Empathy for the devil

Click and zoom for maximum enjoyment.

Click and zoom for maximum enjoyment.

After last week’s post about my grumpy puss appearing as some (presumably) dude’s dating profile, I did finally hear back from the woman who alerted me to the fact. She had read the piece and, well, she wasn’t angry, just disappointed. You know, in that guilt-inducing mom kind of way.

She had a point. One, I had turned our private correspondence into a public affair, and, two, she felt I had made her the butt of the joke, when really the target should have been the loser using my image. Without quoting her directly again, she felt there were a lot of assumptions made about her and a general lack of respect. As I said, she wasn’t mad, just taken aback that this was how her favour was returned, and I did apologize to her. I could easily have told a funny story without dragging her into it.

But the exchange did emphasize how simple it is, even for someone who’s supposedly conscientious about these things, to use the anonymity of online interaction as an excuse for casual cruelty. Human empathy can disappear quickly within the paradoxical closeness and distance of social media. Ultimately, the same rationale that allows jokers around the world to use my image without a thought is the same one that allows us to post cruel jokes on Twitter, Facebook and even right here in this safe space.

There should be a warning on all social media: “Caution: Humans Functioning.”

Speaking of warnings (not that that was a forced segue or anything), here’s my latest audio piece for CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.” I think I may have come unhinged. Can’t say you haven’t been warned.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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24 Responses to Empathy for the devil

  1. I think writing or comedy are arid landscapes when it comes to discretion. For our unwitting families, friends and often, relative strangers, every interaction becomes “material”. Still, you apologized and took it as a reminder that the “internet is people”. I’ve had those moments as well.
    Enjoyed your advisory, but now am stymied in speaking or writing for fear of giving offense. But for now I’ll settle for the “fruit of happiness”, as well as the elixir of life (in this case, a slightly bruised banana and a large cup of coffee). Onward and upward, Ross!

  2. franhunne4u says:

    My, my … some people feel easily attacked, don’t they? It’s not as if you portrayed her as a raving lunatic alcoholic with stalkerish tendencies … I for one did not get a bad picture of her in your last piece, but her reaction to that piece is rather … well, let’s stay classy and say “sensitive”.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      No no. I don’t think she was offended or even hurt. Just surprised. My point is, if it had been, say, you who sent me that note, I probably wouldn’t taken the same tone. It just made me think.

      • franhunne4u says:

        I would not be surprised, but then I am a blogger like yourself (just less successful) and write about every day occurences unless I would feel grossly misreprented I’d feel flattered.

  3. Thanks to the internet, there’s no such thing as private correspondence anymore. Thank Bog there was no internet when I was up-and-coming. What a horrible tide to swim against. I post my old journal entries but you guys are spared the really dark stuff. As I’ve said before, if I could put the genie back in the bottle, I think I’d do it. And that includes mobile phones. ESPECIALLY mobile phones.

  4. Ned's Blog says:

    The fact that you took the time to think on this and write a post about is proof that you haven’t rescinded your humanity quite yet, Ross. When that stops happening is when we’ll all need to worry.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’m not beating myself up over it, honestly. As Steve Martin said, comedy is not pretty. Plus, it did dovetail reasonably with today’s radio bit.

      • Ned's Blog says:

        I figured as much, but sometimes a kind word doesn’t hurt. Plus, as a show of support, I changed my FB profile pic to your mug for an hour. I picked up a lot of new female followers between 10 and 11 a.m.

        • rossmurray1 says:

          That makes me think of something I read in high school, about looking at women through half-lidded eyes. I tried it out in the cafeteria one day. The damnedest thing is, it worked! Now, with my skin all droopy, I’m half-lidded all the time.

  5. Karen says:

    I think you always have to be careful when you write about other people in blog posts–I’ve written before that I consider my family fair game–my husband married me with his eyes wide open so he can’t complain, and neither can my children, as long as they’re dependent on me for food and shelter. There are a handful posts that I’ve written (a couple about bloggers that contacted me, one about a Mom’s group I attended, the other about a co-worker who didn’t want people to swear around her) that I considered not publishing because I feared someone would take offense at what I’d written and get all up in my grill (or whatever it is the kids say these days). I wound up putting disclaimers (“Please don’t hurt me. I am only joking!”) in the comments section of all those posts. In the end, it turned out to be an unfounded worry, as no one actually reads my blog.

  6. Elyse says:

    When I first started blogging, I wrote a HILARIOUS post about what will make folks take climate change seriously. It turned out that there was a young scientist who’d noticed that birds were getting bigger in California and was the first to attribute it to climate change. Problem was, the woman sported a full beard, and I hilariously concluded that climate change was causing women to grow facial hair and that we would conquer the problem once we realized what was happening.

    I got a comment from her mom.

    I took the post down. I still feel awful.

    That said, I didn’t get the impression that you were laughing at the woman who did you a favor at all. But then I am, apparently, a callous bitch who also makes fun of peoples children.

  7. gavinkeenan says:

    Jennifer Aniston and J-Lo are fare more attractive than you. Nothing personal, of course. Just my observation from above. Stay strong!

  8. pinklightsabre says:

    Please allow me to introduce myself.

  9. Uh…I just reread both posts and I gotta go with franhunne4u on this one: Somebody needs to tighten their lip and loosen their pants. Talk about your Sensitive Button! That women is leaking self-esteem and she’s fishing for someone to play the little Dutch boy to her emotional dyke. Keep your hands in your pockets.

    That didn’t come out right.

    Anyway, she needs to lighten the fuck up. You were about as lethal as a kitten in a bouncy house–not exactly poetry in motion but funny as hell. Which is, and was, the point. Doesn’t she read your blog?

    Methinks she was secretly a little taken with you and expected a shower of thanks and internet kisses for all her hard work contacting the hapless victim and setting his world right, knowing that was the best she could hope for from him in the attention department considering, you know, he’s married to a hottie and all. When she was cast as the funny bystander instead of the hero in the story, some feminine feathers got ruffled. But she was going to get her attention one way or another, damnit, and guilt always works in a pinch. It keeps people on the line and in a subordinate position to someone’s imagined martyrdom. And you’re so fucking Canadian and nice, you fell for it.

    (I know I’m giving away feminine secrets here but if she evolves into full-blown follower-but-actually-semi-bitter-stalker, you’re gonna need prep.)(If she’s reading these comments and cares to stalk me, bring it, lady. I can type way faster than you.)

    Dude, I know you bleed maple syrup but there comes a point when sweet becomes self-defeatingly sticky. You can’t control what anybody thinks or feels, that’s their job. For her to imply that you are in any way responsible for how she decides to respond to you is just plain…well…Republican.

  10. Pingback: I am the face of erectile dysfunction  | Drinking Tips for Teens

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