The saying “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all” used to be popular in America. This began to change in the 1960s, when loud, in-your-face hippie protests emerged, and so began the spiraling down of manners.
Then later on, the emergence of email as a common method of communication in the 1990s led to people hiding behind their computers, acting as armchair warriors. They felt comfortable saying things to others that they would never dare to say in person. Research shows that lack of eye contact emboldens people to say things they normally wouldn’t. People now had time to think about what they’re saying before they say it, so came up with clever little slams and insults. Compounding the problem, they didn’t realize how rude something might sound over email. But this kind of discourse became normal.
The left increasingly started calling the right vile names in the 1990s. You were racist if you opposed affirmative action and illegal immigration. You were heartless if you supported welfare reform. You were greedy if you supported tax cuts.
In the 2000s, social media expanded the opportunities for insulting others. Now people can hide behind their computers and insult people all day long on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. They can set up fake accounts and comment anonymously online. Anyone who posts anything on social media or websites opens themselves up for these attacks. Post a photo of yourself? Expect criticism. A study by the cosmetics firm Dove found that in 2014 over five million negative tweets were posted on Twitter about beauty and body image. Venturing out onto social media can be demoralizing. You could make 10 posts a day and risk being insulted multiple times on each post. As a writer at the BBC put it, “people are only a few clicks away from being able to annoy, frustrate or upset a whole range of people.”
People routinely defriend and block others after vicious arguments. Two in five users have ended contact after a virtual argument. A survey by Insights West found that people blame technology as the No. 2 reason why people are becoming less civil to each other (the No. 1 reason is parents not teaching their kids manners). The result has been a small exodus from social media and smartphones, as people decide to tune out the barrage of negativity.
The rudeness has spread to other areas of society. Late night comedy has become hate speech directed primarily at the right, full of vile things too rude to publish. TV shows are full of crude characters that shock us with their behavior. Children rudely ignoring their parents, engrossed in their cell phones, has become a common theme on shows for younger demographics. The family values of the right are dismissed by these TV shows.
While the vile speech mainly comes from the left, it is spreading to the right. Conservatives are becoming desensitized to the constant attacks and attacking back. They are adopting the crass language in regular political conversations with each other. This is unfortunate because the right is the home of civility. The Christian conservative component on the right teaches the Biblical values of turning the other cheek and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The right is being hurt far worse than the left by engaging in rudeness online. The left started attacking the right in “gotcha” moments if they dare say anything that went over their ever moving judgmental line. Trump supporter Roseanne Barr lost her TV show on ABC after making a crude joke about a black woman’s appearance. But nothing happened to left-wing comedian Samantha Bee’s TBS show after she referred to Ivanka Trump using the “c-word.”
This problem shows no signs of going away as long as the left continues to demonize the right. Virtually everyone on the right is now labeled a racist and guilty of “white privilege.” Until something changes, don’t let the online trolls and their insults get to you. As Psychology Today observes, “their trolling speaks far more about their mental health than ours.” Don’t let rudeness lead to revenge.