Friday, September 7, 2012

Outdoorsmen Web Conflicts: 10 Signs That You're the Problem - And What to Do About It

"Dang, seems like nobody will hire a guide these days.
 Maybe my 750 tweets in a row that blame 9-11 on
a CIA conspiracy were a bit much?"
I spend lots of time outside fishing and hunting, I work for a conservation non-profit group, and I volunteer for other conservation non-profits.  That means I'm put in touch with lots of people who have opinions about the outdoors.  Strong opinions.   We all have disagreements and spats with other similarly passionate people from time to time, and generally, we all believe that we (ourselves) are thinking about things "the right way," which too often means that others are thinking about things "the wrong way."

For most of us, most of the time, these scuffles provide an entertaining theatre for our lives that is mostly cerebral and harmless. "Can you believe he said that?!"  But occasionally, you (or I) will get into a rut and become what I'll call "conspicuously quarrelsome," engaging others in conflict and looking for disagreements where perhaps - just perhaps - they don't exist.   In fact, some people grow this way and stay this way.

What you might not understand is that while in such a rut, our unending combativeness (including all that lovely passive aggressive behavior) could be doing serious harm to your cause, your organization, or your brand, via how people perceive your mental health and overall quality as a human being - quite separate from your political views.  How can you know if this is you (or me)?

10. Keepin' it Real....Real Negative, That Is.  More than about 25% of your blog posts, status updates, etc. are inflammatory, intend to invite conflict, and are peppered with words like "no integrity," "dishonesty," "distrust," "they just don't get it," "clueless," to name a few.  In short, you are using spare time and energy to complain.  In detail.  Frequently. Hint: almost no one cares.

I now focus on self-pics, since all my non-profit
cycling buddies got offended that I called them
"shameless Babylon donor-whores." 
9. Dig My Passive Aggressive Sun Tzu-Style Quotes.  You have a history of sending out cryptic passive-aggressive posts/status updates like, "I guess honesty doesn't matter to some people."  Groan.  It's worth noting that these blog posts and status updates usually will get little to no traffic to your site, and no friendly comments to your social media pages.  Because people don't like it.  They don't like it because their lives already have plenty of negativity.

8. And then I dreamt up a war.  You repeatedly create conflict where one does not exist, and then act totally insulted when someone downplays your concerns.  While only about 10% of people will say anything to you about it, remember that the other 90% just don't care, and are likely to think you're a best.  This is especially true when it's a conflict in which you are bringing nothing to the table, i.e. "this brand/organization/blog sucks. Because I say so, according to me. That is all."

7. Which Side Are You On?! Pick!  Intelligent, sentient beings understand the role of nuance, priority, and context.  God (in my opinion) gave us this ability.  Neanderthals and quarrelsome fools do not have it.  In your life, do you ask people to take sides in various unimportant quarrels? Do you tell them that if they choose to work with someone else, they can't be your partner on other efforts?  What about your personal life? Any time I hear or read that someone's said, "Well, now I know what side you're on," it's usually code for, "I disagree with you, and I can't mentally process that, so I'm eliminating your voice now."

6. You are convinced that people are out to get you - and that it somehow matters in any way to the rest of the world.  The second part of that statement is what's important. Sure, people may be out to get you.  It's happened a few times in my personal life and it's happened a few times in my career as well.   But generally speaking, people, even pain in the ass people such as myself, are not actually out to get you.  Claiming such makes you the butt of plenty of jokes, especially the kind involving tin foil hats and black helicopters.

5. You tend to act mortally insulted at any minor grievance cast upon you by the words of another.  I've never understood this facet of human psychology. I don't care who sent out a Tweet saying that your business model sucks.  No one else cares, either.  Let it die. The mindset of, "I cannot let this egregious personal insult stand!" is a ridiculous one.  Allow me to roll my eyes while you threaten to polish your dueling pistol.  This world might be a better and safer place if more of us could routinely say, "Whatever. I'm blowing off that insult." My advice: practice that.  I try (though I don't always succeed).

It's awful loud, therefore,
people must be hearing me!
4. You have to rant almost every day. I hope your boss or spouse are very understanding people.  Phrases like, "You don't understand the severity of the situation" and "they think we're too dumb to get it," are staples of this particular illness.  It's either time to make a life change or an attitude change.

3. You have to raise your voice almost every day.  Unless your career field is anti-terrorism, neonatal critical care surgery, or something similar, I am pretty sure that yelling is not necessary.  Unless your house has burned down or your spouse has just disappeared with your kids and all of your stuff, or unless you have been robbed at gunpoint twice in the last six months, I am pretty sure that yelling is not necessary.

2. "I don't Need to Talk About It. I'm done."  After you publish status updates, blog posts, or emails to the public realm, when contacted about a face-to-face meeting on the topic, you find yourself saying or thinking, "I don't need to discuss it.  I know I'm right."  You then take time and energy to avoid such a meeting at all costs.  If confronted about slight errors in your statements, you respond with one of the other symptoms on this list (pick one).   I encourage you to think about the life of an electronic submittal.  Who will it reach? In what context?  What if you're wrong?  Can you just ignore all the feedback you receive?  I don't recommend it.

"Don't you see? Being mocked,
ignored and disrespected was
my goal! I totally won!" 
1.  "Everybody Hates Me - And Loving It!" You relish in making statements like, "(Insert company or organization) hates me!" and "I work with 200 people, and they all think I'm crazy, ha ha!"  And "Yup.  I'm the loner.  Nobody can figure me out - they don't wanna get too close!" Add in all the usual outdoors rhetoric like "lone wolf," "outlaw," and yup, you've just described about 50% of outdoors writers automatically.

Not everybody wants to be popular, that's for sure.  But I strongly believe that nobody wants to be a loner who is widely mocked, misunderstood, and disrespected.   These statements reflect a level of passive aggressiveness that is hard for me to dissect.  It's one thing to say these things, roll your eyes, and chuckle, maybe a few times a year.  It's another thing to make these topics a consistent point of conversation.  C'mon.  It's not healthy.

The internet has done some amazing things for our species.  But it's also allowed some of us (most of us, at times) to become a special tribe of remote bullies who are confident in our ability to escape reproach or any real consequence for the nonsense that we speak.   Most of us engage in some of this behavior from time to time, which is not to excuse it.  But some of us take pride in this role of "internet bully," where we can claim to be the giant hero, bully, or even supervillain spoiler that we cannot be in real life.  I can't tell you how or why to change.  But I can tell you this: you're missing out.


Unknown said...

Excellent post!

Sanders said...

Well said sir

Steve Z said...


Brings to mind a quote "....if you don't know who the patsy is, you're the patsy."

If you've never known anyone who behaves like this, then it's probably you.

Don't be a patsy.

Kirk Mantay said...

Far beyond the blogosphere, there are certain folks in the enviro community that always seem to be attacking or "under attack." At some point, shouldn't a person (including me) in that position start to think, "Wait - maybe I'm actually wrong."

Scott Alderfer said...

Great post. It hit home with me. This is exactly why I have to edit my own blog with two different hats. One hat is of the grammatical proofreader. And the other is of the public relations troubleshooter. Even though I think that our township's Board of Commissioners is overrun with sprawl-loving realtors who want to kiss developers asses and bulldoze every last bit of open space in out township, I shouldn't sound too unobjective in case one of the commissioners stumbles upon my blog. I have the opportunity to do some good for the local conservation effort as chair of my township's Environmental Advisory Council. But if the commissioners feel like I'm too combative or subversive, they won't reappointment as chair or even as a member of the EAC.

e.m.b. said...

Right on.

Kirk Mantay said...

Stream Hugger, I struggle with that kind of language too. I think there's a lot more value (immediately and in the long term) when controversial posts come from the standpoint "Here's my opinion unless someone can demonstrate facts to the contrary," as opposed to "Here's my opinion and if you disagree, you're a Nazi/Communist/Corporate Fascist, etc."

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