Civility and Snark 

Rockingham Meeting House
rockingham meeting house

This is the Rockingham Meeting House, one of the two oldest church buildings in Vermont, circa 1787, used for early town meetings until the mid-nineteenth century, then abandoned and empty until early twentieth century interest in historical preservation. I’ve heard my father spent summers as a teenager helping maintain this, way back when. The window glass is wavy and flecked, and the mullions seem to have more paint than wood.

Meeting houses and churches were once  where the people used to come together, to listen and discuss and disagree, to talk things out and move forward despite any disagreement.  This no longer holds true.

Many of us now frequent Facebook, or an online newspaper comments, or Reddit, or Instagram, where we can choose what to see and discuss for ourselves, and block or hide what we do not agree with.  I think many of us are always certain of our own opinions, and we watch the comments section like the spectacle it is, with a level of disgust.

What happened to talking civilly about differences in opinion? Was there a time, way back when, when it was possible to have a hot topic discussion without derision, without snarkery, or condescension, or insults?  I am so tired of snarkiness.

When we either don’t see opposing views because we’ve tailored Facebook feeds and news sources to suit our preferences, or we can’t share or discuss opposing views civilly offline or online, we become ever more convinced that our particular views or ways are “right.”

Are we all becoming more insular, isolated, and ever more unable to see the world from another point of view? Unable to talk with people that don’t share our own views? Is that really a good idea?

What we all have in common should be greater than any of our differences.

through a glass darkly
“through a glass, darkly…” view through a window to the other side of the meeting house.

5 thoughts on “Civility and Snark 

  1. A lovely statement. I expect people did have a hard time expressing differences face to face, and that they did get angry, snarky, tearful, etc. That is why there are so many rules for debate, which is still taught at the high school and collegiate levels. People needed rules for what was a fair or unfair tactic in public discourse.

    Certainly the Internet makes it easier to filter out opposing viewpoints. That’s why I urge my kids to use other media besides electronic to get a more balanced view.

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  2. Margit Van Schaick

    Your thoughtful post gave me a lot to think about. And, I love your beautiful photos of the Rockinghm Meeting House. This Shaker-style building is so simple, yet so stately. When I’ve visited, I’ve been impressed by its strength and grace. By its very presence, it reminds me that being an American citizen requires us to actively participate in protecting the enduring values of our democracy.

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  3. Unlike my husband I like to know how/what the opposition is thinking. I don’t have to like it, but I need to know before the news media prunes it down to disjointed, slanted and/or provocative sound bites. As for Facebook feeds, the only ones I filter or unfriend are the ones who are egregiously snarky. There is no excuse for carrying on like that.

    Every four years I think it can’t get any worse and each year I underwhelmed by the lack of character of the nominees and their followers. What is wrong with our society?

    Thank you for challenging us to think, Daphne.

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  4. We pick our friends. We get picked as friends. With digital technology, the whole process is made easier and harder. Face-to-face interaction is gone, which is a boon to shy people. But, it’s also a license for outgoing folks to let it all hang out. Same rules apply for human interaction through digital means. It’s tougher though, in that we can narrow our outlooks to the point that we’re not challenged much anymore.
    Thanks for you thoughts Daphne. Made me think.

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  5. For some strange reason I did not get an email for this posting so I am behind the times. I have been very erratic in my postings of late with too many distractions disrupting my needed focus. Just put my latest post up yesterday after about 3 months of zilch. I realized I had not heard from you in a while and hope that you are well, albeit dealing with cold and snow. Appreciated this last post above and hope to hear more from you soon.
    Peace.
    rdh.

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