On Civility, Compassion, and Comments

Almost exactly 14 years ago, I was a bright-eyed young 22-year-old, graduating from Concordia College, pink tassel and all.  I thought I had the world in front of me and about to accomplish great things in the world as a choral music conductor and teacher (how naive I was!).

At our commencement we had a student from the class give a speech and they chose one of the esteemed students from the Speech department and Speech Team.  Makes sense. Let’s have someone who is a great speaker give a speech.  Tami Frisbee was also quite bright if I recall (it’s been a while and I didn’t know her well to be honest).

Shortly into her speech, I realized the topic: civility.  Civility?  Really?  I’m thinking of all the things I’m going to do out in the world and reflecting back on the amazing time that last 4-years have been, and she wants to talk about civility?  I just didn’t get it.

Oh how naive I was…

After several career changes and the explosion of the connected and online world, I’ve come to realize that next to compassion, civility is one of the most important traits a person can possess.  Civility allows us to communicate with respect and dignity.  It means we can get our point across without offending others when there is no need for offensive behavior, and there almost never is a need.

It seems simple, right?  Why can’t we all be civil to each other?  For whatever reason, I think the internet brings out in some people a grand feeling of entitlement and self-righteousness.  This entitlement then spreads to actions outside of the internet. People believe that it is better to be right, than to show respect, civility or compassion.  The scariest part is when I see this behavior from others in the name of religion.  I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that my God believed in respect, civility and compassion towards others, no ifs, ands or buts (that’s enough religion talk for one day though).

Losing the ability to feel compassion for others will bring down our society faster than any dictator or weapon.  It is our innate ability for compassion that makes us human.  It is what allows us to communicate on a personal level and feel connected as a society and as a race, without borders or walls of any kind.

While I enjoy connecting with others online, internet comments are not how I like to it to happen.  Internet comment sections are by and large an enormous waste of time, energy, and space.  On news sites I simply ignore them altogether.  Gruber was right to not have comments on his site for clarity of purpose, but I think another great reason is simply because the minuscule amount thoughtful comments will never come close to outweighing the piles of childish and poorly formed comments. M.G. and Matt might agree as well.

After taking an excellent business communications course on internet communications, I was motivated to allow comments on this blog.  And so I did.  A few posts here and there, nothing too heavy, even though I cross posted on other social media outlets, I wasn’t necessarily expecting comments though friends may get around to reading the site from time to time.  And then a full 4 months after I wrote This Is What Happens To Gold Standards, I finally received my first comment, ironically from someone calling themselves “Herman Melville”:

““Gold standard”? Right that’s what the stock is in the crapper and iphones sold were well under projections.

Gold standard. Don’t equate the default option with the bechmark. Apple had raised the bar, but now they’re standing still as everyone (especially Samsung) sprints by.

Frickin’ Apple iSheep. Totally unable to think critically or have an objective opinion beause you’re too caught up in the marketing and the supposed ‘magic’ of the brand.

You know who falls for such marketing? Morons. Morons who only care about superficialities and ‘oooo! shiny!’ things. Shallow people, that’s who.”

This, to me, was the perfect way to start and end comments on a website.  A comment so void of civility or compassion.  Without even asking for it, “Herman” (most likely hiding behind internet anonymity even though I have his IP address logged and I think I know where he works) became the perfect example of why internet comments are such a waste.  My first reaction was to write a followup and easily deconstruct his “comment” point-by-point using business logic and historical and factual data, but then it dawned on me: that’s exactly what he’s hoping for, and everyone knows you never feed the trolls.

So I let it go and laughed it off to have finally learned my lesson.  That singular comment will remain on my site for a singular purpose, and will remain as the only one, as to why comments are so ridiculous.

So I leave you with this: help spread compassion and civility today and everyday by not participating in venomous internet comments.  If you want to comment, reach out directly to the person instead, or post your response on your own blog.  Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say in public or front of your mother.

It seems like a small request, but every little bit does go a long way.  The world’s need for compassion and civility will never be fulfilled without many small steps.  Let’s start today.