A Sort Of Gaslight-y Story From Facebook

February 17, 2017

[Edited to add: Okay, so, reading this many months later, it all seems sort of ridiculous now. But goodness, gracious, at the time!]

I think one thing that’s gonna be potentially be hard for me is re-learning to pick my battles. There are times in our lives in which we are fairly certain that people are lying to us. And it used to be that if it wasn’t about something important, for the most part, I’d kinda just let it go… because why not?

But my oh my oh my. Now… For the moment, it feels like end of the world when I’m being “gaslighted.” Now that I understand what it is, and feel it so deeply, and think of it as a large part of what was so painful about the assault and events surrounding it… It’s like “keep it aWAY from me!”

And so, without further ado, here’s a little story of me losing it a little on Facebook:

For some reason, I am Facebook friends with a giant Trump supporter –  he loves everything the man does. And I noticed he posted this GQ video that ends by talking about how awful Trump is. (It even starts by saying if he can’t act like a President, he could at least dress like one.) So, obviously not pro-Trump.

I commented, asking why something anti-Trump was on his page and he didn’t respond. And I let that go… Until… Later, he messaged me someone’s blog post about why “sexism isn’t real,” and women are completely equal in ever way. [Yeah, I’m sure that’s why there are more CEOs of Fortune 500 companies specifically named John than there are women. Anyway…] He sent it with the response: “Hi. I thought you might enjoy this. I don’t want to debate the points made. Just wanted to share it with you.”

So, then I went off a little – saying things along the lines of “I hiiighly doubt you actually thought I might enjoy that. And also, what’s the point of sending me something but telling me you don’t want to discuss it at all? Either you want to ‘educate’ me or show me a different worldview or something and have conversations about it, or you don’t. But it’s rude to say ‘here’s this no-proper-sources argument that doesn’t hold water at all. I want you to have to read my worldview but then not engage me.'” I also have a few examples of how institutionalized misogyny is for sure a problem in America. And since we were already in FB messages, I asked, “p.s. You never responded to my comments about you posting an Anti-Trump GQ video on your page. You posted and didn’t even watch it? And didn’t even take it down when you learned it was anti-Trump?”

He then said, “The video in question showed no anti Trump stuff on my end. Maybe you have a virus. Or maybe my anti spam software blocks it on my end.” That didn’t seem right to me. So, I asked how it ended for him. (Fully, I said this: “Did you see the screenshots I posted in the comments? Literally from watching that exact very video? I clicked your link and watched to the end and posted literal screenshots… How does the video end for you?”)

He said, “It ends with the make over. Then it stops.” I said I’d be curious to see a screenshot because that doesn’t seem right. It shouldn’t cut off in different places for us…

Then he asked me why I was obsessing. (Uh oh. I’m whiffing a deflection!) So, I sent a little rant explaining why I was “obsessing:”

“Because for one thing, it’s very odd that you’re so okay with a video bashing Trump right on your TL. If I had somehow accidentally posted anything that went so against Hillary Clinton on mine, I would be so embarrassed and want to rectify the situation immediately

For another thing, if you post something that 100% goes against everything you believe in because you didn’t make it to the end, and you don’t even care, then can I trust that you actually believe or fully read or fully watch anything you post? I mean, who knows if you even read that article you sent me? Like, what’s the point of sharing stuff if you don’t pay attention to it?

Thirdly, I was trying to help you by pointing out something you might’ve missed. We don’t always have to be so against each other. If someone’s like “oh I think you mis-posted something… we could just say “golly I was wrong. Thanks so much!” But instead, it yet again has to become a fight of “it doesn’t say that” when there are actual screenshots.

Which brings me to almost my last point – which is if you can’t admit you’re wrong about something when it is literally right there in front of your face – when I screenshotted something from a link you posted and instead you tell me I might have a virus… a virus that what? Makes videos longer? That literally doesn’t make sense. If you can’t ever ever ever admit you’re wrong, then what ever becomes the point of ever ever debating or sharing anything? I am willing to learn and say “shoot! I never knew that!” But if you can’t admit something right in front of your face and it’s still my fault – then it seems worthless to ever talk to each other.

Lastly, I don’t like lying. Even when you’re like “I don’t even know where the video is now.” You do know. Because you took it down. ‘Cause when you said you didn’t know where it was, I went to check my notifications, and it said the content had been deleted when I clicked on the one about that thread.

Like it is just not that hard to every once in a great while admit that you are wrong. I wouldn’t think”

He said, “I did not take the video down. When i say the video ended as i said it ended that is the truth. I don’t lie. And i would not get all worked up if I accidentally posted a video that morphed into an anti trump video. I could care less. Especially when it didn’t morph when I watched it. Who cares anyway? It’s just a video. I feel sorry for you if you think so little of people that you assume the worst of them.”

Old Aurora (if I ever would’ve even gotten to this point, which let’s get real, I wouldn’t have even pushed this far) would’ve felt SO bad. “Oh man. I can’t believe I’m offending him. I can’t believe I saw the worst in him. I feel so bad.” I would’ve apologized and walked back.

Not this time.

So, I sent him a screenshot from my end on Facebook saying the content was no longer available. And I sent this along with it:
“I mean, it literally does not make sense that a link I click from your page doesn’t take me to the same video you saw. I asked you how it ended and you don’t have an answer.

Also, it doesn’t make sense that Facebook would tell me our comment thread won’t load because the content doesn’t exist if you didn’t change anything about it.”

Then he said this:

“I don’t know how the video might have disappeared but I did not take it down. I wouldn’t care if it had some anti Trump stuff on the end of the video. Doesn’t really bother me. So I would never take it down for that reason. Perhaps whoever I shared it from took it down. Why are you interrogating me about this as if I murdered someone? It’s kind of weird. It’s not like we are married and you suspect me of cheating on you. That’s the level of reaction you are having with this. I sort of liked you since I started interacting with you on Facebook even though we usually disagree. I thought you were cool. But this whole thread about the video is bizarre and weird for me. Arte you done now about the video?”

Ah. See those tactics? Make me feel crazy or like my reaction is out of proportion. Make me feel bad like I ‘used to be cool,’ and now I need to be a good girl to get back in his good graces/get his approval again. And Old Aurora might have done that. “I don’t wanna be a too-emotional-woman! I’m cool! I’m cool!” New Aurora’s like, “Nah, man. I don’t care. I am maybe reacting a lil’ too strong to this, but also, please just stop making me feel like I’m crazy. Just tell me you hadn’t watched the full video and you took it down?”

In his defense: It is true that if he’d shared it from someone else and they took it down, I would’ve had the same results. So, maybe that part is true…

Anyway, I responded with this:

Like me, don’t like me. I don’t care. Unfriend me, if you wish.

I just think it’s incredibly, incredibly odd that you wouldn’t care at all if you had anti-Trump stuff on your page. If you’re a man who stands by his convictions, who’s sending me links to posts and stuff, I assume you’ve read it/watched it. If I can’t trust that you watched a short video, how do I ever trust anything you say or watch?

*You* started this thread by sending me an uninvited *ridiculous* article.

I don’t mind if we disagree but the fact that you can’t admit a very simple obvious – literally obvious – way in which you are dead wrong, because I watched the video from your link – what is the point of ever having a single discussion?

He replies: “I trust that you aren’t making up what was on the end of the video because there is no reason to lie about that. You should believe me for the same reason and leave it at that. I didn’t bust you up for saying there was something on the video I did not see.”

(Do those, or do those not feel like gaslighting tactics to you?)

So, then, I said: “Because I took screenshots and gave you literal proof”

He says: “I didn’t look at the screenshots. I trusted you. I have no reason to think you would lie and i had no interest in whether or not the video had anti trump stuff in it. I have more important priorities in my life. Are we really still discussing this?”

(Again, a fair amount of this feels like it’s from the gaslighting handbook.)

So, I tell him that. This is my next response:

“We’re discussing this because you’re using a tactic called gaslighting – whether you are meaning to or not. It’s when you start arguing with someone over something they prove to be true but you still say it isn’t. Then you start making them feel either like they’re over reacting (“is this all that important?”) or that they’re being mean (“I trust you. Why don’t you trust me?”) Look it up if you want to know more. It’s dangerous. So, it’s not about a video, per se. It’s how you’re treating me. And I don’t appreciate being treated that way.”

He says: “You are accusing me of being a liar. Do you think I appreciate that? Look, I don’t need, want or tolerate drama in my life. I’m a nice guy. And I don’t deserve to be treated this way. You are a toxic person. Please don’t contact me anymore.”

Yet again, as would’ve happened a million times over by now, Old Aurora would’ve just apologized. “Oh man. A nice guy. Why am I being so mean to a nice guy?” Instead…

I say: “Re-read this thread and tell me if you’ve been “nice” to me, or if you’ve been blaming and deflecting. I’m sorry I’ve been harsh. But I’m just trying to get a point across without being walked all over. I don’t believe I am toxic. You are entitled to your opinions. Have a nice night, and a nice life!”

(I even do sneak in a little apology there! “Old Aurora” isn’t dead)

Then the conversation peters out after that. He tells me I’m brainwashed and we stop talking.

So… do I feel at least a little bit crazy after this interaction? Yes. But do I also feel like I firmly stood my ground, and saw things I would’ve missed before, and made valid points (without really being “crazy” or being super personally insulting or things like that)? Yeah.

Now, do I need to engage so much over a dumb Facebook video with a Trump supporter I’m not even actual real-life friends with? No. I really don’t. So, potentially some of what he said is sort of valid, in that it really isn’t important. But I still feel he was using some bad tactics with me. And I *think* I’m more in tune with them now…

It’s also possible I’ve overly-aware of them now. I do understand not everything is gaslighting. And I don’t want to live this way – getting angry over stuff like this, arguing with near strangers. But obviously, also, I’m very sensitive to getting stuck in the hole I was in before.

So, it’ll be an interesting ride trying to sort of figure out kind of my new boundaries and everything. Hopefully I can still let a lot go. As I said, I don’t want to live in this constant angry way. But at least when I let it go, hopefully I won’t be questioning myself as much. I dunno… I feel like I could hem and haw here forever. (So maybe I’m questioning myself after all! Haha. But yeah. The world looks a little different and I’m a little more probably both defensive and a little more offense-ive too… And both have good and bad. And I’ll work on finding the right mix of that.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?