When Did it Become the Norm to be Mean?

Meanness, whether in tone, looks or words seems to be the norm lately. Last month, I reached out on Craigslist to buy last minute Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga tickets in the pavilion. I found a set of four (I needed two) going for $500. I texted the seller and offered $200 for two tickets, hoping that as it was five hours before the show, I might get a deal at $50 off the total price. The seller said no, which I understood. I then decided to offer asking ‘OK, will you take $125?’ As soon as I typed the numbers, I realized I should have typed $250 for the pair, but before I could text back, the seller replied “$125? You said $200 and I said NO. LOL why would you think I would go lower? LOL.”

I felt silly that this stranger was laughing at me via text. Am I being over-sensitive? I know we all use LOL so commonly, but come on, do you really think I would negotiate lower after you said no the first time? Isn’t this negotiating 101? Go in low and come back high? Maybe I was oversensitive – but why laugh at me?

A more glaring example of meanness  showed itself when our community school board was in the process of hiring a new high school principal. There were circumstances in the hiring process that the community at large was unsure of (myself included,) and a LOT of fuss and contention erupted all over social media. I take no issue with difference of opinions. I take no issue with fuss. I take issue with the words and overall tone being used to describe our superintendent and the candidate herself. Words like ‘toxic and sneaky’ laden with a ton of sarcasm. In general, the open discussions on social media were controlled, but everywhere I went, there was a sense of anger in the air in my community.

How about the restaurant owner, who just yesterday screamed at a two year old to shut up? From what I’ve read, it sounds like the parents were irresponsible while their toddler screamed in the restaurant they ate at for nearly 40 minutes. I think they should have taken the kiddo outside. And I also think the owner has a right, for herself and her other patrons, to ask the parents to please leave as their baby was causing a commotion so big, it was disturbing the majority of diners. But to scream? Not right. And then in an interview, the parents, outraged at the behavior, in turn called the restaurant owner deranged. Sigh. And the comments? The comments on the articles posted all over the internet contain words like ‘dummy, narcissistic asshole parents, crazy delusional business owner.’ Really?

I think some of the snark and lack of civility stems from two things. First – talk shows. On everything from Fox News to The View, hosts speak their opinions about anything and everything. Again, this is fine. But the name calling and the sarcasm, while maybe cultivating more viewership is really changing the way our society speaks online and in person.There’s a vitriolic undertone in so many ‘news’ shows that if we aren’t careful as viewers, we can adopt the attitude as our own.

The other cause of increased sass and incivility is the ease of making comments from behind your phone, computer or whatever electronic device you hold dear. Would you really call someone a loser to their face? Would you make comments on a blog discrediting the author, calling them names or being snide if you saw him or her in person? I gotta believe the answer is no. It’s easy to be outspoken and uninhibited behind the safety of your screen. And maybe it’s a good thing, in some cases. But where is the line drawn? It’s not, in many cases.  We need to remember to think before we type and send.

I’m all for sharing different opinions. If you don’t like something, talk about it, change it. But I’m also for kindness and decency when we argue and debate. What do you think? Has civility decreased in recent years? Are we, as a society losing our ability to disagree in an amicable way? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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