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Complaining gets a bad rap, but it's actually a pretty important skill: We're identifying problems, and we have to identify problems before we can solve them. If no one smells the proverbial fart, then it's impossible to identify the perpetrator and start slipping proverbial powdered Beano into their proverbial Crunch Wrap Supreme when they aren't looking.

But the problem is that complaining is just too much damn fun. We're so used to indulging in it that we've stopped paying our complaints the attention they deserve, and we've started sneaking gas-prevention pills into the wrong fast food. My point is that it's time to change the way we mumble bitterly to ourselves about ...

4
Being "Facebook Stalked"

What We Complain About:

Like any social environment, Facebook comes with a whole bunch of unwritten rules about conduct. You don't "Like" posts about your neighbor's kid being eaten by a huge reptile in your apartment's lobby, you don't "Comment" on posts from people wondering how a creature like that got into the building in the first place, and you don't "Post" your frustration about how hard it is to find a litter box big enough for your huge, green, scaly, and surprisingly water-friendly cat.

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Her name's Loki.

But the most important rule (or at least the only one that everyone agrees on) is about Facebook stalking: It's not cool to dig through someone's old pictures and like stuff from several years ago, and it's way worse to bring up all the stuff you learned about your friends from their profile in real life. Only a total creep would do that.

The Problem:

Here's an uncomfortable fact: Every picture you have on your Facebook profile has been stalked, multiple times, by everyone. All your friends, exes, former professors, employers, acquaintances, friends-of-friends, and prospective OKCupid dates have seen every picture of you there is. In fact, Facebook stalking is what Facebook is for -- so much so that some think the website is actually training us to be voyeurs.

Remember, the whole point of Facebook is connectivity, so complaining about privacy on it is just, like, the weirdest goddamn thing. At the end of the day, Facebook is basically just a weird blog platform, right? And yet it has somehow convinced us to think of it as a private place to put our personal information -- even though it's on the Internet. Seriously, how insane is it that we all fell for that? Thank God Mark Zuckerberg didn't go into drug dealing.

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"Don't worry, this shit's totally safe. It's like the Facebook of heroin."

Why do we keep doing this? I think it's because we've convinced ourselves that we can get that thrill of exhibitionism that comes with sharing something without having to face the consequences of people remembering and reacting to that stuff. We think that pictures, like memories, fade with time. And every time we catch one of our friends Facebook stalking, we're getting mad at them for reminding us that we gave up all our privacy in exchange for the opportunity to conveniently stay connected to people we don't actually like.

3
Asking "Why Isn't Flirting Simpler?"

What We Complain About:

Getting people to want to fuck you is one of the most strange and nuanced games in the world. First one sexy person starts what seems like a totally innocuous conversation (perhaps by making a casual reference to how they think cats are a pretty great pet). Then the other person replies with an appropriate comment (saying they agree, maybe praising cats' elegant ability to stalk and kill water buffalo). Finally, bam: It's Get-Friendly-With-Your-Genitals Time.

Vision./Photodisc/Getty
Taking your date out for sushi is a good way to show that you're not picky about what goes in your mouth.

That is ... as long as you know "the secrets." You know the secrets I'm talking about. The "flirting secrets" that we've decided a certain percentage of the population isn't allowed to know. Flirting and getting people to have sex with you is an ancient and closely guarded secret, which is why there are so few people who manage to procreate.

The Problem:

There are no flirting secrets, and it's not even really its own skill. In fact, according to science, flirting is pretty much the same for absolutely everyone who indulges in it. Rather than being a talent in itself, flirting is just a subconscious demonstration of skills and traits we have and are proud of (which is why really muscular people will flex or pose, wealthy people will flash their expensive watches or make reference to their nice cars, and smart people will be charmingly funny. Wink).

(I just winked at you.)

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
Here.

"But I get nervous every time I flirt!" Yes, but that's not because you're bad at flirting; it just means you get nervous around new people. You're not actually lacking an ability. People who pick people up in bars a lot aren't doing that because they practiced flirting on weekends all through high school, but also because they're comfortable around people they want to bone and have other traits that give them a lot of sex appeal. "Practicing flirting" wouldn't even make sense anyway, because there are no universal flirting techniques to practice -- some women aren't actually all that into smooth-talking Joseph Gordon-Levitt types (I know you don't believe me, but I've met these women, and they're real). Think about it this way: The "flirting" talent is a perk, not a skill, and not a prerequisite for a happy life full of bruised crotches.

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2
Being "Entitled to an Opinion"

What We Complain About:

Freedom of expression is the most important thing in the world, so it's unfair to make people feel bad when they say stupid things. That's why we need to allow creationism to be taught alongside evolution in schools; that's why we need to listen to the climate change skeptics; and that's why it's wrong that Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to resign because he hates gay people. After all, must we, the tolerant, not tolerate other people's opinions? The ones they're entitled to?

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"Everyone has to listen to meeeeeee!"

The Problem:

Sure, you can have opinions all you want, but that doesn't mean everyone out there has to be OK with what you're saying. Don't confuse suffering from intolerance with facing the repercussions for the stuff you're saying. For example, I'm entitled to publicly shout that all my readers are enjoying my articles totally naked, because when I imagine that, it makes me feel loved and less alone somehow. But that doesn't mean I'm entitled to write each of you personalized letters saying that you should read my articles naked, or that you even have to rebut me, because my opinion on this matter is so fucking stupid that it's not worth talking about. That may sound like I'm being self-deprecating, but I'm not, because most opinions are so stupid that they aren't worth talking about.

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty
"I don't like cats," for example.

Going back to that Brendan Eich/Mozilla thing -- he's certainly entitled to his opinion that gay people shouldn't get married, just like everyone else at Mozilla is entitled to their opinion that people who run major companies shouldn't be actively campaigning to treat some of their customers like second-class citizens.

1
Complaining About "White Guilt"

What We Complain About:

Did you see 12 Years a Slave? Man, that movie sure did a good job of making white people feel bad about slavery, huh? The world is full of tragedy and injustice, and if we're not personally suffering, then it's really important that we let everyone know how bad we feel about it.

Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty
We feel this bad.

The Problem:

The amazing thing about "white guilt" is that it allows white people to take the suffering of other people and somehow make it about us again.

I'm not saying racism isn't a problem -- I'm saying that if you want to fix a problem, you should be driven by compassion ("caring about other people"), not guilt ("concern about how people will judge you"). But people are already getting pissed and typing angry comments, so let me illustrate my point using an innocuous and totally hypothetical example that certainly didn't happen to me at all.

Let's say that my pet cat leaps out of a dank, murky pond, like the Stygian jaws of death itself, to murder and eat my neighbor's child. Like it just abruptly and without warning pops up out of the water, crushes the life out of a tiny person, and then gorily consumes it, like a grisly scene from one of those low-budget horror films that only seem to exist on Netflix Instant. What do I do? Apologize? Clean up the sopping red mass of guts that used to be my neighbor's kid? Put my cat down, even though she's so adorable, I can't even stand it?

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty

Whatever you decide to do, that decision shouldn't be rooted in my feelings, because absolutely nothing is less relevant at that point. If the apartment building decides to ban cats and put up signs reminding everyone that they're not allowed to have them, it's not because they're trying to make me feel cat-owner guilt; it's because they don't want kids to get eaten anymore. They're not trying to hurt my feelings, because my feelings really aren't the fucking point. It's the same thing with the concept of white guilt roughly 99 percent of the time.

But in defense of white people, we're not actually selfish assholes -- we've just gotten so used to having everything be about us that when we see a movie directed by a black man, starring a black man, telling a personal story about experiencing slavery, we just assume that it's still about us, but indirectly. Like it's trying to send us a message about how we should feel about ourselves. Who else could the movie be for?

Dog owners? I forgot what I was talking about.


JF Sargent has hidden references to his social media throughout this article, so if you want to follow him, you'll have to play his sick game. But you can read his sci-fi adventure book for free, because that link was too hard to work in naturally. And he'd like to thank you for sticking with him through that dumb fucking alligator joke.

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