The Ranting Wren The Wren Forum Banner
The Glorious Wren The Movie Wren The Photo Wren Old Man Wren

Exit ArchiveArchive for April 8th, 2008

Is it any wonder that countries fight, peoples genocize each other, and couples can’t choose a place to have dinner? Communication is difficult, and sometimes it’s simply impossible.

Take the following exchange between myself and another guy on DList, a sort of gay MySpace.

To set this up, I have to explain that my profile asks people to send me a message and make some contact with me before asking me to be their “friend.” I hate sites where people just add “friends” willy-nilly. I mean, I get why they do that—the more friends, the more likely you are to be seen—but I can’t be bothered to have a huge list of people that I’ve never even talked to. That’s not why I’m on sites like this. My request is acceptable, and it is certainly not out of the ordinary.

So a fried request pops up on my account, after which a message comes to me, both from a guy calling himself BulkingUp. The message has the subject, “why do you have.” The message then goes:

to be one of those who needs a line to add a friend? I always feel awkward when I’m forced to write a message with the request, I mean what are you supposed to say? besides the obvious, that is…

First two warning signs: the subject line was used as the beginning of the message, and the guy calls himself BulkingUp. While the latter is about par for the course on a gay site, the former is inexcusable no matter what one’s sexual alignment. A third warning sign: poor capitalization. Not a deal-breaker, to be sure, but still grating. At least he was using punctuation.

Had the message been fun and cool, I could easily have ignored the warning signs. But the message was, I thought, obnoxious. He’s bitching about my requirement, but is not annoyed enough by it to decide against sending me a friend request. He was even unable to find anything to say aside from the bitching.

I should have ignored the message, but I was annoyed, so I wrote back a simple, “Sorry you don’t like it. Alas!”

To which he replied, “I was trying to be funny, I guess.” (He had no period at the end, however.)

Oops. Okay, so I misread it. It was easy to do, what with the complete lack of humor involved. So I sent back, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t pick up on that! Oops.”

“I was too subtle, I guess.” Hmm. Okay, yes, the humor was a bit subtle… to the point of near nonexistence. However, he seems to not be understanding that I get that, and that I missed his intent. So I shoot back, “Which is funny, because I’m the one who can often be too subtle! Ha! So I’ve tasted my own medicine! :)” Every time I use an emoticon, I am ashamed, but sometimes it’s the only way to prove that there is no harm done, no harm meant, and no harm received.

Perhaps his browser turned my &#58) into a >:P, because his response was:

Dude, all I was trying to do was to add some sort of funny message to my friend request. You didn’t get it. Or it provoked the opposite reaction to the one I expexted. There is no reason to continue this exchange.

On a grander scale, this is when the troops would be sent across the border to shoot up some town holding no strategic advantage. Oh, except he said, “Peace.” So maybe the border troop build-up would have been stood down. (Can you say “stood down”?)

I should not have sent anything more, but I did. “And I was genuinely trying to apologize. Sorry it got so botched. TTFN.” And the communication was done. For all I know, he thought “TTFN” stood for “Ta-ta, fuckin’ numbskull.”

There is nothing important at stake here, nothing to worry about, nor anything to lose sleep over. Yet I was, and still am, a bit taken aback by this. How could two random strangers so quickly and completely miscommunicate? Personally, am I really that bad at getting across my own intent? I don’t think I am, yet here is someone who does. I certainly think he’s no good at it. Is it really that easy for written communication to be so misinterpreted? What if he and I had met randomly in person, at a bar (SOOOOO likely!) or a sushi restaurant (SOOOOO likely!)? Would the visual connection have been able to diffuse such a miscommunication, or would something in each other’s demeanors have set us at each other anyway?

Is it personality, language, attitude, or perception that get in the way of being able to talk? Or all of those?

Whatever the cause, the genuine surprise that comes from an unexpected breakdown in dialogue is not really welcome. It gives me a case of the brow-furrows.