Saturday, January 01, 2011

2011: The Year Without Snark

I’ve just about had it with 2010, and now that it’s over with, so much the better!

The year itself didn’t aggravate me. The blistering month long heat wave in summer didn’t do it. The fact that I was injured on the job, became unemployed and don’t have health insurance doesn’t even raise my blood pressure as much as this one thing does. A small outbreak of tornados on New Years Eve about a mile down the road from our neighborhood didn’t even rile me. What truly got my goat this past year were some of my fellow human beings’ lousy, mean-spirited attitudes and how they expressed them publicly.

Consequently, my number one new year’s resolution for 2011 is to ELIMINATE ALL TRACE OF SNARKINESS FROM THE FACE OF THE PLANET.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, here are a couple of definitions. From the Urban Dictionary:

Snarky: Critical in a curmudgeonly sort of way.

From David Denby’s book Snark: A Polemic in Seven Fits (Subtitled It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation), Simon & Schuster, 2009:

Snark attacks individuals, not groups, though it may appeal to a group mentality, depositing a little bit more toxin into already poisoned waters. Snark is a teasing, rug-pulling form of insult that attempts to steal someone’s mojo, erase her cool, annihilate her effectiveness, and it appeals to a knowing audience that shares the contempt of the snarker and therefore understands whatever references he makes. It’s all jeer and josh, a form of bullying that, except at its highest levels, beggars the soul of humor.

Bullying. Jeering. Teasing. Insulting. Contempt. Real positive behavior there, snarkers.

Whether you believe like Denby that the word “snark” originated with Lewis Carroll’s classic nonsense poem, “The Hunting of the Snark”, or it comes from a combination of the words “snide” and “remark”, I hope you agree with me that it’s not a positive form of communication. “Snide remark” pretty much says it all.

I’m tired of all the unnecessary snideness in the world today. It’s mean, it’s low and it doesn’t help people feel any better about their situation when snarkers are trying to score laughter points off their fellow human being’s misery by being sarcastic. I guess the idea of “killing someone with kindness” has transformed itself with “killing someone with verbal abuse.”

Case in point, what did I do to deserve a snarky email response to simply applying for a job? If I’m not qualified or the position is filled, simply say so and can the self-righteous nasty reply. It makes one wonder about the qualifications of an individual working in a human resources department who would go to all this trouble to keep me from ever applying to that firm again. (Don’t worry. If that’s the snarky attitude prevalent there, I won’t.)

Whatever happened to good manners? Are they dead and gone in our society never to be seen again? I don’t think so. I think they’re still out there, cowering in the shadows, afraid of being shot down by the multitude of snarky commentators out there. But those of us who follow Thumper’s Rule (“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all.”) I say it’s time to stand up and speak out (politely, of course) against snark and end this plague of negative nincompoops for good.

I realize this is probably an insurmountable task. I know I can’t do it all myself, so I’m asking you to join me on this worthy crusade. Pass the word about the internet via Twitter, Facebook, My Space and What-Have-You-App on your iPhone or Droid and let others know that you, too, are sick and tired of nastiness in tweets, messages, emails, in witty but acid-laced book/theatre/movie/product reviews, hatred expressed in literature or drama as a whole and in the way many think a normal conversation must start with some sort of put-down. To put it simply in Nancy Reagan’s famous parlance: JUST SAY NO TO SNARK.

Look at me—I’m resorting to all capitals to get my point across, a trick I abhor as a copyeditor. It just goes to show how angry I am whenever I encounter snark!

If you agree with me, sign the form below and post it on your bulletin board at work, school, home, church or on a telephone poll on the way to the grocery store. Encourage others to do the same.


I solemnly swear that I will do just that—not swear, or resort to unkind words or the verbal bullying of my fellow Internet inhabitants, my friends, family members, co-workers, strangers or other persons unknown—and that I will do my best to lessen the evil impact of all incidences of snark I encounter by encouraging good manners, constructive criticism and kindness to all parties involved.



Please leave a comment on this blog and tell me what plans or successes you’ve had in this campaign against rudeness. Together we can make this a better world!

Thank you, Cindy A. Matthews


hotcha12 said...



marybelle said...

I think sometimes people just DON'T think. They open their mouths just to be heard without any thought to the possible consequences. THINK people!!!

Anonymous said...

Cindy you are so right about politeness and manners have disappeared. But this started back in 1980 when my oldest child started school and I lost my identy! As a child I learned Manners, and to address adults as mame, mister, and miss and most important please & thank-you. It seems that forms of these thing have disappeared from the dictionary. For 20 yrs I had NO Last Name and suddenly instead of a last name when the children reached high school they started to refer to me by my first name! Maybe I am overly sensitive but where have manners and respect gone?

Cindy said...

Thanks for the comments so far... I'm with you Susan--whatever happened to simple good manners? I admit I'm not always the best at remembering my "please and thank yous", but when did it become "acceptable" to tear down people in the name of "fun"? Marybelle is right on the money--we're not THINKING before we act--talk, text, email, etc. If we slowed down before we responded, we might just realize that sometimes it's better not to respond if we can't think of anything polite to say.

Linda--have my anti-snark resolution and go for it all you want! ;)

Debby said...

I agree with you and have decided to post that.
debby236 at att dot net

Zo said...

Well, ladies, it seems to me that there are two insidious forces at work. One is the home/community level, which allows youngsters to grow up without learning the basics of civil behavior and the value of an apology. The other is the media (and yes, I do think they fairly deserve the hit for this), which allows anyone to say what they wish and seems to encourage the admiration of someone whose sole argument is "You're crazy/liberal/conservative/anti-American - fill in the blank". People who are experts in their fields or who make considered and careful responses to an issue are regularly ignored in favor of those who like to scream. Personally I would be in favor of passing around gag balls.

Cindy said...

Well said, Zo! Everything starts at home--especially learning good behavior and manners. So I realize that pointing a finger at the "snarkers" is really me pointing a finger at myself. I need to model good manners so others will, in turn, model them back. We need to get this message out to the world--but has the world become so jaded (and deafened by the screams)that all it pays attention to is the negativity of snark? Let's hope not.

Anonymous said...

It's sad when even your boss responds to your emails with snark.
and of course, I hesitate to respond in kind, because I don't know he might react to "in Kind"

Cindy said...

That is so sad (and stressful for you) that your boss sends snarky responses, Kat... I think your hesitation is a good thing, because it means you're THINKING and considering the negative consequences of replying with more negativity. One can only hope that if we respond in a positive, non-snarky manner to snark emails, eventually the other person will catch on that the snark isn't working and give it up. Good luck with your boss!

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