Monday, February 9, 2015

(More) Bad News from the Middle East

I have a great friend I run almost everything by. In almost every way I look to him as my intellectual life coach, even though we are the same age. We lived together for years as roommates until he accepted a job working for a venture capital firm run by the government Amman, Jordan. To stay in touch with his native country and friends, my friend has developed some very strange ways of keeping in touch with us. From group texts with every variation of our friend group to starting to play Clash of Klans, it's starting to feel intrusive. He really tipped the scales when Google notified him of a blog post I had posted (still trying to understand the logistics of this) and he took it as an opportunity to see what I had been up to.

The way I found out about all of this was through a comment he left on my post: "Feeling targeted."

At first, my mind raced back over the lines I had written about my roommates to see if I had said anything deliberately cutting that he could have taken offense to. I was worried that this friend would be hurt by my jests about my roommates and their cleanliness and less than ideal habits. He didn't answer my first phone call, probably because of the different time zones in Utah and Amman, and I was left to my preoccupation. Was my work causing more harm than good?

When I finally got a hold of him, it turned out that he had just found the post to be very accurate of our friends and the time we all lived together. However, I had been thinking so much about offending others through writing that I asked him how far he felt was too far when writing about personal experience. We narrowed it down to a couple key points:

  • Omit names. By not explicitly naming anyone, any offense can be avoided to a general audience. 
  • Be honest while still not saying anything you would be embarrassed for someone else to read. This is the key issue, and it is both a challenge to be vulnerable in problem solving in real life as well as cautious in a literary approach. 
  • Make sure to be self depreciating so that your reader can trust your complaints are not overly biased. 
We discussed other elements of the piece and laughed together, but this feedback and experience are things I will not easily forget. 

1 comment:

  1. I love how you've framed this: more as a narrative than just "This is what my friend said." It's cool that your friend could take your blog post seriously without getting offended by it. That's what I value the most in a critic--someone who won't take things personally.