Goodbye Cruel Internets; or The Great Flounce-Off

Hello Snarklings! The Lady of the Manners knows that this is a rare occurrence, but this month’s lesson is indeed the one the Lady of the Manners threatened … er promised last month. Not because the Lady of the Manners doesn’t have other topics to address; good heavens, no! (In fact, the Lady of the Manners has been noticing an upswing in letters from readers, which is very gratifying.) But the Lady of the Manners feels she absolutely needs to do her part to help stop a particular epidemic of bad behavior.

The Lady of the Manners is sure that all of you have seen the horrible and petty behavior the Lady of the Manners is speaking of; if you’ve spent any time at all on the Internet, you’ve encountered this behavior many times. (The Lady of the Manners fervently hopes you haven’t indulged in it yourselves; if you have, don’t spoil her illusions.) Wherever there are multiple people posting, be it on blogs, message boards, LiveJournal, MySpace, or newsgroups, a version of the following will happen at some point:

“No one understands me / You are all SO MEAN / I am misunderstood! I am GOING TO LEAVE (delete my journal / user profile / stomp off in a huff)!”

This sort of behavior is commonly referred to as “Goodbye Cruel Internets!” or “I’m taking my toys and going home!”

One of the problems with pulling the Great Flounce-Off is that, well, it’s a lot like the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. No one really believes that the person threatening to leave actually will. It’s seen as a cheap ploy for attention, a cue for other people to exclaim “No, no! We love you! Please don’t go! You’re obviously right about everything!”

Yes, that’s a harsh interpretation. But it’s a very accurate one. And, to a degree, the Flouncer gets what they want; there are always people who rush to reassure the original poster that everyone DOES like them, and that everyone would be shattered and bereft if they went away. But if the Flouncer has any self-awareness at all, they might notice that the outpouring of adoration isn’t as overwhelming as they had hoped; that it’s almost as if some people were not saying anything at all. Of course, the type of people who resort to the Goodbye Cruel Internets ploy usually are not brimming with self-awareness, so they probably don’t notice the lack of universal praise and just keep throwing these sorts of tantrums whenever they’re upset or not getting their way.

Now, the Lady of the Manners is aware that some people who state that they are deleting their journals or leaving a message board or forum are not indulging in a dramatic reading of Goodbye Cruel Internets, but really have decided to stop participating in that particular venue. But the difference in tone between the two styles is, at least to the Lady of the Manners, very obvious. People who have decided to move on usually state their decision in terms of “I’ve decided to focus my energies elsewhere”, or “Things are getting busy for me and I don’t have the time to keep up with this”, whereas variations of the Great Flounce-Off include “I don’t think anyone understands what I’m trying to say, so I’m just going to stop posting”, or “It’s obvious that I’m making everyone upset or offending them, so I should stop posting”. One of the tell-tale markers of something from the Goodbye Cruel Internets script is the undercurrent of the person seeking validation or reassurance that they shouldn’t go away.

So! In the hopes of stopping the epidemic of flouncing off in a huff that seems to be overtaking the Internet, the Lady of the Manners has some helpful suggestions.

Suggestion the First: If you realize that you’ve indulged in this sort of behavior in the past, DO NOT repeat it. The Lady of the Manners is quite serious. If you catch yourself writing something that sounds even remotely like it could be taken from the Goodbye Cruel Internets script, stop and do not post it. Instead, ask a close friend or two for a sanity check about what is going on, and listen to what they say, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. Be very aware that while indulging in those sorts of posts might make you feel better in the short term, you will be alienating other people and making yourself an object of bemused pity, if not outright scorn and ridicule.

Suggestion the Second: If you see someone performing the Great Flounce-Off, do not rush to console or reassure them. Ignore them. If they are a close friend, contact them privately and let them know that they need to stop throwing tantrums to get people’s attention. How tactful you wish to be about bringing this to their attention is up to you; while the Lady of the Manners is always in favor of tact and diplomacy, sometimes you need to be blunt and say “You’re being an ass. Did you mean to be?”

Suggestion the Third: Sometimes Goodbye Cruel Internets can be worrying. If it sounds like the person posting is contemplating self-harm, contact someone close to them. Contact their parents, their spouse, their close friends, and let them know you’re worried. Yes, you might be overreacting, but the Lady of the Manners feels it is better to take someone posting about self-harm seriously and be wrong than to just ignore it and have a tragic outcome. If the person posting didn’t really mean it and gets angry with you for interfering, point out to them that if they didn’t want that sort of attention, they probably should be a leetle more careful about what they write.

You see, Snarklings? This is what happens when the Lady of the Manners spends too much time on the Internet. She gets all ranty and wants to shake some sense into people. However, the Lady of the Manners is instead going to catch up on some more mail from readers and decide what next month’s lesson should address. If you have a question, please do send the Lady of the Manners a letter. The Lady of the Manners can’t promise you’ll get a reply, but stranger things have been known to happen.

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