OPINION — Americans need to all take a course in anger management.
I thought that most of the vitriol I’ve been seeing in social media of late was simply a result of the political season kicking off.
Between the Trumpers and bible-thumpers, and their opponents, social media is a pretty nasty place right now.
Offer an opinion on Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who went to jail on contempt charges for breaking the law by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and you are beaten up one side and down the other, regardless of what your opinion may be.
Talk about Donald Trump, or any of the other Republicans in the race for their party’s nomination to run for the White House, and you get hammered, no matter what your opinion may be.
Make mention of either of the two Democratic Party frontrunners and you get lambasted, no matter what your opinion may be.
Of course, we’ve always been warned that it is a bad idea to discuss religion or politics, even in polite company.
But, today’s anger extends beyond those unmentionables.
Anybody who knows me knows I am a guitar aficionado. I love all things guitar, from classic old acoustics to the state-of-the-art instruments being produced today.
But, I recently dropped out of a couple of Facebook forums because, well, it just got too ugly.
There was one thread that began on a page where people post pictures and specs of guitars they have made by hand. Now, making a guitar is not the easiest thing. It goes far beyond coming up with a clever or, in some cases, classic design for the body. There are electronics to consider, wood types, fret types and on and on and on.
And, each has its own place and value.
But, the other day, reading through a post, people started ripping some poor guy up one side and down the other for a design he obviously spent a lot of time creating. It involved a rather complicated carving that turned out beautifully, not to mention the finish, electronics and all the other business that goes into building a guitar.
It, obviously, was a lot of work, and the guy did a good job.
Still, he got raked over the coals for some really dumb reasons.
I’ve seen people scream at each other in their personal posts — you know, writing in all caps and liberally using exclamation marks — over such trivial things as the fledgling NFL season.
Take a look at the comment sections of the STGnews Facebook page or the give-and-take at the end of one of the stories or columns. You’ll see how out of control it has become.
I don’t know when we lost our civility or why. I also don’t know how we can remedy this epidemic of bad behavior.
Now, that doesn’t mean we should be all lovey-dovey. There are definitely people who, for a number of reasons, are unsuited to our lifestyles or beliefs, and there is nothing wrong with setting personal standards and limits.
What I am seeing, though, is how people who are supposedly friends can suddenly go ballistic on each other in the unkindest ways.
Friends don’t go headhunting on their friends.
If you were privy to my Facebook friends list, you’d find a very interesting mix of people who are at both ends of the political spectrum; people of deep faith and people who are not; people who are degreed and known on a national level and people who are known only to their family and friends.
You would also see some discussion that can be, at times, very, well, let’s say “lively.”
I have lost two friends over the last few years simply because, as they said, they cannot tolerate being friends with somebody with such a liberal perspective. I guess, in some ways, I was an embarrassment. Or, perhaps, they were so insecure in their own personal beliefs that they couldn’t handle a different perspective, which is a shame.
And, I have dumped people from my list for being so utterly offensive in remarks that were personal attacks on others they did not know or have never met, insulting close friends and relatives. I had one guy complain, saying I was restricting free speech. I reminded him it was my page and that I could put whatever I wanted on it and delete comments or people who stepped over the line of decency.
Arguing a point vehemently is one thing, disrespecting somebody is quite another.
And that is what it all comes down to, a loss of respect for one another, something that started surfacing during the Obama-Romney race.
I began noticing how people talked to each other on social media much differently than they would if they were face to face.
They were insulting, rude, downright crude.
As much as I like good debate and discussion, I found it uncomfortable, much as I do today when I see people start devouring each other in comment sections on social media sites.
Look, nobody expects us to be in agreement on all issues. That would not only be boring but unproductive.
And, nobody expects us to take the other route and be so timid that we never tackle issues of substance. That would be a coward’s way out.
But, we should expect a certain amount of respect from one another, particularly those we choose as “friends,” whether in real life or the fantasy world of Facebook and other social media, which have become the way most of us communicate these days.
Have your opinions.
Be firm in your convictions.
But, please, play nice.
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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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