Since joining Facebook I’ve witnessed any number of different ways people interact and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gathering place as overflowing with unsolicited advice as Facebook. I find it amusing and kind of sad. Amusing because we are so sure our advice should be required reading material (without even considering it might not be wanted.) And sad because we have expectations we never voice.
It’s not a hard concept – if you don’t want advice when you post something then say so! Tell people what you need. Some will listen and some won’t. Appreciate the people who do and flip the silent bird to those who don’t.
Some time ago I saw an exchange on Facebook that illustrates what I mean. I’m changing the names and context of the subject matter to protect the innocent and the asses.
Clarice was upset and posted, “My poor Charlie has a hair ball! I feel so bad for him.” Notice that Clarice does not tell anyone what she expects from her statement – does she want sympathy, empathy, advice, a pie in the face – what? She leaves herself open and encounters these typical responses:
a) “Aww so sorry. Hope he feels better soon.” **hugs** – (Short, sweet and nice.)
b) “Omg, that’s nothing!!!! You should hear what happened with my kitty!!!!! She had a hair ball the size of a Mack truck engine!!!!! We had to have it surgically removed and then send her to therapy because she was so distraught and then we had to put her on Prozac because she loved that hair ball!!!!! Just be thankful Clarice that your kitty’s hair ball wasn’t worse!!!!! Hugs!!!!” – (Do I even have to explain what is wrong with this? The minute someone says “Oh that’s nothing…blahblahblah” they’ve proven they could care less about you. Intent, intent, intent.)
c) “Sorry to hear about Charlie’s hair ball but sometimes it all comes down to the food you feed him. And the quality of the water. And what size bed he sleeps in. And whether or not you vaccinate him. And what time of day you flush your toilet. And if your sheets are 500 thread count. If you don’t do everything the way I do, because my way is the only way, then you’re just going to have to deal with hair balls Clarice.” (A winking smiley face never makes a know-it-all look better. They still look like an ass. A winking, smiling ass.)
d)“Clarice you might want to consider electroshock therapy for your kitty. My mom’s friend’s dad’s cousin’s uncle’s nephew’s masseuse did this to her mouse because it was obsessed with some kind of ferris wheel thingy in its cage. Apparently it was successful because the mouse is so quiet and timid now. It worked for the mouse so it might work for your kitty‘s hair ball. Good luck!!” (Bad advice is bad advice is bad advice.)
e) “I don’t know why you bother even having a cat Clarice if you’re going to let him get a hair ball. Did you not research cats before you got him??? Did you get him from the pound??? No wonder he has hair balls, he has no pedigree. I don’t understand why anyone gets a cat and then lets them get hair balls. If cats are properly cared for they will not get hair balls Clarice. Sheesh.” (There is nothing to say to someone like this. They live to make another look foolish because that’s what their deflated ego requires. Don’t feed the beast. Move on.)
Clarice, understandably pissed off, chimes in, “For your information Charlie is an IGUANA! That’s right people, an IGUANA. An IGUANA with a HAIR BALL. And I’ve ALREADY taken him to the iguana DOCTOR. If you’d JUST ASKED ME instead of ASSUMING Charlie is a CAT then maybe you would UNDERSTAND that I DON’T need advice about CATS. I DON‘T want your advice AT ALL!”
Can we count all the mistakes made here? Firstly, Clarice did not tell people that Charlie is indeed an iguana and she did not inform them that she wasn’t looking for advice. People aren’t mind readers. If you don’t tell people what you’re looking for you won‘t get what you need. So if you’re one of those few individuals that actually has an iguana with a hair ball then you damn well better state it upfront. Details people details!
As for those who answered Clarice, they naturally assumed Charlie was a cat (understandable) but they went a step further and assumed their advice was welcome. No matter how many passive-aggressive emoticons someone places in and around their words, it is the words that matter and it is the intent that shows a person’s true colors.
Misunderstandings happen but damn we need to cut each other a little slack. There will be times when something serious is posted and we feel a strong moral nudge to respond because we see harm in someone’s future but those type of posts are not nearly as frequent as the ones where we could actually, you know, just shut up.
And while I’m at it let me call it like I see it in regard to advice in general – not every piece of advice is good advice. This is coming from someone who was told my fibromyalgia could be knocked right out of my body if I would simply partake in a daily juice concoction that the giver-of-unsolicited-bad-advise read about in a book she got with a juice machine. Yeah. No.
So go forth and Facebook to your heart’s content dear readers. (Yes I made Facebook into a verb. Just let it go. ) Be kind, be fair, cut each other some slack and watch out for iguanas with hair balls.