What Happened to Civility?

March 5, 2012


Recently, a friend told me she was giving up Facebook for a while because the vitriolic, rude comments she was constantly reading had become too much.

She’s not the only one: I know people who’ve dumped Facebook for similar reasons, and still others who’ve sworn off social media and blogs altogether because they find so many people to be…uncivil.

This is one of the biggest downsides to social networking and the digital age. It’s much harder to be uncivil to a person standing in front of you, but when you’re hiding behind a laptop or smart phone, throwing around angry opinions with little thought or care is all too easy. Knee-jerk, emotional responses can take over online, and it can be tough to have any real conversation.

It’s bizarre when you think about it: At a time when tolerance is held up as the number one virtue, there can be so little of it.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s always better to bring the light than to curse the darkness. Each of us can choose to pause and breathe before we type a comment or hit the reply button. Each of us can write honestly and respectfully. We can give the benefit of the doubt, and we can remember that others might have something to teach us — even when we think they may be crazy, ignorant, or uninformed.

I admire bloggers who’ve chosen to make their virtual homes places of loveliness, goodness, and generosity of spirit. Even if you have a confessional, political, or activist-oriented blog, I still believe it’s possible to offer strong opinions and commentary while setting aside the snark that dominates so much of the general discourse online these days.

Admittedly, I can be sarcastic — and I do have some strong opinions. But I try to remember that, while truth matters, being right is not the most important thing in human relations. It’s my intention to make this site a place of light, even when we talk about serious issues or offer a clear point of view.

I’d love to hear your take on this issue. Do you think the general discourse on blogs and Facebook today is too snarky? How can we bring more civility to our online conversations?

Image: Hammerpress

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1 Tara S March 5, 2012 at 10:54 am

I think the number one way to keep our own comments civil (and compassionate and respectful) is to remember that although at times only one of the competing positions is valid, the other person’s experience and feelings are always – always – valid. :-)


2 Ann March 5, 2012 at 11:32 am

I quit Facebook a while back and it was the best thing I ever did. On the politics stuff on Facebook, I don’t want to know what my friends or family or “Facebook friends” think on politics really. What does anyone gain by posting some controversial link on a Facebook page? Makes no sense to me. Stick to pictures of your vacation and your baby and what you cooked for dinner : )

As far as blogs, I think they are a more natural place for debate, and you have to seek them out. It’s up to the blog owner what kinds of comments they will allow, if any, which is also a valid choice. But we can always speak civilly, even if we disagree.


3 Brie March 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm

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