The End of Human Decency

As I have been reading a lot of blogs lately, I have noticed an unfortunate trend: the use of both blogs and their comments sections as a forum for disrespect.  I understand that if you’re writing a blog, you must have something to say and you have to expect both praise and criticism.  Nevertheless, I don’t think the comments section should be an excuse to insult other people.  The same problem occurs on youtube.  It drives me crazy.  I just want to ask why people can’t find anything better to do with their time than comment on their hatred for songs.  (Don’t bother listening to it if you don’t like it!). It’s one thing to share opinions that are different from those in a blog post, but it is quite another to hurl deprecating remarks.

One example: one blog about writing offered some advice for writers, and the first comment I saw was someone saying, “I was going to take you seriously until I saw that your book was nonfiction. That’s not writing, dude.”  First of all, excuse me?  Since when is nonfiction writing “not writing”?  Even if you set aside the ridiculousness of that statement, why do you need to be a jerk?  If you didn’t find his advice useful, then stop reading, or accept that not every single piece of text you come across is going to be applicable for you.  Don’t waste your time or the author’s time in bashing what he does.

Other comments I’ve found while perusing various posts are similarly rude.  I just don’t get it.  I guess it’s because of the same reasons I don’t get kids bullying other kids, or CEOs ripping off their employees.  If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.  Unless your comments are actually constructive for the writer, then keep them to yourself.  (Okay, one other exception: when the writer has been deliberately offensive, it might be fine to lash back.  Like maybe to the woman who “looks down on young wives and mothers and isn’t sorry”.)

My husband reads a lot of product reviews before buying anything, and he often remarks on this as well.  People tend to jump all over each other online.  They have a much shorter fuse and an apparent lack of basic decorum.  They start off with relevant reviews of cell phone carriers or car parts or restaurants, but quickly deteriorate into name-calling and petty arguments.  My friend who moderates the website for a law review magazine can attest to this online rudeness epidemic, too.

Why do we become so ruthless when we’re online?  I mean, obviously, there is that sense of distance created between us and the people to whom we communicate online.  But how is it that we lose or ignore our moral compass just because we don’t expect to deal with others face to face?

I think that, deep down, most of us just like hearing ourselves talk.  Even I do–and I’m a very shy and introverted person.  Perhaps this is true of many of us who enjoy writing.  It gives us the chance to speak out when we normally would remain mute.  We become bolder through our written words, particularly when we can publish them online with just a tap of one button.

It just feels like we’re becoming meaner and meaner to one another.  It’s pretty disheartening.


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