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Why can’t we all be civil and act like adults?

February 9, 2011 - Art Smith
There’s been a lot of press lately about the general lack of civility in our society. On the floors of Congress, on the highways of America, even on the playground of the local school, people are in some cases being down right mean to one another.

The Internet has given people another medium on which to be nasty. People have killed themselves over things said online. Just as people talk without thinking, they type without pausing to understand the impact. Bullies now have a bigger audience.

Take Facebook for example. Social networking sites can give a voice to repressed groups such as the movement currently under way in Egypt; they also can give a bully a place to spread hearsay and gossip. I’ve watch adults fight with one another on the sites in clear view of a few hundred of their friends. People say things online they would never dream of saying in public. Some people have thousands of online “friends,” the electronic equivalent of a gymnasium packed with fans. Thinking before typing to such a large group of people makes a lot of sense. Words have power; people need to use them carefully — and thoughtfully.

Many websites, this one included, allow comment on stories. A lot of the comments are constructive additions to the article. Some are not. Some are downright mean. If you disagree with someone, fine. Please let everyone know how you feel about the TOPIC AT HAND. Why people have to digress into name-calling and nastiness is truly a mystery to me.

A lot of time the bitterness is directed at elected public officials. Disagreement with a position is one thing, attacking the person behind the position is a whole different matter.

Bill O’Reilly asked President Obama Sunday why people hated him. “ The folks who hate you, they don’t know you,” answered the president. “What they hate is whatever fun house mirror image of you that’s out there. They don’t know you.” Well said Mr. President.

Locally officials have had to make a lot of tough decisions lately to make up for losses in revenue. Things such as a user fee in Parkersburg and proposed cuts in school districts and communities in Ohio have led to much discussion and comment.

The comment sections of the stories that have been written on these topics are full of lively comments, ideas and suggestions, and yes, a bit of nastiness.

A society works better when everyone gets along. An online community works the same way too. If you have something constructive to say, say it. Remember, if you are entitled to your opinion, so is the next guy. Before you shout others down in the online equivalent of a crowded gymnasium, remember your words have power.

Be civil.


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