Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Possesses People?

I often wonder, as I'm sure many other do, what exactly possesses a person to act, well, like an asshole. I don't, necessarily, mean the tendency in all of us to say or do something in a moment of anger that is asshole-ish. I am referring to people who tend toward acting that way all seemingly all the time. All those years I worked retail, I experienced this phenomenon quite often – those customers who were always mean and hateful no matter how pleasant and polite you tried to be to them.

That aside, what bothers me the most is when someone suddenly uses vicious name calling when they find themselves in disagreement with another person. What is it, in the mind of someone, that causes them to completely lose sight of the issue and decide that attacking someone's weight or hobbies, etc., instead of debating the topic that caused the argument?

I bring this up because of a recent incident in my own life that ended a friendship that had lasted several years. This friend, we'll call him “Frank”, had been my supervisor at a past job. After we both left that company, we became pretty good friends, occasionally meeting up for coffee. Frank had a tendency to do mass forwards from his email, mostly political in nature. Sometimes these emails were interesting and worth reading, but being someone who is not especially prone to political debate, I mostly deleted these out of hand and didn't object because our friendship was more important to me than getting into political arguments. Recently, Frank's email got hacked and a mass email was sent out from his account. Not knowing, for certain, if it had come from him or someone else on the list, I had clicked on “Reply All” and sent out a general request to be removed from whatever distribution list I had apparently gotten on. At the time, I was unaware that Frank's email had gotten hacked.

This, at first, only lead to him sending me an email asking what was wrong. I told him nothing was wrong, per se, I was just getting to many emails and was trying to limit how much email was hitting my inbox. A few days later he informed everyone that he had gotten hacked. One of the comments he made in that email seemed erroneous to me. He said something about resetting passwords to correct the problem. I took his comment as meaning that resetting one's password would remove them from the distribution list. I probably mistook his meaning, now that I look back on it, but I did reply to everyone to offer some amount of advise on this topic and stated that resetting a password would not remove them for a distribution list, but that, naturally, Frank should reset his since he was the one who's email was hacked.

This is where things went to shit really fast. He sent me an email claiming I had “thrown him under the bus” by replying to all his friends and telling him to reset his password. Now, I would have probably just taken it as he had mistook my intent (which obviously he had) and tried to explain and smooth things over, except that later in the email he told me that the “douche bag part”.. of me.. “was unnecessary” and “Happy New Year Asshole!” Perhaps, I overreacted a bit myself at this point, but I replied explaining that I was not trying to embarrass him but trying to offer some technical advise that I thought everyone would have benefited from, which is why I replied to all instead of just him. However, his decision to be nasty about the whole thing caused me to tell him that I was tired of not getting any emails from him except political bullshit and that he could remove me from his address book entirely.

The whole thing had already gotten out of hand, and the friendship was pretty much done at that point already. I'd dare say that I was probably just as wrong as he was for the way I responded, but this is the part that really tore me up. His next email, instead of simply saying “fine, you're deleted and our friendship is over” and leaving it at that, launched into a tirade of telling me who he hoped that my fat ass ate myslef into type 2 diabetes, and that I lived in a fantasy world of gaming, and that he hoped I got lung cancer from smoking to much.. blah, blah, blah.

Now, I ask you, what the fuck did any of that have to do with our actual disagreement? If he had called me “asshole” or “douche bag” again based on how I had handled our little email string of disagreement, fine. But, really? Someone who's in their 50s resorting to what I have now termed the “Yeah, well you're a doody head” technique of argument and basically wishing my dead because I didn't want to get forwarded a bunch of politically charged emails anymore? Where's the sense in that? And how sad and messed up is this person's life that they would resort to that? Sure, I could have been more diplomatic about the whole thing. I take full responsibility for responding in anger. But, outside of calling him “dick” once, I never made comments about his health, his weight, his hobbies or anything else that was irrelevant to the reason we were now at odds.

I am saddened that such a long standing friendship is over, especially with someone who was older than me (all of my friends are younger than I am) and that I looked up to as somewhat of a mentor. But considering his over the top reaction and the vile things he said in our final communication, I'm probably better off not having “Frank” in my list of friends anymore.

~ JC
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