Dear Winnie, 

I was browsing through social media and I came across a meme that was making light of the fact that the company I work for is closing down. I commented on the post, saying that I didn’t think it was funny, and I asked for a little bit of sensitivity and respect towards people who have been laid off. The guy who created the meme then replied to my comment, saying that he had close family and friends that were affected by the closure, and that he had no intention of making fun or disrespecting them in any way. He said that he too knows what it feels like to lose a job and that he was making fun of his own situation. However, he also told me that “life is short”, that I need to “lighten up”, and to “get off my damn high horse and think before I judge”. And then other people also joined in the comments, telling me that I was too sensitive, and accusing me of being uptight and not having a sense of humour. I’m sorry, I may be too sensitive, but I’m losing my job in a few months’ time and people don’t understand how I’m feeling right now. I just don’t think any of this is funny. Could you give me your advice on this situation?

– EB


Winnie: First of all, I want to express my sympathy for what you’re going through. Losing a job can be traumatic and there are a lot of feelings to contend with: pain, loss, insecurity, anxiety for the future, among others. All your feelings are valid and real.

Now let’s talk about this meme that you saw online. The internet is full of people with differences in opinion. I understand that because it’s a sensitive and difficult time for you, to be losing your job, it must be painful for you to see people make light of it. However, the fact is that you can’t control what people are going to say, only how you respond to it.

I believe the guy meant it when he said he didn’t intend to be hurtful when he came up with the meme. It’s possible it might not have even crossed his mind, because he was viewing the situation from the perspective of a detached consumer. He probably just thought he was being funny.

However, I also don’t think it was wrong of you to point out that the meme was insensitive to the people that have been and/or will be laid off. It’s your right to speak up for yourself. That’s what’s great about the internet – everyone gets to have a voice.

The downside is that you can’t control how people are going to react to what you say, and unfortunately, this guy reacted to your comment defensively – and when people get defensive, they often go into attack mode instead.

Considering that he’d said he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, it would have been ideal, upon finding out that he had hurt someone, for him to be empathic, to say something simple like, “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I’m sorry you’re going through a rough time, bro, and I hope you get back on your feet soon.” But instead, he lashed out. His response was mean, and even more insensitive.

Telling you that life is short and to lighten up is dismissive of your feelings. Losing your job is highly stressful, it’s a scary and uncertain time, and no one has the right to tell you to get over it, especially when you’re still right in the middle of it! I lost my job over a year ago and I still get triggered when I go through situations of uncertainty in my new job.

And then he goes on to accuse you of being on a high horse, which, when I looked at the comment you left, I think you were not. You sounded upset, yes, but you were polite. If this guy could have taken a second to think about you, instead of how offended he was that you didn’t find his meme funny, and he might have realised that you are just someone struggling to come to terms with a new reality. But he didn’t do that, and there’s not much you can do about it. It sucks, but it’s easy to be a jerk to strangers on the internet. My advice is to not pay any more attention to this guy and his meme.

Instead, perhaps consider why it upset you so much? Maybe you’re fixating on it because it’s easier to let out your frustration at some stranger on the internet than it is to come to terms with the changes that are happening in your life.

It’s important that you process your feelings, give yourself time to grieve, and find people you can talk to about it. It’s ok to grieve and be sad about your situation. In the long run though, remember not to let the sadness, anger and frustration take over.

I hope you find a new job and/or new opportunities soon, and you won’t even remember this silly meme. It may look bleak right now (and it might continue to be bleak for a while, I won’t lie to you!), but the beautiful truth about life is that nothing is permanent. You’ll have good moments – enjoy those. And you’ll have bad moments – sabar through those. If you’re a religious person, this is a great time to pray and seek guidance from God to get through it (I find that ugly crying to God is super soothing for my soul!). Hope you feel better soon.

Tiwin Aji is a Brunei-based comedienne known for her popular web series, #WinnieonWednesday. Equipped with empathy and a preternatural knack for doling out advice, she discovered at a young age that she loved telling people what to do.

If you’d like to get her take on your dilemma, fill out the contact form below or email your questions to Answers to reader-submitted questions will be published fortnightly in the ‘Winnie Wisdom’ column. All submissions will remain anonymous.