On a slightly more serious note this week, our publishing intern Angela Jin responds to some social media gaslighting. I was recently confronted by an old high school classmate over something I shared on Instagram. To keep a long story short, it was a post about avoiding dehumanising language when referring to women, and this person messaged me using words like ‘snowflake’ and ‘overreaching’, arguing that there were more important issues in the world. But his messages still carried the tone of expecting a civil conversation.
It was Friday afternoon, I was already late to meet a friend and stressed from dealing with deadlines. The very very last thing I expected was to be blindsided by someone who wanted – what? To be educated? To have his opinion on women’s issues validated? To challenge me? To argue for argument’s sake?
No. No, thank you.
Not my responsibility, not my business. Except it was my business because those messages sat in my inbox of my Instagram taunting me and weighing on my mind.
If I were to ignore this person and his messages, would I be letting him ‘win’? I suppose that depends entirely on his intent, which to this moment I’m still not sure of.
But that wasn’t the only question plaguing me. Why did this person feel comfortable approaching me with his cavalier and unsolicited opinions? I was not the only person from our high school whom my classmate followed on IG that occasionally shared feminist or social justice posts.
Was there some quality about me that made this former classmate feel comfortable talking to me in such a manner?
I reached out to a girl friend and she assured me that I was right to feel upset. But she’s an intimidating person. Highly educated, intelligent, and takes no shit.
Me? Not so much. The latter, not the former. I’m sure I’m perfectly educated and intelligent enough.
I am non-confrontational. If you, lovely reader, have read my previous post ‘Imposter Syndrome’, you might have deduced that anxiety seeps from every pore on my body. I avoid social conflict like my life depends on it. When put in a difficult position, I have the tendency to laugh things off, just to move the conversation along and steer it to safer ground.
I wondered if any man would dare engage in such a precarious conversation with my Take No Shit friend. Her withering glare would shut even the most impertinent mouth.
But I am not her. And apparently the impression I give people with my Placating Easy-Going Smile is that they can say anything to me. There are no boundaries. Challenging my view on women’s rights is apparently on the table and I don’t want that at all.
In case, you were wondering, I did message this person back. Takes No Shit thought my response was too nice while I thought it was too sarcastic (and therefore not likely to be taken seriously).
I haven’t blocked this former high school classmate of my mine. Not yet.
But something has to be done about what sort of vibe I’m putting out into the world. I need to find the balance between a placating smile and a withering glare.