Off Topic and Out of Line

Do you get annoyed by people who think that whatever they’re concerned about should take precedence over absolutely everything else? Like when you read a article about global climate change and someone remarks in the comments section, “I can’t believe you’re all worried about fuel emissions when women and their doctors are murdering thousands of unborn children!”

I once saw a Facebook post about volunteering to collect books for a book drive. One man responded by criticizing volunteers for working to get books to underprivileged children, when there are mistreated animals who are dying and need their help more.

Sometimes it’s nothing controversial. It may even be something you agree with that just has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Yesterday on a home renovation site, somebody posted a question about her attic windows. But her post was poorly worded. A lot of people did not understand what she was trying to say, and asked for clarity. I was part of that conversation, which veered off into the regional differences in grammatical usage that had contributed to the misunderstanding. The tone was civil. Nobody was coming down on the original poster; it was just a discussion of semantics, with different responders talking about the local usage where they live. Yes, some of us are interested in this kind of thing.

And then someone named Laurie complained, “Ya’ll need to get a grip! There are dead babies in Kentucky!”

What? Yes, tornadoes tore through Kentucky this week, and people are dead. That is tragic. But nothing in the post about attic windows had anything to do with the tornadoes in Kentucky. I’m mystified as to Laurie’s point. Anytime a tragedy happens, are we supposed to suspend all conversations about everything else? Is it somehow disrespectful to dead babies in Kentucky if people in other places continue to hold conversations about home renovations, or grammar? If Laura really believes that, then why was she in this conversation in the first place? (She does not live in Kentucky, if that makes any difference.)

It seems to be a way of hijacking a conversation and wrenching it in a direction that nobody else intended for it to go. It’s narcissistic. Laurie is saying, “My concern about tornado victims in Kentucky is more important than anything you were discussing; therefore you are in the wrong to be having this discussion at all.” She believes her interests take precedence over ours, though our interests were directly related to the post and hers were not.

Why do people think they have the right to tell others what they can discuss in a public forum? Does she think that bringing up dead babies, in a conversation on a wildly different topic, gives her the moral high ground and the right to tell us what we can talk about?

I’m seeing this so much lately, people lashing out at strangers for things no reasonable person would consider offensive. Are people more unreasonable than they used to be? Is it the pandemic? Or maybe the attitudes were always there, and the rise of social media has pulled them out of hiding and put them on display for all to see.

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