I suppose there have always been self-important, thin-skinned people who take themselves too seriously. I never really paid them much attention. After all, that’s what they want, right? Attention. My philosophy has always been that life is too short to waste my time on people who want exactly that … to waste my time.

Of course, it takes all kinds. Everyone’s different and nobody’s perfect. We make allowances for friends and family members. Sometimes we have to deal with coworkers who overcompensate for their own self-loathing by trying to make others feel small. It’s unfortunate, but it comes with the territory.

But that doesn’t mean we have to put up with that sort of behavior from strangers. There was a time when we didn’t have to. Today it’s different. Today, if people want to engage you online, they can. But that doesn’t mean you have to respond.

Now that we’ve been blessed with Web 2.0 – social media, the blogosphere, and all those lovely comment sections – we’ve given all those small-minded people the soap box they’ve always craved. So they act out in anger at perceived threats they create in their heads. And that makes them feel important.

They rant, they rave, they argue, they attack, they defend, and they won’t stop until they have you engaged. Why do they do it? They need it to compensate for a profound lack of self-confidence. They need that attention, that distraction, that continuous reinforcement so they don’t have to face how they really feel about themselves.

My message to you: don’t give in to it. I know it’s tempting, but life is too short. You can’t change them. You can’t fix them. The discussion or argument isn’t even about what you think it’s about or what they say it’s about. They’re just engaging you in a little game they play, a dysfunctional mechanism they learned as children.

The irony is, that mechanism keeps them from growing up to be full-functioning adults. They may look like adults, dress like adults, and hold positions of authority like adults. But inside, they’re just scared little children. Just remember, that’s their problem. It’s not yours. At least, it doesn’t have to be. Never forget that you have a choice.

Also, somebody has to behave like an adult. It may as well be you.

Image Mindaugas Danys via Flickr