I get hate mail. Well, hate PMs mostly. And sometimes some emails.
Every time it happens it confounds me. Because it is almost always in response to something I’ve written that I think of as fairly obvious and uncontentious. It’s some frippery or an oblique way of thinking about this or that. But for reasons beyond reckoning, it pushes some reader into spitting, red-faced fury.
Apparently, at some point, I’ve bumbled my way into a reputation as a controversial, pugnacious doctrinaire. Like some sort of social media, scuba shock-jock.
Shock-jocks suck; they’ve always sucked. Yelling deliberately antagonistic material explicitly to get a rise out of people is cheap and rude and corny.
We all know that social media is a weird sort of a medium. Very possibly evil, frankly. Everyone uses it to strut and to curate this showy version of themselves like a bower bird’s nest. Meanwhile, everyone also recognizes that, for the most part, we all have an IRL persona and an online persona; and that those two personalities are often out of alignment.
Those of you who do know me in person probably recall someone soft-spoken to the point of reticence. My voice is deep, quiet, undemanding, and ordinarily hard to hear. I can tell a story, but there are periodic pauses, sometimes uncomfortably long, as I sift through my vocabulary trying to sort out just the right word (this trait has been annoyingly escalating as I get older and the dictionary in my head has started missing whole, random pages).
Less observable is that I am the sort of person who will agonize for weeks if I even suspect that I’ve said or done something that has inadvertently upset someone.
So to learn that this cyber-version of me, this person I feel as though I’ve never even met, is a noisome douche… it’s unsettling, to say the least.
Yeah, I delight in a colorful turn of phrase. Yeah, I probably curse way too fucking much. Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed the playful, satiric violence imagined by people like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, and Monty Python, but I’m actually a pacifist. Yeah, I’ve got some strong opinions on some things (then there is a LOT of other stuff that I don’t give the first shit about). Yeah, I’m a tree-hugging, vegan atheist, but I try (sometimes failing) not to be apostolic about any of it. In the end, I’m really not trying to piss anyone off. Quite the contrary, I will almost always go out of my way to be conciliatory.
I like to write, it’s the closest thing I’ve got to a hobby and I find the activity relaxing and pleasurable. And I like to teach, it’s an actual vocation. That I can combine those things in an exercise to educate is an absolute luxury.
I know some things about some things, so I’m pretty well-equipped to talk about them from an informed place. I’m reluctant to say “expert” because there continue to be a great many people who know more about even the things I know best. But dive training and safety are what I’ve focused all my personal and professional attention on for a pretty long time, now.
I’ve had lots of joys and suffered some sorrows and worked with a lot of different people, helping each of them with their own personal challenges. I’ve been watching instructors and mentors around me and shamelessly stealing all their best tricks and techniques for years. I’ve seen some heartbreaking shit from a lot of different angles, performed more rescues than I can remember, and helped people from across the whole spectrum of competence process near-misses. Most tragic of all, I’ve immediately dealt with the loss of both friends and total strangers.
I dive a lot. I teach a lot. Though it may not seem so from the outside, I spend much more time in the water than I do online. And when I’m not underwater, I’m sitting around thinking about being underwater. I’ve read and studied a lot of different academic curricula which I’ve incorporated into the way I frame our sport and community. So when I start theorizing on facets of diving, I do (mostly) know what I’m talking about. Not that I’m right all the time… just knowledgeable.
In light of all that, when I hit “post” on something I’ve written in the hopes that maybe it helps someone, or suggests that something can be explored with an expanded perspective, or gives someone a peek at something they’ve never thought about… and I get yelled at and blocked… it totally blows my mind.
I get not-just-a-little worried when I hear that I’ve offended someone. I resent the recent idealization of “fuck your feelings,” because your feelings are important. And with the exception of predatory televangelists, violent despots, hedge fund managers, and people who microwave fish in the office everybody deserves to feel good about themselves and the world around them.
So if I’ve offended you with any of my postulation about whatever dive-related bee I had in my bonnet at some point, I really am sorry.
If I have: drop me a PM or an email (please don’t yell at me). Even with the preposterous word-counts I churn out, there is no way for me to completely convey my thoughts about even the simplest of topics in a blog or FB post. So let’s chat. The truth is very probably that I’ve worded things in a way that created a miscommunication, not that I deliberately set out to piss in your oatmeal and call you, personally, out as a comically shit diver.
I tend to focus on these importance of themes and patterns, not specific people, so even if you think I was talking about you, it is a near-certainty I wasn’t. Because it is never, ever my intent to upset anyone.
Unless you microwave fish in the office. If so: fuck you.