Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Early this morning, I noticed that some Facebook application, one of a million that has somehow found its way onto my Facebook page sent me some automatic email - the Compare People one. As some level, it's supposed to be and really is just a little parlor game. Most of the questions of a vaguely frivolous nature - who's the best singer, who's the best dresser, etc.

But not all of them.

I ran through some friend comparisons, mostly in a rapid-fire manner. I tended to skip the ones that involved Facebook "friends" I didn't know in person or didn't know well. But I wasn't really using deep thought neurons, so to speak.

And then I looked at how people rated me.

Apparently, while I am smarter, apparently braver (never thought of myself that way, but go me!) more dependable, have better taste in music, am more creative, and more useful than whoever it was I was being compared to. On the other side of things, I'm not the snappiest dresser out there and I'm not the most outgoing sort.

But then I felt something, like I was staring into something I probably should have looked away from, like Pippin and the Orthanc-stone. And I had never thought of myself as a particularly sensitive sort - but it felt odd. I don't think the people who rated some other person higher than me meant it as any sort of slight, but it still feels weird to see that most other people (either friends, or more likely, friends of friends I know either scarcely or not at all) that you got randomly chosen to go up against for this exercise were nearly universally deemed as kinder, as better friends, as more loyal and as more trustworthy than you. I don't care how unflappable you are, if that doesn't hurt a little bit, you're not human.

No one wants to travel with me versus whomever else, and would rather spend a day with other people...but apparently they would rather be stranded on a desert island with me. Go figure. This is probably a sign that I'm wasting too much time writing all this.

Continuing the thought from Saturday, it's yet another sign that knowledge, even imperfect knowledge to be taken as a grain - nay, a shaker - of salt, can be a burden of sorts.

I suppose between some unfortunate incidents I've been involved in and the kind of view of humanity that three years in law school taught me, I'm not exactly the most trusting soul out there, and that probably comes out in more contexts than I would like it to, and I imagine that if you're seen as someone who's slow to let his guard down, other people you encounter might sense a need to act in kind.

I am reminded of the time that I was at an internship and was asked to sort through a filing cabinet of junk - something that I would gain a lot more experience with on some of my old paper document reviews, not to mention filtering out all the junk mail I started getting once the marketing people found out I had passed a bar exam (and now two of them), once they found out that I have a decent household income (especially for a one-person household), once they found out I'm a single gay man, and once they found out I buy a lot of electronic equipment....I'm a freakin' marketer's dream. So I have a giant bin of junk mail to go through when I get a spare minute.

Therefore, the people who picked the other person in the "Who is more organized?" question were 100% justified, unless they opted for certain friends of mine who are demonstrably less organized than I am.

Anyhow, one of the things in there was a report that was evaluating the interns that I can't imagine I was intended to see. I got tagged as "very intelligent" and "a good writer" but also as "unstable" and "overly intense." It may seem funny to anyone who has not known me for long and who has never seen me play quiz bowl or been involved in any of my relatively rare athletic endeavors, but I suppose back in those days I could see how someone could see me as a bit intense, particularly in my former guise as an aspiring politico. But man, seeing "unstable" next to my name didn't feel good.

I'm not sure if it makes sense to be more disturbed by a negative opinion that comes as a surprise than such an opinion that one could anticipate, and yet that's just another sign that humans aren't necessarily rational creatures.

Although I decided right then and there not only that it would be imprudent to say something to the person who wrote it but that I was only going to let this bother me to the extent that I needed to present a better face to the workplace.

Seeing those words probably changed me a little for the better.

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