Friday, May 21, 2010

Enemies: How You Make Them, How You Keep Them, and How You Can Lose Them

Yesterday, I managed to turn a potential friend on Twitter into a sworn enemy with a glaring error of knowledge I didn't see, my big fat "Mr. Know-It-All" ego, and a misfeature in TweetDeck. I'm not blaming anybody, not even TweetDeck (though I'll bug them on Twitter till they squash that bug), though I'm at fault in the technical and legal sense used of car wrecks. Now that I'm recovering from the resulting cat scratch fever of the ego, I have let go of the anger and forgiven this person, and I will continue to apologize to her, especially when asked. So now I feel I can write about the problem I have now become all too aware of.

It's far too easy to turn a friend into an enemy on the Internet. That's because there's a whole lot less information in an all-text conversation than there is in a face-to-face encounter or even a telephone call. Emoticons were invented to deal with this, but even these fail all too often. Sometimes you think you're being nice when the other person suddenly declares they hate you, seemingly out of the blue, simply because they misunderstood what you were saying. This is a big danger even when people are close together and talking directly to one another. It's ridiculously easy to even turn the love of your life into your worst enemy: all it takes is one click, the one that changes your Facebook relationship status from "in a relationship" to "single" or even "it's complicated".