I Got Called Out for Making A Sweeping Statement on Youtube
There was a lot to learn about myself and people on the internet.
It took me a long time to decide if I wanted to publish this. I also experienced a lot of inertia trying to write this out, not wanting to confront nor express these negative feelings I’ve harbored within me. Even as my fingers run across the keyboard, my heart is racing.
This article may put me in a bad light and I’ve made my peace with that. We can’t keep painting ourselves as nice or good people. Even nice people have a nasty side to them. To only point out people’s mistakes and not mine would be hypocritical.
So here goes.
When it happened and my angry thoughts
I was watching What’s it like being Half Japanese in Japan? One of the interviewees, a half-Columbian guy, shared his growing-up experience in Japan. He mentioned some of his negative encounters that resonated deeply with me.
I then decided to post a comment sharing my experience. I’m not going to sugarcoat what I posted so I’m putting it here.
It was not my brightest moment. I was coming from my own negative experiences, relating to the Japanese-Columbian guy. There was a lot of hurt, disappointment, and more so, shock. Shocked because I didn’t expect to have such an experience in Japan. Shocked because my image of the beautiful country has been tainted by my encounters. My impression of Japan isn’t as picture-perfect as before.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing to love about the land of the rising sun. There’s a lot to appreciate as well. I just didn’t mention them in my comment.
I didn’t think anyone would comment on it. I hardly comment on social media and when I do, they’re often buried under the millions of comments. Yet, when someone does comment, it’s usually not out of empathy or agreement but to ‘correct’ or call me out for their own agenda. More often than not, they missed the point of my comment.
For this particular one, Mr. H decided to chime in.
He called my comment ‘myopic’ and ‘doesn’t represent what “Japanese people” are’ simply because it seemed like he hasn’t had any negative experiences in his past 30 years of living in Japan. He had completely missed the point of my rant. Quick to tell me I was wrong and shouldn’t have worded it that way. He made me sound like I’m stupid. At least that was how I felt.
Of course, I don’t think all Japanese people are like that. And neither did I intend to paint all Japanese people to be like that. It was the people I’ve met that gave me that impression. I didn’t think I had to spell it out. He conveniently overlooked parts where I did not make a sweeping statement. Perhaps my stand isn’t as strong since he had more Japanese friends across the decades while I only have a few, and he only spoke Japanese with them while I spoke English and was learning some Japanese from them casually.
I mulled over whether I should respond to it. The wise, peaceful side of me quietly whispered to let it go. But the egotistical, confrontational side enticed me. In its sultry voice, it encouraged me to respond and see where this goes, that perhaps we could actually have a decent discussion about these issues in Japan.
I succumbed to my ego.
I explained where I was coming from when I wrote my first comment. Part of me was hoping to seek understanding from this stranger. The other part knew what was coming.
In his next response, he chose certain parts of my comment and picked them apart. Later in his comment, he said ‘I’m just setting whomever comes across this comment straight that your experience differs from mine and that you should be careful about sweeping generalisations.’
What a hero. Setting my comment straight for people because he thinks people are dumb in general and don’t have a mind of their own to make their own inferences and conclusions about my comment.
This phrase triggered me. It hit me so hard that my whole body shook with emotions.
I should be careful about sweeping generalizations.
I thought of coming back at him. Technically, I could say the same for him too. Making an assumption that I was talking about all Japanese people. While I did not say ‘most’ or ‘some Japanese people’, neither did I say ‘all Japanese people are this way’.
Your follow up statement is a condemnation of Japanese people’s character.
As I was writing this and revisiting the online conversation, I realized my statements weren’t as condemning as he felt though I have to admit, it was a little harsh. It’s understandable why it would come across that way since he was also biased as it seemed like he only ever had positive experiences in Japan.
Yet, I thought his word choice was deliberate and a tad extreme too. He could’ve chosen other words like ‘criticism’ or ‘judgment’ but he chose ‘condemnation’. It revealed how strongly he felt about my comment and he would only feel this way because of his passionate love for Japan and the Japanese people as much as he said he’s “not putting Japan on the pedestal”. I mean hey, by all means, go ahead. I’m not judging. Love this country and its people. But it doesn’t eradicate them from any sins or wrongdoings. It’s just part of being human.
‘Yes, Japanese people like tourists. But they’re not particularly excited about foreigners living here. Those that are, they also make use of these foreigners…’ — my comment
So he had assumed I’m generalizing Japanese people who like foreigners and they all make use of these foreigners to learn English. Yes, my sentence needed rewording in hindsight. Yet, I’ve also used ‘some Japanese people’ in my previous sentences. You’d think that would help someone realize that this person is kind of aware of what she’s writing but maybe in the midst of her emotions, she didn’t do it for the other parts of her comment. But of course, that’s what people do online. They zoom in on one particular thing that triggered them and pick it apart, taking it out of context. They’re only concerned with straightening people out.
At the same time, his response also revealed his intentions. He wasn’t there to empathize. Neither was he interested in being involved in a discussion. He was just there riding on his self-righteous horse correcting people about their views on Japan and the Japanese.
So much for not ‘putting Japan on a pedestal’, jumping to their defense anytime someone has something negative to say about the country and its people.
I spent about 2 hours crafting my next response. Feel free to read it if you’re patient enough. I’m long-winded.
In summary, I admitted that I was generalizing by not stating the obvious. I went on to say that it’s what people do when they’re angry or emotional. I explained further that there are many foreigners who love Japan and wouldn’t hear it if you have anything bad to say about the country. I was grossed out by the fact that he made himself seem so perfect like he’s never made generalizations before whether in speech or text. While I explained it was human to generalize especially when we’re emotional, I also admitted it was not right. That it was something we should be conscious about.
And all I was met with was a short response — him using my example to make his point.
In spite of it, I had expected that too. He was predictable. And of course, he would use the ‘Black people’ example. I thought about using it in my previous reply but decided against it. Somehow, I knew he would use this exact example.
Again, he chose to focus not on my comment as a whole but parts of it to his advantage. And he ended his comment with “Well, that’s how your comment comes off, no matter how you try to justify it.”
I was exasperated. I was frustrated with myself for needlessly spending 2 hours crafting my reply.
Frustrated with myself for putting my opinions on the platform in the first place. Frustrated with the guy I was keyboard-warrioring with who obviously didn’t really care about anyone but himself. To this day, this conversation still comes back to haunt me, lingering quietly in the back of my mind because of my own guilt. And that’s what I’m furious with myself. That the other person wasn’t affected and I was. He probably isn’t even thinking about the exchange we had while it still simmers within me sometimes.
Maybe because I know he’s also right. And also because I gave someone a chance to point out my mistake.
He was right about me justifying myself. There was no need for me to explain nor prove myself. As long as I know where I was coming from, it doesn’t matter if people took things the wrong way (even though I know that’s not what he actually meant when he said this). I was seeking his understanding and approval while he thinks I’m doing a sorry-not-sorry post.
I finally decided that this guy was not worth it. He was just there on his self-righteous patrol. He wasn’t interested in a discussion. Perhaps it wasn’t worth his time.
I then realized all he wanted from me was to admit that I was wrong. He didn’t care for an explanation or reason. They’re just excuses to him (which we’re all guilty of when we don’t want to listen or understand because we think we’re right). He had failed to take context into account, only picking apart what he felt was wrong for me to say. He even taught me how I should’ve written my sentence — “In my experience, it’s been difficult to develop a genuine friendship with Japanese people”.
I thought it was laughable since I could also teach him how to begin and remark on other people’s comments with human empathy.
Plus, we were both arguing about drastically different points.
My stand was empathy. His was making generalizations. And he stoically stood by his point, refusing to budge. Not a slightest hint of empathy for people who have negative experiences in Japan all because I have generalized Japanese people. I’ve made some other points in my first comment but those didn’t matter to him.
I thought it was pretty obvious that I was speaking from my experience. I didn’t think I had to write it so explicitly. But of course, I guess I have to for people like him or for people who take everything at face value, jumping the gun without understanding where the person’s coming from when they express themselves.
I responded to another person’s comment (that wasn’t mine. It was on another thread.). Let’s call this person Mr. XYZ. He gave a tip on how we should respond to Japanese restaurants or bars when they say ‘only Japanese allowed’. I responded asking him how I should respond if I can’t speak Japanese well as a joke. Even if they’re shouting at me in Japanese, I wouldn’t understand.
Mr. H somehow thought I was talking to him and he commented “Patience and understanding.”
I cringed so hard. I responded with “Patience and understanding. Sure. It’s a two-way street.” And I called him out for stalking me. That’s when he realized I wasn’t responding to him. He apologized after. He’s not a bad person. He just lacked understanding and empathy for others but at the same time, thought he was doing the right thing.
He had apparently received a notification about my comment on a different thread. That’s when I found him in many other comment threads doing the same to others as he did to me.
I realized I wasted my time interacting with a wall.
The way he ended the conversation on my comment thread made me want to punch him in the face. I’m not going to play angel in this.
You know what was in your heart when you made those comments. Whether you own up to it or not is on you.
Indeed I do, Mr. H. And I don’t need you to tell me so. Because you evidently think you know what was in my heart. Again, it felt like he was trying to play the good guy, like he was trying to be wise. He wanted me to own up to my mistakes without any explanation or being defensive.
If you think about it, it’s quite an appalling behaviour, exuding a sense of superiority over someone, portraying themselves as the wise one.
Call me out all you want.
But first, acknowledge my experience. A simple gesture that many people can’t seem to do these days. This opens the door for a two-way conversation. One with understanding and empathy. It’ll be easier to get your point across too when you’re not on the offensive. People shut down when they feel attacked.
But with people like Mr. H, their experiences come first and when your experience differs from theirs, there’s no room for discussion. Our experiences become untrue. It’s no wonder there’re no resolutions to conflicts. It’s no wonder people are just yelling at each other, desperately wanting to be heard but at the same time, unwilling to listen to others.
I wasn’t writing an essay. I was writing about my experience. I didn’t think I have to be politically correct about everything. Shocking why people these days are afraid to speak up and speak out because of people like him who want to be right all the time. They take your words out of context and shoot you down. They pick out buzz words and lock in on them. The other parts of your comment somehow become irrelevant. They think they’re being heroes. And sadly, our current world is filled with people like that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m guilty of that too. Sometimes, I’m too eager to advise when all my friends and family wanted to do was to rant. Too eager to show them the other side or correct them when all they wanted to do was release their frustrations. And when they would do the same thing to me, I’d get annoyed with them.
Lessons Learnt — Am I right or am I wrong? Plainly put, it’s both.
As much as this incident still bothers me, it made me realize how fragile the world has become, especially with words. I’m careful with them now and I have to think twice to ensure I’m not generalizing or making sweeping statements, especially online.
While I’m aware that I don’t see all Japanese people in a bad light, people might assume I’m an extreme, one-sided person based on my writing. My friends and family and anyone who interacts with me in person know I’m not what Mr. H assumes I am. Nevertheless, that’s one of the disadvantages of making my comments known and public online without a second thought. The public doesn’t necessarily know you as a person or your state of mind when you’re commenting. Yet, they also feel like they have the right to tell you you’re wrong even when you’re just ranting. And frankly, I was asking for it too by deciding to hit ‘Publish’. I’ve left myself open and vulnerable to any sort of response.
It’s my own fault for engaging with him as well. I have to pick my battles and quieten my ego. Otherwise, I’m no better than him and people like him.
Respond to people who see reason. Not with people who only want to prove they’re right and that they’re a saint and only they make sense.
For a guy who has lived in Japan for 30 years, he had also inexplicitly proved that he might be blind-sided by potential negative things going on in Japan. He thought having 30 years of experience in Japan gave him the upper hand in the matter, not realizing that it’s also a double-edged sword.
It’s easy to live in their bubble as well and be as equally unaware of the pressing social issues going on in Japan if they’re not self-aware. And even if he was conscious of it, he could be living in the ‘shouganai (しょうがない)’ mantra, which means it can’t be helped. He could very well be a frog in the well especially if he hasn’t gone out of the country in a long time.
Plus, Japan and its people were also different 30 years ago. We’ve obviously interacted with different generations of people in Japan, which he probably didn’t take into consideration as well. There are many other factors about an individual that contributes to the type of experiences they face as well, something I’ve been saying countless times in my responses but was overlooked. The least he could do was acknowledge the privilege he had in this country like other decent White men I’ve met in Japan.
Throwing knowledge around doesn’t make you a smarter or better person. It’s just a way to feed your ego.
As a friend once said to me when I showed her this online interaction — People like that use knowledge not to understand more but to reinforce their own perspective. He was just looking for opportunities to argue with people so that he could feel better about himself.
I’ve asked her to read the comments without me giving her any context of where I was coming from when I wrote it. I needed someone to tell me I was out of line and that I was wrong so that I can finally let this go.
But she felt the same way I did. Then again, given that she’s my friend too and had similar experiences in Japan as I did, some might say she’s biased towards me.
Another lesson I’ve learnt is how scary and nasty I could potentially be online, hiding behind a made-up username. Even though I did my best to be as civil and reasonable as I could, there were moments when I felt bold. Bold enough to call him a stalker. Bold enough to want to write things to hurt him. Commenting online gives people that kind of power. A kind of power they feel like they don’t possess in the real world. We can be whoever we want to be. We can get away with things and not be held accountable for what we wrote. We can be the worst person in the world and no one would know who we are because, in person, we’re nice.
In hindsight, I thought the way I responded to this situation wasn’t very mature either. I could’ve been smarter about it instead of playing his game.
Learning About Myself
This Instagram post caught my eye. I froze for a moment. People have called me defensive but the term they’re looking for was overexplaining. It can be easily mistaken for being defensive. While they’re similar, there’s a fine line that distinguishes the two.
Being defensive is wanting to be right all the time, at least in my opinion. Overexplaining to me is trying to justify oneself because they felt they’re not understood or heard due to past experiences with people, family, or friends.
And I overexplain a lot. Just like with this piece. And it can still come off as defensive. Or perhaps it’s both and like Mr. H, I’m using other things to support my own narrative.
The battle and anxieties within my mind between my ego and heart keep raging with each other. Perhaps the ego and heart are both right and wrong, and there’s nothing to fight about.
And I need to stop overexplaining.
I have to learn to be at peace with myself and let the situation go, as unjust as I felt. Not everything has to be about justice. And I don’t need to be heard all the time. This is my journey and sitting on something trivial for this long is unhealthy for me.
Accept my mistakes and learn from them, acknowledge what I did right, embrace both of them, and move on. Be comfortable with the discomfort and uneasiness. Stop beating myself up and stop arguing within myself. If I don’t, it will be an ongoing, futile internal battle.
What’s the point of me writing this?
Actually, I was afraid Mr. H might chance upon this entry and would have something to say about it again. Or perhaps justify his stand. Or call me out again for trying to defend myself on a different platform. Or simply quietly laugh at me. I would laugh at me too. For feeling the way I feel about this incident about a stranger’s comment for this long. I gave so much power to someone insignificant and transient in my life.
But I guess that’s also why I’m doing this. It’s for me.
I see it as a public journal entry. I mean… we can’t just write and publish things that make us look good, right? And I needed to get this off my chest. I know I don’t have to publish this. It could’ve sat safely in my draft. Safe from judgment and criticisms. But I guess I want to be transparent as well. You can agree with Mr. H and I would totally understand.
I’ll be careful about writing general statements now. I have to check myself before hitting ‘post’ like I do with my Medium articles. But I’ll be even more careful about posting a comment to begin with.
It would save me a lot of brain space and emotional energy.