A cryptic remark has a hidden meaning and is understood only by those for whom it is meant. A cryptic code is a language system understood only by those who are familiar with the code. A cryptic reply is a very brief response conveying little and not plainly understood. And a cryptic message on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, is usually intended to send a specific message to one person, yet at the same time broadcast it to everyone.
If truth be known, I am probably the princess–if not the queen–of cryptic messages, although I do not believe I always was. As a kid, I basically took everything at face value. My first time around the rodeo, I never questioned if there was a hidden message or agenda behind what I perceived. It wasn’t until high school that I began to detect that sometimes there were layers to messages, and began to wonder what someone or something really meant beyond what was being communicated. That being said, I can safely say that being able to add layers of meaning is a form of intellect acquired with maturity. Although some people don’t “get it” and never will.
Something that can mean more than one thing requires a way of thinking that challenges our perceptions and forces us to look beyond the obvious. Babies do not come into the world and question their surroundings, like “Hmm, I wonder why my pacifier is pink. What does this really mean?” We’re born trusting completely and this, in my opinion, is the hallmark of cryptic messages. In order to develop the skill, one must first experience lack of trust. The more we do not trust something or someone, the more we look for what may be hidden.
I personally developed trust issues in high school and began to question more as a result, rather than blindly believe everything and everyone. This can be a good quality to have, if not taken to the extreme, where we destroy a sense of trust in all things.
Now let’s jump to the use of social media and cryptic messages. Remember, this is a new medium and has the potential to reach hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people quickly. So this communication of sorts should be used with care, caution, and responsibility. The problem is we cannot always control what people put out there. Truthfully we can only control what we put “out there” ourselves, and how we respond to what other people choose to post.
Basically, we are all using social media to communicate something. Recently I posted on Facebook, “I am not going to write any sort of cryptic message here. Goodnight.” The next morning there were several responses like, “Hmm, I wonder what she really meant by that,” and one specific one, “I understand–we’ll talk tomorrow. Goodnight.” To which I replied: “No, you don’t understand because this post has nothing to do with you… lol, have a beautiful day!”
True, my post had nothing to do with the friend who thought it did. However, it was a cryptic message to another friend, who had posted a cryptic message, which I assumed was directed at me. Instead of responding directly to the original message, I just wrote something cryptic on my own timeline suggesting that I wasn’t going to engage with the friend. But I still don’t know if the original cryptic message was intended for me, or whether this friend has even acknowledged my cryptic message. The only thing that we achieved was to passive aggressively validate our feelings.
So what is the harm? In this particular case, there was none. However, if we are using social media to communicate a grievance with someone intimately, then we are doing harm to ourselves by bringing everyone into something that should be private. We therefore are using social media to validate or empower “our side of things” and passive aggressively expect our friends, colleagues, acquaintances (and sometimes even those we don’t even know) to become allies, witnesses or therapists.
This kind of communication is not really as harmless as we may think. Let’s say a friend of yours RSVP’d but did not show up to your party and, instead of calling the friend, you write on Facebook, “There’s always a party pooper or someone who found a better party to attend, but was a no-show at yours.” The danger with these cryptic messages involves making assumptions. First, the assumption is that we’ve been wronged, and second that others will think this message has something to do with them.
Even something as innocent as posting a quote like: “I usually give people more chances than they deserve, but once I’m done, I’m done.” If there is an unresolved issue with a friend, and they read that message, the issue may never get resolved. Better to wait to post something like this way down the line, long after any personal issues have been resolved.
We need to stop using social media as “the couch” because all we are really doing is communicating passive aggressively, when there are qualified doctors, counselors, ministers, and close friends we can turn to privately. We can still write cryptic messages, but without the hurt feelings that can result from them. And yes, this cryptic column was about you…lol!