I won’t get involved in meta discussions about snark. I won’t.
Okay. I will.
Here’s the thing: we’re all grownups. We know the internet isn’t the same as a living room with a comfy couch and your bestest friends. It’s public, even the bits of it that require passwords and whatnot, and – gasp! – other people might be listening. You have about the same reasonable expectation of privacy that you’d have in any public place – which is to say, not a lot. Does that mean you never discuss anything remotely personal in public? At a coffee shop, around a big table with all your friends? Come on. Of course you do.
There are two sides to this next part, so listen carefully.
(1) In discussing things on the internet, you are opening yourself up not just for criticism, but for the sort of trainwreck crap that starts so much trouble. Occasionally for no real reason people single you out and say abominable things about you, your life, your family, your choices. Honestly, it has very little to do with you; think about it like someone walking by the big table where you and your friends are sitting at the coffee shop and overhearing your conversation, and then snarking about it with their friends later. Unkind, yes, but ultimately it says more about them than it does about you. People talk. Whatever. (The thing that makes the trainwreck stuff so hard to deal with, of course, is that it comes from people you thought you trusted. Someone else on the message board, one of your friends at the table, nodding and laughing and then going behind your back and laughing at you. That’s not cool, but again – people. They suck.) And you were opening yourself up to that by posting publicly, right?
Here’s where we go into the second part. (2) No. People gossip and snark, yes, letting off steam, exercising their free speech, whatever. But if you’re in the company of friends – or even acquaintances – you have a reasonable expectation of decency. Those italics are there because I honestly believe that we should treat people we barely know with the same courtesy we’d like for ourselves. I know! Crazy talk. (Clearly I have no concept of the inner workings of the interwebs, or whatever. I’m one of those new-age clog-wearing mommybloggers who believe that we should all just get along. Yes yes, get it all out. I’ll wait.)(And no, I don’t accept the argument that the snarkers could totally take it if the same random, unwelcome criticism were leveled against them. It’s disingenuous, and it’s almost universally untrue. How easy is it to say something rude and then expect to get rudeness back? And how does that excuse the fact that you were rude in the first place?)
I just don’t understand why you’d bother to be involved with a community that you not only need to mock but need to create a whole new community to mock. I mean, hey. There’s a lot of fucked up stuff going on in the world. I read Ann Coulter’s column sometimes and break out in hives. I’m not ashamed of saying that publicly, because Ann Coulter? Is a public figure. The people getting drive-bys about their parenting choices and marital problems? Not public figures. Just people like you or me, going through their everyday lives and getting blindsided (how many different accident references can I make in this post?) when someone points out a thread dedicated to mocking their parenting choices or having a group laugh about their husband’s infidelity. That’s not blowing off steam. That’s organized cruelty.
Look. Real life isn’t high school. We all figured out how to play nicely with each other in real life (well, most of us, anyway) – why can’t we apply the same principles to the internet? Don’t self-censor – if someone posts something that really bothers you, disagree or stop reading – but don’t go out of your way to be an unmitigated twat, either.