Tuesday, April 10, 2018
I’m currently looking for an apartment. For some reason, I assumed that I’d have my pick of the litter since I’m mature, responsible, quiet and have great references. When contacting most landlords, this was the information that I gave them when introducing myself; after all, I figured that the people on the other side of the computer are humans too and I’ve always believed that whether I’m contacting a landlord, a potential employers or someone in customer service, it made more sense to talk to them in a respectful, friendly and direct manner. Makes sense, right?
As it turns out I was wrong. In fact, my honesty almost appeared to turn them off. It didn’t matter if I told them I was mature, (ie. not partying every weekend and could potentially be vomiting in their front yard every Sunday morning) responsible, (I can pay the rent!) quiet (I won’t have music or the television blaring at midnight) or what I was looking for as a tenant (a central location where I could walk to most amenities) because what I was met with, was quite unexpected.
Many were abrupt, rude, ignoring most of my message and questions and tossing a ‘so when are you gonna come see the place?’ at me. Others simply disregarded my message or coldly responded that the place was ‘already taken’ even though it continues to be advertised online. My favourite was a lady that literally wasted an entire week with a series of hoops that I had to jump through; all of which I did, providing her with terrific references, proof that I could afford her place and yet, with each response, she seemed to stretch out the amount of time before replying until, yes, an entire week passed and I was still no further ahead.
But that’s fine; it’s not as if I have a life to figure out or anything.
The point is that this experience is becoming quite dehumanizing. However, this shouldn’t surprise me since this has become the theme in our society over the last few years. Try calling for customer support anywhere and you will probably get a robot-like voice on the other end of the phone and I don’t say that to put down the people working at call centres; I’m saying that because many businesses want their personnel to be like machines. I once, briefly, worked at a call centre where I had to read from a script and was chastised if I didn’t follow it. I remember asking a customer one day ‘What can I do for you today?’ rather than ‘How can I help you?’ and being raked over the coals. I didn’t sound professional enough and perhaps, I sounded like a real human being. This was apparently a problem.
And then there’s social media and comment section of…well, anything online. People rip each other apart. It could be the journalist writing the story, the topic of the story or another person’s comment on the story. It doesn’t matter. People feel justified to do so and yet, if they were standing in front of that other person, I almost guarantee they would scurry away like frightened mice.
I’ve actually had a couple of situations in my life where men I dated took the liberty of attacking me in emails. I found it interesting in both cases because when challenged to say the same words to my face, they declined. It’s not cause I’m a large, massive woman with mixed martial arts training or that I carry a weapon in my purse, it’s because most people can’t look each other in the eye and say what they are willing to say online.
We’ve become a society of people taught that human life doesn’t matter. Perhaps it is because violence and death are so regularly highlighted on the news that we forget that there are actual human beings behind that bombing in Syria or the murder in Toronto. Then again, maybe some can’t think about that because if we started to see each other as humans and not faceless people on the Internet, a ’morons’ on the other side of the phone or ‘just another dead body’ on the news, we might have to feel something that isn’t terribly convenient, which is compassion.
Perhaps life is easier when you’re disconnected. Maybe discrediting someone is the ideal way to not feel guilty or accountable. Anyone who’s ever had a ‘close friend’ ignore them during a bad time knows exactly how that feels and of course, they do it because it’s easier to not extend themselves.
The good news is that sometimes it simply takes a little boldness to get these people back down to earth. Sometimes the solution is to let people know that they are, in fact, dealing with an actual person in these circumstances.
Many years ago I had to speak to someone in IT about my hacked website. Back then, I had a terrible host that essentially put me in the position of talking to an uninterested employee at a call centre. He was giving me attitude, talking to me like I was a moron and generally making me feel more frustrated, even though I was sincerely attempting to understand all the tech talk. Finally, I grew angry and said, “You know what? You can speak to me as if I’m a real person. Not everyone has been trained in this area like you and I’m sorry that I’m not a tech expert but you don’t have to talk down to me.”
I’m not exaggerating to make a point, I really did say that to him. He immediately changed his tone and became helpful. I’m thinking that we all should be doing that exact same thing a little more often. Maybe its necessary to give those disconnected people an abrupt and direct reality check and bring them out of their apathetic, disconnected world and back down to earth.