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Home » Advice, op-eds, Two Midlist Indies, Uncategorized

Why so mean?

Submitted by on August 24, 2012 – 12:17 pm 2 Comments
Mean People Suck

Mean People Suck (Photo credit: Steven-L-Johnson)

When did cynicism become fashionable? We’ve become remarkably uncivil as a society. The bullies have taken over the schoolyard.

Some of it I blame on a generation that held up “Mean Girls” in much the same way that another generation lauded “Wall Street” and the “greed is good” mentality. We’ve seen where that led us, and continues to lead us.

A few things raised these issues for me.

Just recently someone posted a page about a child with progeria. For those who don’t know what that disease is, it’s the early aging disease. Most children with it show all the signs of advanced age, including hair loss, as well as the conditions of aging like clogged arteries. Few live past their teens. The post was clearly intended as a self-esteem booster… that is until the ‘wits’ decided to add their two cents. The cruelty of some of the comments was horrific, and I’ve seen that sort of thing over and over again.

A writer recently posted that she received a really nasty review – “Worst book ever”. Funny, I got that one, too. Somehow I don’t think it was or is. Somewhere out there is a book that’s truly bad. Not to tell reviewers what to write, but no, it probably wasn’t. I was raised that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. And that comment isn’t a review, it’s just mean. A review – a good one – says  that this or that could be better, or work is needed on characterization. That’s a review. Otherwise, follow Mom’s advice – if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Another example is something almost every admin on every page has probably faced at one time or another. Part of the job of a good admin is to keep things flowing, keep things moving, and when the discussion isn’t going anywhere, or people are just repeating the same thing six other people already said, to make the suggestion that maybe it’s time to give it a rest. You wouldn’t believe how many times we get blow-back on that one. The last time it happened I was called a twat – they actually went to my Author Page to do it. Yes, it gets that bad. Even under the worst of circumstances that was uncalled for. I’ve had it happen on my own FB Wall, too. I ask people to stop commenting and get snark in return. I tend to feel that what gets said on my Wall is like saying something in my home. If I ask you to change the subject the proper answer is, yes, of course. You can state any opinion you want in your home, but it’s rude to come into my house to say it after I’ve asked you to stop.

It works both ways, too. Courtesy and manners should be shared. The same common courtesy should be directed at everyone you interact with. Don’t step on other writers’ posts with promo for your book, and don’t post promo on another writer’s Wall without first asking. Reviewers and bloggers shouldn’t have to fear the results of a less than flattering review – they’re entitled to their opinion. (As long as it isn’t the generic “this books sucks”.) Even so, no writer should ever respond to a review like that, it only makes the writer look bad.

I have to wonder how much of this is tied to the sudden romanticization of cynicism in this country. I was scanning through Facebook posts and came across a gentleman who was complaining that after a sojourn in Europe he was having to make an adjustment now that he’d returned home. In many European countries, especially the Romance countries of France, Spain and Italy, emotions were expressed a bit more openly than here in the U.S.  Many women, used to the cynical males they dealt with regularly, were a little shocked when he openly admitted to admiring them – beautiful hair, lovely eyes, etc. While the men all wish the Swedish whatever Team would come to visit.

We almost glory in our cynicism. All politicians lie, we say (conveniently removing the responsibility from our own shoulders to check the facts.) People constantly quote the statistic that 50% of all marriages fail, but ignore the opposite – that 50% of all marriages succeed! So you’ve actually got an even chance. That’s not the cynical ideal though, better to focus on the inevitable failure than the possible success. Because more than anything else, that would take work, It would take compromise. The crucial thing about cynicism is that it gives the cynic an excuse not to try. Cynicism is just intellectual cowardice.

Cynics will often pass off their harshness as “being realistic” when it’s nothing of the kind, it’s just rude. They, and others, will decry the “politically correct'” but that’s just another word for being polite and considerate. Common courtesy says  you shouldn’t say things that will offend if they know it will offend others. No, they don’t really have the right to shove their opinion in your face, that’s just being a bully.

Aren’t you tired of the bullies taking over the playground? Or are you one of them?


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  • Cowards hide behind their computers. I don’t think most of them would be as cruel face to face because they couldn’t get away with their actions. I’ve been deleting comments from friends, even real life friends, on my personal Fb wall and writer’s page. I’ve banned a few people. Yesterday, I heard a mother snap at her daughter to ignore her brother’s rudeness. She didn’t correct the rude brother but snapped at the polite daughter who asked her stop the boy from spitting chewed food at her. No wonder we’re in such a mess these days.

  • Hope says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with you there. Cynicism is not about being mean. The examples of being insulted after asking people to change subject, or the nasty comments about the girl with progeria are straight up trolling. There are some people who are so affected by trolling that they end removing themselves from the Internet; it is thoughtless behaviour at best, and bullying at worst. Yet our best defence to it is the same thing you decry above: cynicism, here defined as a feeling of distrust. When someone writes a comment like “you’re a twit” then either you can take this to heart as accurate assessment of your personality (I really hope you didn’t) or you can consider the motives of the person who said it and realise they’re probably just an idiot wanting to wind you up. That’s cynicism protecting you by painting the other person in the worst light. When cynicism goes wrong are occasions such as someone offering you a free hug. I never accept the offer: what if they steal something from me? There I’m possibly being unfair and too cynical on the hugger! However, a healthy level of cynicism is what stops us falling for scams or being duped or even, when someone has let us down many times, being hurt again.

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