Blame Facebook, Twitter and the rise of social media. Blame Donald Trump and the media circus that surrounds him. Blame the various talking heads on TV news, or the talk radio hosts. We are experiencing an unprecedented lack of civility in our civilization. It’s a disturbing trend that has accelerated in the past decade, and it’s time to stop it.
Social media in particular with its faux intimacy allows commenters to hide behind a virtual wall and lob verbal bombs freely, usually free of consequences. And no matter how vicious or hateful the barb, there will be other hidden commenters ready to give it legitimacy with “likes” – even adding fuel to the fire with their own comments. What does this sort of communication do to our community? It fractures it – sometimes beyond repair. Recklessly destructive, it demonstrates a lack of care for the neighbourhood’s growth and well-being.
This holds true regardless of the size of the community.
Globally, thanks to instantaneous communication and the interdependence of economies, our “neighbourhood” has expanded to include over seven billion souls. Slowly we are learning to think in terms of how our words, attitudes and actions impact the whole planet – not just how it impacts our country, or province, or street.
Among our Sunshine Coast community’s 30,000 souls we may each number several hundred among our acquaintances – and greet most of them during a trip to the Super-Valu. Most of us would be leery of offending these “friends,” virtual or otherwise, to their faces. But with a screen of anonymity, online or in print, civility often takes a vacation. With an election now underway, the temptation to use Facebook, Twitter, or other forums to hold forth on the intelligence or suitability of candidates and/or their followers is almost irresistible.
As the late Jack Layton said, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be hopeful, loving and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”