Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Changing the World One Rude Comment at a Time

I know you have all seen them or maybe even participated in one--a Facebook argument. Is it just me or does it seem Facebook has reduced the tactfulness of  your friends? It also seems to embolden people to get into "discussions" that they would never get into face to face. Why is that?

My theory is that people assume some level of anonymity online--even if it is Facebook and has their pictures, name, etc. People will type things into a comment box they would never say out loud and would definitely never say to someone's face where they get instantaneous feedback with all the non-verbal parts--emotion, tone, body language, etc. The comment box has taken away a lot of the consequences that have typically kept free speech civil.

See, the First Amendment says the government will not punish you for things you say or ideas you express (and even that is somewhat limited). It does not guarantee speech with no repercussions from society, individuals, businesses, etc. The digital environment gives us freedom from a lot of the uncomfortable situations that have typically kept people nice in their discourse. You don't have to see the person start to cry when you say something that hurts their feelings. You don't have to see their face turn bright red when you embarrass them. You don't have to feel the angry tension in the air when you say something just to get someone riled up. You just type it and walk away from the computer or set your phone down or whatever. It almost seems like the old adage has changed to "if you can't say anything nice, then just post it on Facebook."

I read comment after comment after post after comment from my "friends" that are just downright mean. Sometimes you might think they are being playful mean or just joking with someone. The problem is that the same loss of non-verbal cues that embolden you to make the comment also make the tone of the comment flat so it is impossible to know if it is a joke or not. The scary part is that I am starting to notice this online phenomenon creep into the non-online society at large. People seem to be forgetting how to have a discussion civilly. Maybe I am too sensitive but I don't think so. There doesn't seem to be as high of a value on "niceness" anymore. Is this a symptom of an online culture--de-sensitized to rudeness?

Would love to know your opinion on this, and don't hold back! Does the online environment (and not just Facebook either--it's just an easy target) contribute to an erosion of manners and "niceness"? If it is worth reversing, how does one go about doing it? Am I making a big deal about something that is not really a problem?


Colton Rahn said...

100% accurate, but it makes perfect sense. If you've got something to hide behind when you say something, it gives you a courage boost. It's almost like school; where the bullies would always be tougher whenever there were some of their friends around to back them up, but they'd never do or say anything if you met up one-on-one. I don't know if it's that people are trying to show that their opinions are superior and do so in a rude way, or if it's just the fact that people by nature are downright mean. Either way, it's a cowardly way to attack someone and really frustrates me.

Mom said...

We are losing the ability to carry on live, person-to-person conversations. We either text, or email, or Facebook someone instead of calling or talking face to face. It is easier to retreat from a nasty comment this way with a "I was just kidding" response. But with no inflection, body language, or eye contact who knows? We were at dinner one Friday night at a local restaurant and ended up sitting in the bar area. There was a table of 8 25-30 something adults sitting behind us. They were all texting! My first thought was "Wow! Are they texting each other?." My second thought was "How sad that they are in one place and wouldn't or couldn't enjoy each others company by talking to each other." We have already pretty much lost the art of letter writing. Now it looks like live conversation may be next.

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