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No, They Don't Hate You

By Jamie Rodney

I am twenty years old. I have had, done, and lost jobs. I have dealt with a chronic illness for the last six years. I can grow something that, if you squint hard enough at, looks like a decent beard. I am therefore, technically speaking, an adult.

Except I'm not. I can't be an adult, because I'm more or less entirely sure that real adults don't spend as much time trying to interpret Facebook messages from their friends, to figure out if they're still their friends. (Also, adults don't get as excited as I just did about using "their" and "they're" so close to each other in a sentence, but that's an entirely different issue.)

Now, at first I thought that this was just a quirk of how social media works. It's hard to tell how things like sarcasm, inflections and emphasis work over text, which can make working out what someone really means over text difficult. When Steve replied "lol" in response to your joke, was that a result of spontaneous amusement, or just an attempt at politeness? When Mary said "cya later" at the end of your last conversation, did she actually want to see you later, or was she just trying to get rid of you?

 

But, I've realised, I’m not any better when speaking to people in real life- second guessing everything said by, or two me, constantly analysing the ebb and flow of conversation to work out what the participants actually think of me. The problem with this is, once you’ve spent enough time debating whether or not someone likes you, it’s actually very easy to convince yourself that they don’t. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve sabotaged at least one of my own relationships by deciding, based on one ignored Facebook message that someone who probably didn’t have any problem with me thought I was a waste of space, and then acted both accordingly and self-destructively.

So, I was planning at this point in the article, to start talking about how the cure to this is self-confidence and not caring what others think of you, the kind of stuff your primary school teachers tell you to do without really believing it themselves. But then, I started thinking about the people I know who seem to care least about being judged by others- and I’m not sure if they have relationships that are any healthier than mine. In fact, in some cases it seems the opposite- I’m pretty sure everybody reading this will know at least one person with a unique ability to be thoughtless and inconsiderate. (If you don’t, then it’s fairly likely that you’re that one person. Sorry you had to hear that from me.) Do we really want to use those people as our role models?

I think the advice that people at both extremes of the spectrum need is to stop thinking of themselves as the centre of the universe. Remember that other people are just as important as you, and deserve a measure of consideration and respect, but also that they have their own lives, and their own problems, and those are probably better explanations for that brusque message they just sent you, rather than a sudden decision that they hate you.

But, then again, what do I know? I’m just an English student with opinions, why should you listen to me. You hated this article, didn’t you? I’m going to delete it and start again….

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