I wrote this post six years ago about getting yelled at by a stranger. It really unnerved me. I asked if civility was a lost art. I’m sad to say that I think things have gotten worse over the years. Not better.
I think we are on the verge of losing an important piece of our society. The art of civility and decency. In my humble opinion, the virtual world has a lot to do with this. Look at the comment section of any news site or political page and what you’ll read will turn your face red. Name calling, cursing along with disgusting references to body parts. Their mothers and grandparents must be so proud!
It’s so easy to comment and be rude when you’re not face to face with another person and you’re hiding behind your keyboard. As a former board member of my kids’ swim team for a million years, I was often surprised when someone who I had enjoyed talking with on the pool deck sent me a scathing email. I guess it was easier for them to vent over the keyboard rather then express their opinion to me in person.
What happens when this “no-holds-barred” behavior moves from behind the screen to the real world? Think about that for a few minutes. If every person you encountered in a day had to let loose with a verbal attack. (What does that expression mean anyway? From Merriam-webster online: free of restrictions or hampering conventions <a no–holds–barred contest> This expression was first used in wrestling matches allowing all types of holds.)
I was sitting at our local Street Fair this week, volunteering five hours of my time to register voters. Most people were very friendly and polite. It wasn’t a busy night for our “register to vote booth” because there’s no big election coming up in the next few months. I smiled at people as they walked by. It’s fun to see them smile in return. I was enjoying that.
Then one woman stopped in the middle of the street and yelled at me.
“Why did you give us that look?”
I said, “Huh? Excuse me?” I had never seen this person in my life. I had not seen her walk by.
“You smiled at those people,” she pointed. “But you gave me a dirty look! What was that about?” she shouted at me.
“You’re mistaken, I wasn’t looking at anyone.” Indeed I was lost in my thoughts. I had a brief moment of missing my kids who are away at college.
“You’re very rude! Typical for someone in your party!” the woman yelled at me.
I was a little shaken. Wondering what gave her the right to yell at me — someone she’d never met before. I thought this was a prime example about our loss of civility.
We tell our kids to be kind to other people and we teach the Golden Rule. We punish them if they get in a fight and we are horrified if they are mean to anyone. But, seriously? They learn more from our actions then we care to believe. I have an idea. Let’s try to be examples to our kids. Let’s try to be someone worthy of our kids adoration and someone we’d like them to respect. Be kind to one another. And if you can’t be kind, at least be decent.
“Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none.”
– Benjamin Franklin
What are your thoughts about civility? Do you think things have gotten worse over the past six years when I wrote this? Do you think the anonymity of social media and hiding behind our computers or phones adds to it?