Have you ever been on the receiving end of a flame war? Or have you ever instigated a flame war you subsequently grew to regret?
Every day when I arrive at my office, ensconce myself in my command chair, power-up my computer systems, and open my email, I'm presented with a mind-numbing gaggle of messages all clamoring for my attention.
The way my email system works is that, for each missive, in addition to the sender and the subject line, it displays the first line of the message itself.
The strange thing is how, out of the visual cacophony, certain messages still manage to catch one's eye. Thus it was this morning when my roving eye spotted a message that started off by saying "You are a waste of time. Get a life. Move on."
Naturally, my knee-jerk reaction was to assume that this was from my mother, but she is typically more forthright in her communications. My next thought was that it was from my wife (Gina the Gorgeous), but she isn’t usually this sweet to me. When I finally got around to looking at the sender's name... I didn’t have a clue who he was.
I was mulling this over when I spotted two more messages from the same person. Message #2 said "Wrong person apologise" and message #3 followed up with "Wrong Max" (What? Wait a moment! There's more than one Max? Accept no false imitations, is all I can say).
Screenshot from LinkedIn (Source: Max Maxfield)
It turns out these messages were sent via LinkedIn. Now I'm left wondering as to the identity of the sender (I know his name through LinkedIn, but I'm not sure how we are connected), the identity of the other Max, and what it was that pseudo-Max did to incur the wrath of the sender.
I'm also wondering what I would have done had the sender not realized his mistake and sent his follow-up messages. I'm fairly thick-skinned, so I would probably have sent a simple query asking what it was I'd done to stir up his ire. This would have opened the door to communication, and we would doubtless have resolved things very quickly.
But what if I had been someone of a nervous disposition? Supposed I was already depressed and balanced on the edge? Receiving such a message might have been that "one last straw" that pushed me over. Alternatively, had I been more hot-blooded, I might have responded in a more aggressive manner, resulting in an ever-escalating barrage of communications.
I think the lesson from all of this is to pause before pressing the "Send" button and think "Do I really want to do this?" How about you? Have you ever been on the receiving end of a flame war? Or have you ever instigated a flame war you subsequently grew to regret?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting