The question of how we communicate and whether or not it has become more hostile, crude, and uncivilized, seems to be a frequent topic of conversation. And, as I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that it is not a yes or no question but rather more related to context. I will try to clarify that thought with some examples.
It occurs to me that in my daily life with ordinary people that I really don't know, there is very little noticeable difference over time. I talk to other customers in stores, strangers hold doors open, and say thank you as always. Clerks are typically helpful, and people at supermarkets return their carts to an appropriate location. Of course, I am discounting the shoplifters, purse snatchers, and drivers in parking lots that hit a car and just leave without reporting the accident. And I am also leaving out the drivers that tailgate, blow their horns needlessly, and feel it necessary to let a minor driving error turn into road rage! Maybe it is more than context.
For example, politics has always been a contact sport and there is frequent bickering between differing points of view. This goes back to our founding 240 years ago. Our founding fathers, (and mothers), had differences but they settled them civilly. But, it is important to remember that they all came from relative wealth and similar education. I am not suggesting class distinction, but it does matter what and how we learn to comport ourselves. Of course, the fact that we have rules and laws to guide our behavior helps, but how we react to any given situation is to some degree learned.
But it seems as if the tables have been turned since the inception of social media has made communication less personal and more susceptible to coarseness. When it is possible to hide behind an anonymous screen name the accountability is no longer in play. There are no consequences when critical and harmful comments are made. The dialog may be simply a useless troll or someone who has a valid philosophical difference with posted thoughts and ideas, but constructive discussion has to have rules and guidelines.
Frequently when I am watching YouTube videos and I find them to be a waste of time, the information is wrong, or the video is just poorly done, I move on. But, checking the comments there are many examples of derisive language, unreasonable criticism, and pure venom. The same is true on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms as well. So, what is happening to our sense of openness to other's thoughts and ideas?
My simple observation is that we have become more intractable in our ability to consider those ideas that we do not believe are possible. And, when we encounter an oppositional view, we dismiss it and in the process are allowing coarseness in our own thinking. It seems like I may be naive but if we don't respect alternative ideas, we are cheating ourselves. I am guilty of this as well but I am trying to change my process of thinking to at least consider the fact that I may be wrong! I would like to return to civility even if it is just in my world...