Most days, I revel in the smallness of our ever-increasingly digital world. I can chat in real-time online with my sister who lives more than 400 miles away from me, discover answers to burning (or inane) questions, rediscover friends I’ve misplaced over the years, and watch the news from the other side of the world, all without leaving the comfort of my home. I can be entertained, updated, informed or mis-informed in seconds. And that’s pretty cool when you think about it.
But today, that smallness takes on a different meaning for me. Today, I’m thinking about the smallness of character and spirit that some people swing like a sledgehammer as they nastily spew their views on whatever topic on which anyone chooses to opine or even simply report.
Case in point, check out the follow-up report and comments to a CNN story about 4-H and food. I couldn’t help but wonder if the authors of these posts would say the same if they were face-to-face? Some would, I’m sure. But what ever happened to the old adage: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?”
I realize that’s any awfully Polly-anna-ish (if that’s even a word) thing to think, let alone write. Yet I can’t help but believe that a little self-restraint would do all of us a world of good, especially in the mostly anonymous online realm, where we can’t see first-hand the sometimes piercing hurt of our words.
Don’t get me wrong. I will defend freedom of speech until my dying breath. You are entitled to your opinion and me to mine. And we can debate the merits of each and any position, vigorously; perhaps coming to an understanding and perhaps not. But, there’s a difference between disagreeing with someone and rudely getting in their face — figuratively or literally.
It’s called civility. And I mourn its passing.