This morning I had the great fortune of setting off someone on Grindr who then went off on me in a grand tirade (I have the screenshots to prove it). While I will not share those screenshots, I will share a bit of my experience of verbal battles on dating apps and on the internet in general.
I begin with the idea that it is extremely challenging to truly know someone until you have spent time with them in person. There is research on this and tons of expert opinions, but my reasoning behind this idea is as follows: people have more time to think/respond online, people can misrepresent themselves online quite easily, people may not feel as responsible for their words online, tone and meaning are easy to misconstrue, etc. Along this vein, even a loving conversation with someone you have never met can be relatively surface-level or insincere when you really think about it. Knowing all of this, why then would you choose to get into an argument with someone about whom you know next to nothing?
Back in high school when I was young and foolish (as if I no longer am), I once came across a page on Facebook whose sole goal was to discredit the Bible and attack religious institutions. I am not a strongly religious person by any means, but I -for whatever reason- decided to like the page and begin discourse with the members. The owner of the page and I got into a heated debate, but the key difference between us was that he got quite angry, and I did not. We were simply discussing concepts, and I felt no need to attack him as a person. My purpose of debate was simply to open anyone who was listening up to the possibility that maybe the Bible can be used in positive ways and that religion has a positive impact regardless of its negative qualities. I believe that very few things are all good or all evil. This experience taught me that arguing that something can only be done or used in one way against someone who is arguing that there is always possibility and creativity will not go well for the first guy.
This morning, I messaged someone on our beloved gay dating app, and he instantly decried the fact that many profiles are fake, and many do not want to engage in intercourse. I said that people use the app for different things, and he sprang on me. He said that I was emasculating myself, that I was not a man since I cannot separate feelings from sex, and a variety of other comments designed to hurt me without any knowledge of who I am as a person or even why I am using the app. My only responses were defense of myself and clarification that he knows very little about me. Eventually, he decided to call me a “f***ing [r-word]” (I hate typing or saying that word EVER). At this, I became indignant because my summer job is working with children who have behavioral challenges and/or disabilities, I have taken a class about teaching students with disabilities, I have taken a class about the philosophy of human ability, and I personally have a label that is often termed a disability. This word has done and continues to do a lot of damage by hurting individuals and communities in a profound way.
I considered walking about but felt I had a responsibility to myself and the world I care about, so I said “As someone who works with children with disabilities, I would request that you never use the r-word again because it is damaging and hurtful”. It turns out that this statement gave my ‘friend’ even more fodder because then he could call me a white knight social justice warrior, a safe zone millennial, and other names. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not either of those things at all. While I care about making this world a better place and learning about worthy issues, I do not actively correct people or advocate for political correctness. I waited to see more messages, then told him that nothing he was saying upset me. He told me that I must be very upset and that his words must be quite hurtful; however, this is not true. I have been through a lot of things more damaging than an online argument with someone who does not know me.
The true thing that upset me about this whole interaction was just that people like him really exist and make the choice to do things like this. Although this was one online example, I know that people out there in the ‘real world’ do some of these same things. People make assumptions about others, people judge others for not doing things the one right way, people say cruel things that have no bearing on the situation at hand, and these people often go about their daily lives stubbornly resistant to change.
I believe in love, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, kindness, and active listening both online and in person. We are all so lucky to have been given this gift of life, so I personally see no reason to squander it on going out of my way to make someone else feel negatively.