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Passive Aggressive Hostility

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Lately I’ve found myself becoming increasingly angry with people around me. I get angry when people are too loud and I want to sleep, I can’t stand it when someone asks a million questions right when class is supposed to get out, and I even get angry when someone walks too slow ahead of me. Am I a hateful person? No, I don’t think so. But why am I always so frustrated? I tend to enjoy things most of the time, but perhaps it is people who are the root of my and most everyone else’s hostility and rudeness.

I was walking down the South Oval at the University of Oklahoma about a month ago, and just got out my History of Jazz class. Suddenly, a bicyclist, not in the bike lane, was going too fast and didn’t see me. His bike tire rammed into my leg and scratched it. The next thing I knew, he was biking off as fast as he could. Maybe he was embarrassed, running late, or maybe he just didn’t want to apologize.

For whatever the reason, I figured it was just an accident, but common courtesy would have said he should have apologized or stopped to see if I was okay. I didn’t flag him down though. I gave a dirty look in his direction and prayed that the rest of humanity was not like this. Moments like this one make me wonder about conflict and the fact that being kind seems to be a thing of the past.

In the car, I, and the rest of the world, seemed to let off much of the steam we’d been holding in. When I drive, I try to be as calm and collected as possible, but it only takes that one moron who is going two miles per hour under the speed limit to make my brain snap. I vocalize various profanities at this person, whom I have never met, and harmlessly flip them off under the steering wheel so that they cannot see. I have no idea why I act this way.

If I’m really mad, why can’t I express my opinion? I like to think it is because I’m too nice and don’t want to be angry at another person, but that’s not it. I don’t want to be confronted if they react in a harsh and frightening way. I have come to the conclusion that in our society we seem to be constantly angry, but never desire to instigate conflict head on, and so we learn to be furious until met with a real person.

Because our society is constantly surrounded by the media, we take our cues from and act in accordance with what the media deems appropriate. We get this anger and hostility towards others from what the media show us. All of the political mudslinging on pundit shows tells us it is okay to act horrible to those who have opinions in opposition to ours.

Reality shows also give us this unspoken entitlement to show our malice. We see the mega divas battle it out for attention, which tells us how to act. These shows give us permission to express our irritability with whatever bothers us and unfortunately, that is a lot.

With the invention of YouTube and other sites that allow comments and feedback, the return of the bully has resurfaced. Online bullying has become a hot button issue in the media because of recent suicides and other traumatic events. However, these comments and criticisms are a different type of bullying. People are brutally harsh and mean-spirited with these words much more so than they would be face to face.

Anyone can say anything on these sites no matter how awful because they are hiding behind a computer screen. This issue brings up the previous matter, the fact that most of us use the internet and media to release our inner bully, but in reality, we are terrified of the possibility of being met with that conflict personally.

For example, we all know that one person on Facebook or Twitter who posts unnecessary and hostile personal information. He or she, usually she, posts melodramatic quotes from a song, or perhaps her own little adage like, “Why does it seem like nobody is ever on my side?”, which generates lots of interest and sympathy. She acknowledges that there is a problem, and the person who she is in conflict with sees that it is plastered all over the social network. This instigator of drama knows that she is expressing her anger, but when confronted face to face? My guess is this girl will surrender the accusations and become best friends temporarily with the person that made her mad.

Social media has trained us to act in this way of being total idiots when expressing our opinion anonymously and putting on a face of courteousness if the conflict, danger, and yelling is imminently headed towards ourselves. Because of my apparent road rage, I have realized that people act in cars like they do on social media as well. If there is a shield protecting us from getting involved in antagonistic disputes then we will spew whatever opinion we please. But if there isn’t, you can bet that most of our society shuts their mouths and goes on their merry way.

We all act like a silent bully until there is that one person who takes offense and calls us out. Then we retreat like scared children back into our comfort zone of kindness. The simple solution to this problem is the age old saying of “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it,” and I mean this in every realm of our culture. We all have our shields in front of us: our phones, computers, and cars, and these keep us from having to face any conflict with an actual person.

We need to start learning to resist the temptation of acting like airheads in social media and hopefully this will translate to our everyday lives. Maybe we will start being more patient on the way to class or driving around in our cars. We could possibly end all of the passive aggressive tweets or text messages. If we train ourselves to act more courteous or even start having thicker skins, perhaps this problem of hostility and frustration will retreat.

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About Mary Beth Pearson