The lack of civility in today’s communications is troubling, makes it difficult to collaborate and cooperate, and keeps us angry and frustrated.
The almost complete absence of courtesy and politeness has permeated all aspects of society — from dining (where some never take off their hats and others spend their meals texting) to the political system (where appalling rhetoric and histrionic actions prevail).
Nowhere does this trend express itself so outrageously than in the media, where the Internet has lowered us into the gutter. Instead of the cream rising to the top, we get the callous and uncouth.
While no newspaper would print your letter without your name attached, anonymous comments are welcomed on newspaper and other websites. Public website forums often are dominated by wild, unsubstantiated, ugly, personal attacks.
I know, because I’m often the target of these attacks.
Consider this comment, posted anonymously on this newspaper’s website after one of my recent editorial page columns: “Over the years, the words and actions of Mr. Smith have become despised by many. With concern for his family, I suggest he stop publishing his home address in each of his weak attempts at journalism.”
Really. With concern for my family.
My home address is listed at the end of this column because I welcome mail from readers. After 22 years of publishing my opinions here — and being in the public eye in other capacities — I’ve got a very tough skin. And believe me, I know I’m not perfect.
I have always welcomed any and all comments — no matter how critical — when they are attached to a name. I don’t even read mail that is sent anonymously, nor do I usually read the comments that follow this column on the newspaper’s website.
A friend called the comment above to my attention, worried that it might be a threat.
If you are so embarrassed by your comments as to require anonymity when making them, they are not worth reading. Give me your name and you’ve got my attention.
I’ve argued inside and outside the Maine Press Association that names should be required for postings on media websites, but I guess the (nasty) cat is out of the bag, and the (anonymous angry) horse is out of the barn, so the manure will continue to be plastered up and out there in the cyberworld and elsewhere.
Perhaps “Kiss My Butt,” will serve in the future as a common public response to those who bother us.
Some seem to revel in their lack of civility (and please don’t assume I’m talking about our governor here). For example, the bumper stickers that some people put on their vehicles are astonishing, from the vulgar to the ridiculous.
I noted one on a car in Augusta the other day. The bumper sticker said, “My other ride is your girlfriend.” All I could think was: that sticker must really impress the girlfriend of the guy driving the car — or any girl he’s trying to befriend.
While many try to impress with their expensive name-brand clothes, what comes out of their mouths would lead you to believe they grew up in the gutter. And they don’t seem to care who is within listening range when they let out their expletives. Often, they’re on the phone, standing right next to you.
Am I the only one blushing here? I am not a prude, but should teenage girls be using language like that, right here in the supermarket?
And that’s another issue: phones have taken over our lives. Even I, the reluctant consumer who hates change, have both a landline and a cell phone, a laptop computer, email, a website and two blogs. But, I say proudly, I don’t know how to text. Guess I can cling to that.
Recently, friends in the media have encouraged me to set up a Facebook profile, to share more of my thoughts with others and drive readers to my website blogs. With the help of my kids, I am exploring this, with trepidation.
When Josh and Hilary informed me that others would be able to post comments on my Facebook site — well, see my thoughts above. Yikes!
Does it seem to you that the more technologically advanced we’ve become, the more antagonistic, nosy, uncaring and uncivil we seem to be?
Well, I can’t wait to read the comments that follow this column! Just this one time, I’m going to check them out.
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.