It was a simple question posted on a community Facebook page:
Does anyone know what the Graf rink uses to color their ice? I see the Zamboni snow in the parking lot melting into the grass by the rail trail daily and would like to know it isn't harmful to the environment. Thanks.
Seems innocent enough. A citizen, maybe overly obsessed about the environmental impact of a long-standing practice, asked a simple question. I was curious too: how do they color the ice for hockey games?
But some in the community were not amused, and responded in all sots of snarky ways:
- I think it contains Kryptonite. I feel weak every time I pass the pile.
- It'd probably be easier to call them to find out
- Please tell me this is a joke question...please.
- Gimme an effin break
- I think the red is blood!
- Soylent Green
- Well, the red line is from the blood of the Amesbury Indians and the blue is from the Triton Vikings...
- This has to be the most ignorant question that I have seen posted since jesus was a baby...Sharing oxygen with this Mensa candidate sickens me.
- Progressivism, like liberalism, is a mental illness.
Finally, one merciful soul did the unthinkable: he answered the question with civility and actual information, a picture and a link:
Here ya go....no worries ...very safe
I confess that I might be missing something. Maybe this is such an obvious question (in this sports-minded town) that asking it brands you as an outsider or a non-participant. Maybe the poster is someone who typically asks stupid-ass, irritating questions, and the community just erupted in fury. Maybe everyone was just having a bad day and took out their rage on the first person who crossed them.
Or maybe the world has waaaaaaaay too many A-holes who feel entitled to spewing their vile opinions on every passer-by.
I am starting to notice that some news organizations have stopped accepting comments on their stories, NPR being the latest. The reasons vary -- it costs money to maintain commenting systems, especially if the alternative is to curate the comments to keep out the nasty ones. And with a presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, outfits like NPR can move audience commentary to sites whose purpose is to field comments and that are free. But having experienced the vileness that erupts in many comments threads, I have to wonder if lack of civility isn't another huge reason to let comments loose.
I have seen name-calling, insults, racism, hatred, bigotry, sexism and homophobia in the comments sections of news stories I read. It is a rare post that (like my ice paint responder above, gives useful information that advances the conversation. Everyone else seems to be involved in a pit-of-hell frenzy to express the most horrific ideas, with the vilest possible language. Reading this stuff makes me feel like Dante as he voyages across the River Styx, recoiling in in disgust and horror from the flailing , grasping hands of the damned.
It used to be said that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Clearly, that advice has been thrown out the window in our internet age. But it's distressing that either so many people have either lost or never had the ability to discourse civilly. There's a way to get your point across without shredding another person's dignity. It's true that it takes time to learn the skill; I've made my fair share of hurtful comments, thinking they were clever or funny, when they were just rude and lacerating. Seems that there are lots of folks who have yet to learn these lessons.
I hope that this age of hostility is a temporary reaction to being given a new means of expressing opinions. That we will soon tire of listening to others being so cruel, dismissive and vulgar. That a horde of now-silent-yet-gentle readers will eventually give voice to their dismay and start establishing basic norms of civility to govern our online interactions. But chance are, more organizations like NPR will decide that giving a megaphone to people with low morals is too damaging to their brand and too expensive to monitor.
Like a kid who only uses a new toy to bonk his playmates over the head, we may have our toys taken away until we are well-enough behaved to use them.