RIP Civility

ci·vil·i·ty/səˈvilitē/

Noun:

1. Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.

2.Polite remarks used in formal conversation.

Synonyms:

courtesy – politeness – comity – urbanity – complaisance

I was looking at a picture today on Facebook, a perfectly innocuous picture. There shouldn’t have been anything controversial about it and yet, the comments posted about said picture were vitriolic, ugly, nasty and even threatening.

We seem to have lost something in the Internet Age that used to be the standard. It was the Golden Rule – or at least one of them that my mother liked to repeat on any number of occasions.  It’s a dead rule now! Maybe there are no more Golden Rules. Free speech, yay! Civility, boo. Say anything you want, yay! Think about the words coming out of your mouth before writing or speaking them, boo. Hate speech, yay! Say something nice or don’t say anything at all, boo.

I’m not an advocate of restriction of free speech – that’s not really what this is about. You can certainly get your point across without resorting to name-calling and just plain nastiness though. Right? Surely, you have the language skills to manage it. I bet you do. If you don’t agree with someone, that’s fine. The planet is full of diversity and that’s a wonderful thing, but when we’ve lost the ability to communicate with one another –  on an individual, communal, global level – the way it appears that we have, we are not going to make it. The world has some pretty big issues to deal with, large problems that will take us all to figure out and fix, but with the level of discourse I see every single day flying back and forth on the interwebs, I wonder how on earth we’ll ever be able to solve them.

People talk about wanting things to change on a national level, on a global level – with the plea of ‘can’t we all get along?’ But then I see these same people trashing  each other online, saying the meanest, ugliest things you can imagine, about a picture, about the people in the picture, about their neighbor, about a complete stranger.

It matters. How can anyone expect our leaders to change the world into something less hostile when there is so much inconsiderate, disrespectful blathering going on – All. the. time from US?

It’s a giant, negativity vortex that is easy to get sucked into, and takes effort to resist. It’s become so much easier to trash someone than say something nice. Being polite doesn’t mean you have to agree with anything you don’t believe in, it just means you’re being polite. It matters. We teach our children to say please and thank you, right? We teach them not to be bullies. We say don’t call other people names, and yet we go online and all those Golden Rules get tossed out the window, down 20 stories to the ground and break into so many pieces.

Maybe if we ALL start practicing the art of civility, the positive energy derived from it will save the world. The power of the negative vortex will shrink. Optimism will win out. The cup will overflow.

Or we can just keep on with it, the daily bashing, and before too long the words will become swords and knives and guns.

(image of tombstone from CC Flickr – pareeerica at  http://www.flickr.com/photos/pareeerica/6040618826/in/pool-creative_commons-_free_pictures)

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9 Comments

Filed under Life, Living

9 responses to “RIP Civility

  1. I thought it was just me getting older and grumpier (but not ruder) that thought the world was becoming more uncivil. I agree with the above comments. It’s a sad world.

  2. Sadly this problem is becoming more and more prevalent especially on FACEBOOK when really as you’ve said the solution is simple: If you dont like the image just move on, why waste your time and the time of others by commenting negatively and in a way that is likely to cause offense to others and the person who actually posts the image.

  3. Reblogged this on Emma Jameson's Blog and commented:
    From my friend Jolea M. Harrison … I couldn’t agree more.

  4. DeWain

    I completely agree! The “facelessness” and anonymity that the internet affords tends to suppress that civility in some of us and unleash the “demons” of unrestrained vitriol. I don’t think we should post anything online that we wouldn’t say face to face to that person, standing beside others whom we love and respect.

    • It’s so easy to say whatever you feel like on the internet. There aren’t any repercussions of the kind you would face if you were talking in person. The problem I see is that the lack of courtesy is spreading to ‘real life’. The number of times I’m encountering people who are hair-trigger rude seems to be increasing. It’s sad and frightening at the same time.

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