The content on this blog is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the US Navy in any way.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Abuse and Criticism

Topic for this week's post is insulting behavior; sparked by a blog post on a blog I read called Starlight and Shadows.

To summarize the issue: what's the appropriate reaction to insulting or abusive behavior? The post in question refers to a discussion on the League of Legends forums about the appropriate reaction to a player who is undeniably good, but rather caustic towards... probably everyone, but particularly those people who he sees as inferior to himself. For that matter, I'm willing to bet that every online multiplayer game that allows players to talk freely has this debate going on somewhere. So what's the answer?

I'm very much of two minds on this issue... or perhaps I should say that my stance is somewhat complicated. Speaking for myself, I almost always decide to ignore that sort of thing. I'm not even quite sure how I decided it, but I think I basically decided somewhere between high school and here that I would only let my own conscience judge myself that way. Which doesn't mean that other people can't criticize me, but if I don't think the criticism is valid, I tend to ignore it completely. Even if there's valid criticism mixed with invective, I tend to be able to distinguish between things I do need to worry about (e.g. job performance) and things I don't (e.g. being a useless waste of space).

Perhaps more to the point, I think this is a good thing for me. It makes my life easier, and I think it's generally a good attitude for anyone to have... and I have no idea how to convey that to anyone who is suffering due to abuse like that in a way that doesn't look like me telling them to fix themselves.

Basically, I also agree with the other point that the linked blog post made: telling someone who is not taking abuse well to just ignore it is unhelpful at best... and actively destructive at worst. It's been a long time since someone was abusive enough to get to me, but I file that response under the trite, simple solutions that everyone trots out... and that no one seems to know how to actually use. I may not deal with such platitudes due to abuse, but I have heard them before when I was depressed or unhappy for other reasons - and what they mostly accomplished was to add loneliness and fear to the mix. The fear in particular was particularly destructive; it was the idea that nobody understood, possibly even that nobody could understand what I was feeling, with the simple use of such an unhelpful, nonspecific solution as evidence... Maybe that's just me, but somehow I doubt it. And I really don't think that anything like that is truly necessary.

About the only point there I disagree with is the idea that the other option is to take the advice in question and suppress your own identity and emotions in the process. Simply put, I think that the given strategy worked in my case without those negatives; I was able to incorporate that note about my own conscience into my identity, and as I already stated, I'm content with that. It might not be who I was back in middle or high school, nor who I would be if I'd never dealt with any abuse, but I'm happy with it nonetheless.

Even with that note, I do still agree with the post's last bit of advice; telling people to cut it out works much better. Not so much because it will stop the abuse - I think there are, unfortunately, some people who wouldn't stop acting that caustic even in the face of physical violence - but because it will let the victims know that someone stands with them. That might be what's necessary to prevent tragedy, or it might "merely" brighten someone's day to know that someone's willing to help and listen. That offers a better chance of a good outcome than ignoring it and telling them to toughen up, and its consequences even when it doesn't work as well as we might hope are usually better as well.

One final problem (because naturally, life never seems to leave me with anything I can say is conclusively solved): balancing my own willingness to ignore some of these problems with the need to stand up and support others if necessary. That one, unfortunately, has also caused real problems for me - on one hand, I'm not going to force myself to care about insults directed at myself; on the other, I won't deny that it can make me slower to react when I'm not the target. Ultimately, I think I'm going to have to do my best (namely: reacting to my problems in ways that make me comfortable while still reacting to others' problems in a way that makes me helpful instead of part of the problem), trust myself to realize when I'm not, and check myself in whatever ways I can to make sure that my trust isn't misplaced.

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