Just Another Opinion …

Have you ever found yourself talking to the television during a reality TV show? Perhaps you are watching Survivor, and you cannot understand why the team doesn’t see this one certain person as the manipulative and dishonest person that s/he embodies. Or, perhaps you are watching Big Brother, while someone is talking about their personal plan in the diary room. You wonder how this person can get away with what seems to be such an obvious plan. How do the others in the house not see it?

Yes, when you are removed from a situation, it is easy to see the whole picture. So we think. When it comes to unkindness, I believe we are like the casts of reality TV shows. We are so involved with getting around in life, we fail to see the most obvious things.

I have ‘bully’ on the brain. Though the word ‘bully’ is starting to irritate me. And, I fear the word ‘bully’ may become overused, which may desensitize folks about this real issue. Plus, I don’t think the word ‘bully’ encompasses enough. When I think of bully – I think of one person. Whereas, a word like ‘browbeating’ covers greater territory, in my opinion. And, during this campaign season in the good ol’ US of A, browbeating is commonplace. Regardless of your party, regardless of your interest, browbeating runs rampant throughout politics and throughout your home life.

Where does the browbeating start? Bad things happen all over the place. Situations as big as suspicious packages on board cargo planes intent to do harm or situations as small as a preschool child calling another preschooler ‘stupid’. Now, you may say my examples are on two opposite sides of the spectrum. And, I don’t disagree. However, mean is  mean – and bad is bad. The only difference is the number of casualties. And, if children are speaking ugly to other children, each child has the potential to become a casualty through the browbeating.  A kid, once optimistic and happy, could become bitter and pessimistic because s/he was the receiver of browbeating. Going back to political campaigns, negative ads are not composed from a happy and kind place. Again I ask, where does this – for lack of a better word – crap start?

As I have mentioned, it is election time. (At least, it is election time here in the United States.) Hate speech and negative ad campaigns have been spewing freely for weeks … for months. Negative ad campaigns fill the radio and air waves. And though we may express frustration with the use of negative ad campaigns, we are quick to promote the discretion of our candidate’s opponent, somehow thinking it is okay to promote the negative, as long as it isn’t about your candidate.

How can we, as humans, expect our kids to grow up nice, when we continue the cycle of negativity and hate? We want our politicians to play nice – yet we buy into and help spread their negative. Negativity and browbeating are seeds that grow into ugly trees. And, these trees spread, creating one ugly forest.

Yes, we live in a world of differences, and we live in a world of right and wrong. But honestly – can we not agree to disagree? Can we not learn to compromise, just as we try to encourage our children to compromise?

You have strong political views. You have strong religious views. You have strong views about not being political or not being religious. Great! Sit down. Let’s talk. And, when it comes to making policies, let’s work to find middle ground. There is always middle ground. Always. And, we don’t have to be mean. The browbeating can stop. For some, being nice is harder than being mean. For some, smiling is harder than frowning. Fine. Work at it. Say something nice to someone different each and every day. You can do it. And you can disagree without being nasty. Really, you can. And, you should. Look behind you – your kids are watching you and taking notes. And yes, that is where it starts.

A bit snarky

My word today is ‘Snarky’. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Snarky is as follows: 1 : crotchety, snappish 2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner <snarky lyrics>. Snarky is a fitting word for today, as I continue my PMS battle. No worries, this is not going to be a rant about PMS. Instead, I am writing about the word snarky, because it is a word I hear with growing frequency. I don’t consider myself to be a snarky person. However, I am known to be sarcastic. And to me, there is a distinct line between sarcasm and snark. Be warned, I’m probably going to come across as a little sensitive in this post.

With social networks like Facebook and Twitter, friendly chit-chat can to turn to disrespectful rudeness pretty quickly. The word ‘friend’ has changed with these social networks, too. One can have over 500 Facebook friends, but what kinds of people make up the over 500 friends? Are they real friends? Are they friends that you go to great lengths to stay in touch with through the years, or are they merely friends you are curious about every now and again? And, if you are snarky to these friends, do they take it as innocent and playful sarcasm? Or, do you they find it to be irreverent and rude? Frankly, do you even care how they take your comments? Truth be told, the real friends you have are the ones you interact with the most, whether it be via Twitter, Facebook, telephones, gatherings or email. And, you can check out anyone’s “Wall” on Facebook to determine which friends are real friends versus the ‘social network’ friends.

I admit, I’ve had my feelings hurt by snarky ‘friends’ on Facebook. I don’t know that they meant harm; instead, I think the distinct line of snark vs. sarcasm is blurred in the world of social networks. I cannot believe everything that is said or typed on Facebook would really be said out loud to people. It’s just not how the world works. In my opinion, the reason these social  networks became so successful was due, in part, to the fact that people could pretty much say whatever they wanted or felt with little to no filtering or backlash. Blogging is another example of how filters seem to evaporate, as folks spill there guts while offering their take of the world. And please, pardon me while I spill my guts, as I am an active participant of the named social networks.

As a participant in social networks, I am not trying to sound judgmental. In fact, I believe a great deal of good comes from social networks. However, I worry about our filters, and I worry that our filters – which serve a respectful purpose – are evaporating at an alarming rate. Much like the Ozone layer is becoming smaller and the greenhouse house gasses are (allegedly) overcoming our Earth, our filter of respectfulness is also becoming smaller. My nieces and nephews are not aware of a world where people only communicated by corded telephones. My younger relatives are not aware of a time when you actually put forth an effort to have conversations face to face vs. the corded phone. They don’t even recall a world where you actually played outside and had to pretend to be a good guy, shooting a bad guy with the coolest stick you could find. They do not know of a world before XBox, Nintendo, etc. This younger generation doesn’t know what it is like to be patient – deliberate – thoughtful. With social networks and electronic mail, everything is instant – reactive – not filtered. And, when one is responding in an instant and without a filter, snark is sure to show itself. Sarcasm is everywhere, and sarcasm is in your face. Sarcasm is in daily face to face conversations, on television, at home with the family and online with friends. But snark? Snark seems to lurk in world where you can hide and have a sense of anonymity or carelessness. Snark is mean. Snark is personal. And, in my opinion, snark is ruining our conversation, even if the conversation is virtual.