One of the things that's been bothering me, and many of my friends on Myspace and Facebook, is the endlessly solipsistic stream of friends posting surveys about themselves or the results of quizzes they've taken evaluating everything from what kind of blood type they should be to which major World War or random kitchen object best represents them.
It occured to me that we might start pooling our collective wisdom about each other after all this time, to see what we've really learned. So I've decided to start with my own list. In the vein of 25 Things About Me, that ubiquitous meme floating about social networking sites everywhere, I give you:
25 Things About Other People:
1. Most people hide their suffering better than you think; you pass dozens of people a day on the street without any idea how well they're wearing their tragedies.
2. People's names are the sweetest sounds they hear. You should make a point of being good at learning and using them.
3. People love to spread their misery around, but not as much as they enjoy being lifted out of it.
4. Being young is not in and of itself an achievement. Neither is being beautiful. But people often treat you as if they are.
5. For a lot of people, music is a reflection of who they are and their relationship to life. Remember that before insulting someone's tastes in music.
6. The Golden Age never existed. People are always trying to get back to a time when things were simpler and better. The world was a far more dangerous place 50 years ago, especially if you were black or a woman or gay or diagnosed with cancer.
7. Most people, whatever their choice of profession, feel like complete novices who are about to be found out as frauds and fakers.
8. Most people love quite helplessly, despite what they would have you believe.
9. Show me the most beautiful woman in the world, and I'll show you a man who's bored with taking her to bed. Show me the most devoted husband, and I'll show you a woman who feels that he's just not doing enough. A lot of people are never satisfied because…
10. Most people have no idea what they want out of life, let alone how to get it. Most others are still waiting for someone to give them permission.
11. Whatever it is about yourself that you're trying to hide, it's usually the first thing someone else notices about you.
12. You should call your mother and tell her you love her. Like most women who decide to marry and have children or help take care of a dying parent, she probably sacrificed a lot of her dreams to be there for you, and she wishes that you appreciated her more for it. Susan Boyle represented this demographic powerfully, but for every one like her, there were a thousand women like your mother who will never get that standing ovation.
13. If you tell a man about your problems, he assumes you want some sort of help or advice. If you tell a woman about your problems, she assumes you simply want a shoulder to cry on. Women rarely want to be told what to do about a problem, and men rarely want to be coddled through a hard time.
14. Creative people thrive on feedback. You can never give them enough of it, and you will endear yourselves to them mightily if you do it frequently, thoughtfully, and honestly. They understand the value of time far better than most think.
15. For most people religion is a social commitment more than a spiritual one.
16. A lot of people who consider themselves intelligent can't properly label all the states on a map, or all the countries in Europe, let alone Africa or the Middle East. Most couldn't list off the ten commandments, five pillars, or the amendments of the Constitution, and feel that politics are too complicated to bother with understanding, let alone talking about.
17. A lot of Christians have never, and will never, read the Bible. Most of them will conduct their lives exactly as they would if they'd never attended a single church service. It is nearly impossible to tell a Christian from an atheist by their actions alone. Both Christians and atheists will probably find the previous statement offensive.