insert emoticon here

tooooooooooo sensitive

Some lunchtime musings over pesto pasta salad and the internet.

So, if you ever want to infuriate me beyond the ability to speak to you rationally, tell me I’m being too sensitive. I will, at that point, launch into a tirade about how it’s not your job or right to tell me whether or not my emotional and psychological response to stimulus is appropriate, given that you are unaware of the full range of previous experiences which may be informing my reaction. I will probably also tell you to fuck off. I very much dislike being told “You are X”, when I don’t think I am X.

That said, sometimes it does appear to each of us that someone is reacting disproportionately to the situation, and it’s confusing — and I will react far less radically to someone who tells me that my reaction seems disproportionate to the circumstances, because that’s a statement that leaves me room to explain why my reaction is what it is. I react less strongly to “you seem to be doing X and I don’t understand it”, and have thought that a lot about other people.

Today’s  I DO NOT UNDERSTAND moment is brought to you by parenting boards on the internet. I keep reading some of them because there’s interesting info there on cloth diapers and feeding solid foods to 6 month olds that I appreciate, and because there are plenty of parents on the internet who aren’t abhorrent to me. There’s a group who ARE abhorrent to me, and I avoid them. But then there’s this middle ground of people who seem reasonable and interesting, and then… Poof. They explode into a haze of fury and indignation and resentment and pouting.

And it usually goes something like this. They say “I’m in this situation, because we do X, Y, and Z, and now we’re trying to do Q and it’s not working and I’m looking for advice.” And a bunch of people provide advice on Q, but a bunch of people also provide advice on X, Y, and Z, and some small percentage of people also provide commentary on why X, Y, and Z are actually the problem and why the hell did you do it that way, duh?

I know that’s annoying. When you need help with Q, commentary on X feels actively unhelpful. It’s happened to me, and I’ve complained about it myself. I also try hard not to do it to other people, because, damn but it’s irritating. The thing I don’t understand is the tizzy of explosion into internet screaming that boils down to “HOW DARE YOU JUDGE MY CHOICES I ASKED FOR HELP AND YOU TOLD ME I AM DOING IT WRONG AND I HATE YOU ALL YOU HORRIBLE PEOPLE AND I’M GOING TO ABANDON THE INTERNET FOREEEEEEVEEEEEERRRRRRR.”

The truth of life, as I see it, is that whenever you ask for advice about a problem, there will inevitably be someone who judges you for the choices you made that led you to that problem. There will always be someone who tells you you’re wrong in your assessment of your circumstances. There will invariably be someone who wants you to change something else that you think is unchangeable. That’s how interaction works in our social world. Our society is is constructed via a system of judgements, assumptions, and communicated expectations, and that’s just how life works. No one else lives in your head or your home, so no one else understands the four thousand carefully balanced pressures that inform your choice about when your child goes to bed, or whether or not you use disposable diapers, or why you aren’t getting enough sleep. Every time I post anything about what we’re doing as parents, as a family, or as people, I know that someone out there is judging us and declaring our choices to be wrong, because it looks wrong to them, and they can’t see those four thousand tiny forces. That’s how the world works. That’s who we are, as humans in this place and time.

People who assume or believe that the world works differently than that… well, I don’t understand them or their reactions to this reality. Their reactions seem sort of insane to me — they seem disproportionate. And when they go POOF into a cloud of theatrical dismay, they leave a mess on my browser and my psyche.

It might be time to abandon the parenting boards…


  1. Juliana Culbert

    Hi Jenica,

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and I’ve found your insight and experiences very comforting, so thanks for that! This is a great post, and it covers a topic that has been on my mind a lot. I’m working in the user experience department of an academic library, and one of the things that I believe is incredibly important to my field, libraries, and the world in general is empathy. Those who judge you or others for whatever choices you’ve made about your life are missing out on the perspective of why you made these choices, which I think is a shame, and totally their loss. I’d like to think that empathy is a key piece of making the internet a nicer place to be, and these people appear to be missing some of that. Oh, well.

    Here’s another great article that I’ve read recently that explores how to communicate with others, even when you disagree. I hope you might get something out of it.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks and you’re not alone for thinking this way!

    All the best,


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