It’s no secret that every person has a mean streak underneath all the cordial graciousness that is encouraged upon individuals from an early age. However, with the anonymous feeling the Internet provides, an increasing amount of people are posting messages with the intent to exploit and criticize others.
New York Times writer Teddy Wane delves into the online nastiness that has become entwined with American culture. He writes,”Social media has normalized casual cruelty, and those who remove the ‘casual’ from that descriptor are simply taking it several repellent steps further than the rest of us. That internet trolls typically behave better in the real world is not, however, solely from fear of public shaming and repercussions, or even that their fundamental humanity is activated in empathetic, face-to-face conversations. It may be that they lack much of a ‘real world’ — a strong sense of community — to begin with, and now have trouble relating to others.” Since many people in the current day and age spend a large portion of their time scrolling through the hours of the day in place of interacting face-to-face, Wane argues that traditional human interaction is becoming a lost art.
To exemplify his claim of crude language becoming increasingly entrenched in American culture, Wane provides the example of Twitter. Specifically, the Twitter account of Donald Trump circa his heated campaign against Hillary Clinton. The slogan “such a nasty woman,” in reference to Clinton, became engrained in the American vocabulary soon after being posted by Donald Trump on Twitter. The popularity of this tweet emphasizes that it is becoming the norm for online postings to take a crude and condemnatory format.
For instance, consider this Jimmy Kimmel video of celebrities reading mean tweets posted by various Twitter accounts across the world.
Without a doubt, there would be less of a chance of these same individuals saying these nasty comments to these celebrities face-to-face in person. Kimmel’s video proves Wane’s point that digital social etiquette is quite different from social etiquette in person.
In explaining how the popular form of communication became digital, Wane discusses comfort zones. He writes that people have become accustomed to having the option of avoiding social rejection by being able to communicate through electronic mediums. As a result of not having to partake in traditional social interaction, people are afraid to push themselves outside of their customary means of communication. Instead, these individuals prefer to run away from situations involving social risk-taking, such as those revolving around face-to-face interaction.
Wane also discusses the expansion of awareness of the very issue of changing formats of acceptable civility through mentioning a seminar taught at Towson University titled “Mister Rogers 101: Why Civility and Community Still Matter.” In sum, Wane writes that younger people are afraid of disagreeing with someone in person, so they decide not to participate in any format of physical interaction with others to eliminate the risk of social rejection.
Wane provides an interesting proposition: while people, especially the younger generations, are increasingly preferring to avoid social rejection in face-to-face situations with others, these same folks are posting critical messages on online mediums.
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