When did we become so mean?

Go to any of your favorite websites and read the posts or comments to the original blog or article. Try not to get distracted by the illiteracy and just focus on the mood or the message:

“He’s like this weird combination of gay and white-acting black. It’s really unappealing.”

This one’s from Kitalyn posting on Defamer.com to a story about Justin Timberlake on Oprah.

“If only it was to death.”

That’s how Texas Tranny reacts to the Superficial.com headline, “Britney is starving herself.”

“good riddance, ya die hard commie.”

That love note from a sensitive poster known as government is killin, posted in response to this obviously provocative headline on Politico.com: “Walter Cronkite dead at 92”

And these are the polite ones.

When did almost everyone in this country develop a vicious, foul-tempered opinion about every other person or event, and feel self-importantly compelled to express it publicly? Is it just the veil of anonymity on the web that allows these putrid and toxic blossoms to flourish? Or have Americans really become that hateful and, well, mean?

In more than 30 years of passively monitoring the culture, I can’t remember a time when anyone and everyone seemed so impassive about contributing their own bile to the topic, or “target” of the day. Gossip or political websites that spew poisonous diatribe and serve as a platform for hundreds or thousands more to do the same are sprouting up faster than fungi on feces.

I’m no Mr. Manners – I’ve been on the cynical bandwagon before the theme song ever started playing, but there used to be some restraint and, dare I say … art to putting someone else down.  Now it’s just pit bulls fueled on Red Bull in an open field with fresh meat tossed out hourly.

I wish I could explain what happened or why, and offer some way out of this dark and ugly mess. But then no one can figure out how to get out of Afghanistan, either.  Some shit holes (and assholes) defy any meaningful comprehension.

Perhaps it’s enough, or at least a start, to just notice that it’s happening. To take a closer look, even in the mirror, and admit we’ve slid down into a slimy pit. We can continue to read and watch and surf the things that interest us, but must we contribute to the negative, bitchy meanness of it all? Does the simple right and access to post a comment mean we have to crawl onboard? It’s so easy to toss something cruel, cutting or vile out there when you’re hiding behind some anonymous user name in an online forum. Imagine if you were standing up, fully revealed, in a well-lit room full of living, breathing, sensitive human beings …

… like a town hall meeting on health care.

Would you really still make those same comments?

Oh. Shit. It’s much worse than I thought.

— A. Wayne Carter

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