Why Are You So Terribly Disappointing?

Photo by bottleleaf

Big thanks to Jeff Balke for sending this timely article my way.

One only needs to read the comments section of this Eating Our Words post to see just how painfully accurate Mark Morford’s recent op-ed piece in the SF Gate is: Why Are You So Terribly Disappointing? This passage in particular rings true for anyone who writes or blogs publicly:

You have but to take a peek in the comments section below this column, any column, any article on this or any news site whatsoever, to see just how mean and nasty we have become. It does not matter what the piece might be about. Obama’s speech. High speed rail. Popular dog breeds. Your grandmother’s cookies. The anonymous comments section of any major media site or popular blog will be so crammed with bile and bickering, accusation and pule, hatred and sneer you can’t help but feel violently disappointed by the shocking lack of basic human kindness and respect, much less a sense of positivism or perspective.

Why? What happened to us along the way? Are we the ultimate generation of entitlement, having never been taught that we have to earn respect, material possessions and upward mobility and not have them blindly given to us? Are we the ultimate generation of lazy, idle dissatisfaction, doomed never to be happy with anything no matter how fantastic those things may be? Are we the ultimate generation of hatred, rudeness and enmity?

Is this legacy that we’re going to leave behind for future generations? When did so many of us become so unhappy?

If fewer of us could hide behind the anonymity that tools like the Internet provides, if more of us could look to the many positive aspects of our lives, if we could all abide by the Golden Rule, how much happier would we be? And how much simpler would life be? It’s easy to fall into a funk of your own, focusing on the negativity of others. But we have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to each other and to our children and grandchildren, to not allow an entire generation to be swallowed and consumed by complacent, needless hatred.

The question is: What will you do to fight back?

20 thoughts on “Why Are You So Terribly Disappointing?”

  1. I say delete every nasty comment and don’t give them a voice.

    I, personally, leave my own comment calling them out and telling them they should be ashamed of themselves – but, then I wonder if it only “feeds the beast” and encourages more comments.

  2. I allege that through time people are pretty much the same. Sure sh!teater guy is a douche, but he’s always existed through time. The Internet gave him more of a voice, but his kind is not some new generation of hater. IMO, people are too quick to question stuff that is rather ordinary compared to the World’s real problems.

    Letting it get to you is kin to Hollywood stars that complain that they can’t enjoy a normal life because of their fame.

    If you keep doing what you do, you’ll always have critics… and I seriously mean this in the most un-creepy was possible… I enjoy your work enough that I hope to be eating your sh!t for many more years!

    Cheer up,

  3. I don’t think people should have to earn respect. That’s part of the problem your talking about, this idea that respect has to be earned, that worth has to be proven.

    Respect is a basic human right, until a person has lost his/her right to be respected. If we all just humored one another a little the world would be an entirely different place.

  4. I don’t think it’s everyone, so it’s safe to say our whole society isn’t doomed to a world of anonymous hatefulness.

    Kevin Smith had the best solution to this, at least for high profile sites: only allow registered users to comment and charge a buck or two to register. Send the proceeds to a charity of some sort and suddenly only people that have something positive and of value to contribute with be able to post comments.

  5. Jason’s got it. I am a regular reader/poster on MetaFilter which has a membership of about 10,000 active users (maybe more). It costs $5 to be a member, which allows you to make posts and comments (it’s free to read but you can’t interact unless you’re a member).

    It’s kind of a self-regulating forum β€” people get called out for bad behavior, you can’t comment on anything anonymously, and you have a profile that includes all the posts and comments you’ve ever made, so if you build a reputation for being a jackass you’re easy to spot. Easily one of the best websites on the internet, mostly due to the community.

  6. Brittanie, I frequent a forum that does much the same thing. It’s moderated and you are required to register in order to post.

    I like the idea in general (obviously sometimes it might not be a good idea) of not allowing anonymous comments. Having to own up to what you say does cause more people to think it through. It won’t solve the problem but it will mitigate it.

    I fight back by commenting well. By blogging about the things I love. By calling people out when they’re being dicks. By linking my blog if I can so that if people have a problem with what I say, they know they can tell me so.

  7. First of all, I don’t think we’ve just become this way since the Internet and web have been around. I think the Internet and web are what give everyone a way to be heard. I also think it’s pretty common knowledge that the people with negative comments are the ones to speak up most often and loudest. When we only have positive things to say about something, we tend to remain quiet. (Sadly)

    Anger or hatred seems to inspire people to speak up more than the positive, which we can probably agree is sometimes a good thing when governments or corporations go awry and need a course correction.

    I like what the creator of icanhascheezburger.com – Ben Huh, said about building an online community (paraphrasing and sadly I don’t have the link to share). Essentially he’s a proponent of “pruning” the community tree. Get rid of the bad apples.

    I think policing comments is too time intensive. I advocate allowing people to create accounts and when they start acting stupid (as governed by the person or people in charge of the community) then delete their account. Done.

    To build a quality community requires quality people. Getting rid of the bad apples ensures it stays that way.

    Just my .02 πŸ™‚

  8. I was reading recently something that seemed quite apt. It was a historian talking about how the Continental Congress could not have accomplished what it had today and compared it to business negotiations. There is a reason those things are done in public amongst a few people.

    Sure, it’s great to give everyone a voice, but not everyone knows best. Some aren’t smart enough or well informed enough. Others just have opinions that are contrary to accomplishment.

    Even worse, there are those who are invested not in resolution but chaos. They profit by (either monetarily or otherwise) the very chaos that keeps us all from getting anything done.

    Since we could talk, we’ve argued. It’s just that, up until recently, you could generally tune that out by walking away from the guy arguing with you. Now, you have to turn off the radio, the tv, the internet and every other form of communication. That’s a much greater distance to travel.

  9. Out of all of the crazy HP articles, I can’t believe the trolls descended upon an article about kitchen gadgets. I’m not sure how the trolls benefit. After reading an article I tend to look at the first two or three comments and find something else to read.

    That being said, I enjoy every one of your articles whether I agree with them or not.

  10. Katharine,

    The topic of being mean online seems to be a pressing one. Mark’s post was painful to read because all of his questions seemed like something we’ve all heard directed at us.

    As Eric mentioned, Engadget recently closed their comments

    Also, as I was preparing for class this week I re-read the first chapter of the Cluetrain Manifesto which discusses the unfortunate fact that “the internet is inherently seditious.”
    The argument there is that we must be real and authentic in our conversation.

    What I most like about you is that you are authentic with the way you feel about almost everything. There’s no punches pulled and that means that people can count on you for an accurate report. Don’t let the trolls keep you down, you’re doing great as you are.


  11. Perhaps it’s not the medium. You are given a free forum to express your views. You were soundly excoriated for having such silly thoughts. Don’t blame the canvas. And if you don’t want to look like lane chaff (try working in a commercial kitchen,) do some research. Instead of blathering on because you get a check abohut pontificating about such things (which how, is beyond me.) Welcome to FARK.

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