-off. I'll reply tomorrow after I've had a good night's sleep! ;)

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