I began using social media sites as a quick and convenient way to stay in touch with relatives who don’t live near me. We typically play a game similar to Scrabble and chat during our turns. I enjoy that time both for the games and for the opportunity to stay connected.
That same social network site provides a host of other information — news headlines, gossip, postings that are irrelevant from commercial sites, and political and religious postings that come from people with whom I’ve “networked.”
It’s natural that some of those headlines and postings would be interesting and so I’ve opened them up to read the entire article or comments. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a trend that is quite upsetting. It reveals a nasty tendency of Americans to use free speech to belittle, name call, degrade, and be rude and mean.
In my opinion, this is cowardice and evil at its worst. Last week, I was reading a nice article written by an intelligent woman who happens to have stage 4 cancer. She also is a physician and a mother of two young children. Her article suggested that we might benefit from putting federal funds into studying gun-related massacres. Her article was thoughtful and well-written and was in no way pointing fingers or blaming anyone (other than the shooter) or any organization for gun-related deaths. It was simply her opinion, as an American citizen.
The comments she received were primarily polite and courteous, even those who disagreed with her opinion. However several people, using names like “jamesbond007” and “kittyhawkterror” called her names, told her to “go read the Enquirer, since you are so dumb,” and told her to “get a life.” Did they miss that part about stage 4 cancer? I was upset and dismayed and have given quite a lot of thought to ending my presence on social media. Then Saturday arrived.
That cold morning, I stood outside a store in downtown Troy, dressed as a pepper shaker, to distribute candy and other treats to the downtown trick-or-treaters.
Hundreds of kids dressed up as princesses, jungle animals, super heroes, X-Men, pirates, dinosaurs, and even a birthday cake. They paraded through town with their parents and went to each participating business to collect treats.
I would say that, conservatively, well over half of those children said “thank you” without being prompted. The rest were prompted, almost without exception, by their accompany adult to say “thank you.” Many said “trick or treat” and when I replied, “smell my feet,” would gleefully recite the rest of the poem before moving on to the next store. Not a lot of stores got paying customers that morning, but we received such good will and good feelings, it was well worth it.
For me, personally, it was a welcome reminder that courtesy and civility are not dead, at least in reality. Maybe in our virtual world, we should take a page from the book of children’s etiquette — less name-calling and more “please” and “thank you.”
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.