Yesterday, I was a jerk on the internet. Nothing very unusual really. I was frustrated with a few things and in that state where you’re mumbling and cursing to yourself as you try to make it all work. Like many people now, I didn’t keep my grumbling to myself. I shared it on Twitter. I complained about a software build. Then, I complained about a website being down. To mix things up, I went back to complaining about the software build. Next, I moved on to complain about a software packaging format. Finally, I unloaded on a newly-installed Vim plugin.
All of this was in the space of about thirty minutes. I wasn’t patient. I didn’t try to understand my problems better. I wanted things to work immediately and to work as I thought they should. I was a jerk. As I said above, this is nothing special. I’m often a jerk. And people often use Twitter to dump this sort of anger and frustration now. (Other places as well, obviously.)
Also yesterday I read Thoughtbot’s Thanksgiving post. I remember thinking it was classy, and I almost tweeted about it. I didn’t, and beyond thinking briefly that it was classy, it had no further effect on me.
This morning, I woke up to see that Erik Kow messaged me a few times on Twitter. He maintains the website I was complaining about. He thanked me for letting them know the site was down and apologized to me for the problems. Please let that sink in. He thanked me, and he apologized to me - emphatically apologized actually.
I remember watching adults grow frustrated and angry. Probably everyone does. Your teacher or father or neighbor or the guy at the store is trying to do something, and it’s not working. It keeps not working, and the person begins to mumble and curse and complain. Depending on how bad the problem is, how much the solution matters and who the person is, they maybe even began to yell at other people or throw things. Adults and children, not much different really. I’d love to say that the contemporary difference is just Twitter (or the like). Twitter makes it easy to unleash all of that immediate annoyance on the rest of the world.
Bullshit. Seriously, bullshit. The difference is how you choose to handle yourself. The difference is how you choose to treat other people and their hard work. Every day I see people dump on other people’s hard work on Twitter. This software sucks. That software is a piece of a shit. Angry, merciless, rageful bursts. I’m not sure why that’s ok, but it’s certainly common. It seems especially common among programmers. Maybe they’re especially critical by training or nature, or maybe I just follow more programmers?
So, two new rules for me. First, I unfollow anyone who does that. Second, I work much, much harder not to do it myself. Enough is enough. The people who maintain that website, write that software, provide that Vim plugin – they do it for free, and they let me have both the product and the source code under permissive licences. What the hell is wrong with me?
Thank you, Eric. I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have thanked me or apologized to me. I didn’t earn either.