Why do people not read the thing?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve noticed a troubling pattern. People state their opinions without reading the thing that they’re stating their opinion about.

It causes a lot of unnecessary conflict. When someone opposes something that I’ve written, I work on the assumption that they have actually read it. I’ve realised now that that is an incredibly bad assumption to make. It seems that people, in their rush to state their opinion on something, don’t actually read the thing.

I’m not saying that people mustn’t state their opinions. I’m pretty open to hearing differing opinions, but you can’t opine about something if you haven’t read the  thing. If you do, then your opinion really doesn’t actually matter. Even if you attempt to make an appeal to authority by claiming that you’re – as an example which actually happened – a midwife talking about issues that autistic people are discussing.

Strange as it may seem, I don’t rush to find the nearest neurotypical midwife when I want to find out what is important to my fellow autistic people. But, I digress…

I think the acceptable standard on the internet is this:

  1. Person A posts something
  2. Person B reads the post
  3. Person B responds

It isn’t reasonable to expect Person A to understand that Person B hasn’t read the thing. Then, after the conflict escalates and Person A realises that Person B hasn’t read the thing, it is not reasonable for Person B to claim mutual misunderstanding.

While mutual misunderstandings can and do occur, when one person didn’t do the thing that they were supposed to have done (i.e., read the original post), then it isn’t mutual. The fault lies squarely with the person who didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

Unfortunately, this does seem to be more of an issue related to the way that neurotypical people comment on things. I don’t want to fall into the trap of bashing neurotypical people. But, I have found that it is really far more common with neurotypical people than with autistic people. That’s a little ironic because many autistic people, myself included, have differences in the way that we attach meaning to the words that we read. Sometimes, that means that I actually have to say “I could not read this” before I comment. In that way, everyone knows that I am commenting based on incomplete information. I have seen other autistic people do the same. I have never once seen a neurotypical person do that.

The takeaway message here: before you comment, read the thing that you’re commenting about. If you don’t, tell people that you haven’t read the thing otherwise you’re likely to cause conflict which will be your fault because it is unreasonable for others to assume that you haven’t read what you’re commenting about.