In the past two days I’ve been called a “p/c pussy,” “spineless coward,” and “faggot” through social media platforms for acknowledging (not stating agreement or disagreement with) the opinions of certain minority individuals in America. The people I specifically commented about had said and done some things that I did not personally agree with, but I did not take that as an invitation to openly slander them in a public forum. Heck, even in person, there are some things we should probably just keep to ourselves, however valid we may believe our opinions to be. Apparently the people I’ve been observing missed that lesson in Kindergarten.
Whatever the case, I have to say that mostly I feel bad for the guys posting the inane, poorly formulated, unsupported and just plain stupid comments I’ve been seeing lately. Social media is surely one of the greatest community-building arenas in the history of the world, while at the same time being one of the lowest forms of communication ever invented. The anonymity and distance provided by the keyboard/touch screen allows people to stoop to new lows in human interaction.
I truly believe that the man who made the above comments would not have done so in person. He was agitated and likely felt challenged to support his position against “attack” from someone (me) who voiced an alternative opinion. In thinking about how this all relates to manhood, I realized that aggressive, unsophisticated, vulgar language may be the only way some men feel they have to protect themselves in the digital space (money and physical intimidation are not options here). When someone like me comes along and does not play the escalating game so common and seemingly essential for many men establishing their sense of masculinity, they aren’t sure what to do (F*** you! No, F*** you!!! F*** your mother!!!! and so on).
Maybe we need to do a better job as a culture of providing boys/men with appropriate expressive (even agitated/emotional) language to use in public discourse. Is this an artifact of the digital communication culture? A consequence of the 160 character communications of Twitter and texting? Are we now just going to use brief grunts and insults to communicate our ideas? I hope not.
It’s a shame that so many men stoop to this level, giving the rest (majority?) of the civilized, secure, and otherwise strong men in the digital space a bad name. I’m sure it happens, but I’m having a hard time thinking of a time when I saw a group of women digitally duking it out. Seems to be more of a guy thing. (NPR recently discussed a humorous related study exploring why men typically sweep the Darwin Awards.).
Let’s fix this. Don’t escalate. Be respectful. And if a man challenges you with insults, show greater strength by walking/clicking away. It’s not that he’s beyond help. You’re just not the person that going to change his mind and his life over Twitter, Facebook or the comments section of a blog/article. Stay confident and classy out there, men.
*Photo obtained from http://www.ads-ngo.com/tag/legambiente/