Rude remarks, such as “idiot” and “stupid,” in the readers’ comments sections of online media stories significantly impacted readers perceptions and polarized their understanding of the article (see note 1).
Incivility was defined as “offensive discussion that impedes the democratic ideal of rational and reasoned deliberation.” While rudeness certainly peaks interest and creates “pages views,” rudeness also lowers public trust and can result in a general lower of social norms about expectations of polite behavior. We all slow down to view a traffic accident but that doesn’t mean traffic accidents are good for society.
In large measure, we get the world we create, the world we are willing to accept. When we, as individuals and as a society, cease to pay attention to those uncivil, lazy few who deal in rudeness (see note 2), in ad hominem attacks then we will have taken a significant step forward to finding solutions for the problems that vex society. It is much easier to find creative solutions in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation.
“Respecting others’ opinions doesn’t mean being untrue to our own.” — P.M. Forni heads up the Civility Project at Johns Hopkins University. In 2002, he published the best-seller Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. Since then the book has acquired the status of a little classic within the American civility movement. His second book on civility, published in 2008, is The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude.
“Everyone wants to change the world, no one wants to change themselves…To be effective, become the change you seek.”
“No rain drop wants to take responsibility but still the flood happens.” — Proverb
“As citizens we have to be more thoughtful and educated and more informed. I turn on the TV and I see these grown people screaming at each other, and I think, well, if we don’t get our civility back, we’re in trouble.” — Emmylou Harris; 1947–, singer and songwriter
“Civility is not something that automatically happens. Civil societies come about because people want them to.” — Jimmy Bise Jr., Us and Them: A Blog
Note 1: “Crude Comments and Concern: Online Incivility’s Effect on Risk Perceptions of Emerging Technologies” by Dietram A. Scheufele (holds the John E. Ross Chair in Science Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison), et al
Note 2: “I say lazy because it is much easier to spew venom and destructive criticism than to offer constructive, solution oriented feedback or undertake the hard work of actually implementing ideas in the real world.” — Leo Tolstoy; 1828–1910, author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, among other works