I’ve been thinking about bullying lately.
Not the overt bullying, the kind where it’s obvious that people are picking on you, pulling your hair, laughing at your clothing choices or telling you they wish you were dead. Those are all bad things, but a lot of ink has been spilled talking about it, trying to come up with ways to combat it and letting victims, especially the young ones, that things will get better and not to let it get you down.
These are all important to be sure, but instead, I’ve been thinking about more clandestine bullying, perpetrated by people who are generally nice people. These are people who you would never accuse of bullying but yet…
What I’ve been thinking about instead are the folks who are always right. Recently it’s begun to stick in my craw a little bit, maybe because I’m a dad now and I’ve probably done a fair bit of this in the past and I don’t really want to be that guy anymore. You know the type, right? The one who when you say “it’s cold” their immediate response is “no, it’s not.” It seems like a simple refutation, a differing of opinion, but lately, it seems to me there’s more to it than that, like there’s some weird power struggle playing out and they win simply by denying your feelings.
I would say maybe it’s a young persons game. I’ve long held the belief that between the ages of 17 and 22 most people are so wrapped up in the process of identifying who they are as people that they fail to see those around them. It’s the age where you have to make definite calls about what you like and what you don’t so you can begin the process of justifying your opinions to yourself. It’s the age where you know everything so no one can tell you anything.
And I used to think that as you started to understand that it was okay to like both the Beatles and the Stones, that sometimes you could enjoy a light comedy and others a heavy drama, that Twilight could hold a place in one’s heart alongside Harry Potter. As that realization came you started to grow up, you saw that there could be shades of gray (the concept, not the book) and that other people could have opinions and it didn’t affect your enjoyment or your experience at all.
But lately, I’ve been rethinking that.
I see people online espousing their opinions as if they are the only valid view points to hold. They will belittle people who think differently and becuase they may be able to out argue them, the original poster will “win” and collect applause from followers. And yet, the differing opinion may be perfectly valid. Or the people who jump into a discussion to merely deride your opinion of something with no discernible reason for raining on your parade, other than they can.
Ultimately, for me, it comes down to respect. To respect other people’s opinions (and yes, I’m not talking about disputing fact based claims, but just the simple act of liking or disliking something) without the need to espouse your own. This isn’t about debate, because it doesn’t invite debate. Instead it comes back to that place of power and control, that if you are right, then they must be wrong and that just won’t do. And that, to me, is bullying. However subtle it is, the need to bend someone else to your will be sheer force (or petulance when that doesn’t work) is a little off-putting.
So if you catch me being that guy, please stop me and point it out. Try to be nice about it, but I’ll understand if you’re not. And if you find yourself doing it, maybe you need to stop and think for a minute.
Let’s all just try to be better to each other and to ourselves. We can all like different things. We can all hate different things, too.