MOMENT | Snark is the New Black


Photo of Julia Louis-Dreyfus* from SNL by Alan Singer, 1983.

Is it me or has anyone else been feeling that the Internet has gotten even more negative than its usual cranky self? Here are a few recent observations: The ALS ice bucket challenge goes viral, raises millions and millions to fight a horrible disease, and yet Slate runs a pious story that points out a lot of the participants are probably spending more money on bagged ice than on ALS research (as if). 13 year old Mo'ne Davis is the first girl to pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series, and so many ugly comments come out, including a guy on Twitter with 91,000 followers who said: Mo'ne Davis will get knocked up by one of her teammates within the next 3 years. It gets favorited 141 times, retweeted 72 times. An award-winning unbelievably talented chef (who happens to be a nice person and decent human being) starts a jam company out of the trunk of her car, then grows to open an incredibly successful restaurant in a gentrifying Los Angeles neighborhood and McSweeny's tears it down with satire that is so farfetched it's comical. I recently went to a movie and noticed two guys next to us laughing hysterically at all the parts I was. By chance, we all ended up at the same restaurant afterwards and they said hi and asked if I liked the movie. I said (thinking it was obvious by our collective guttural reactions), "Yeah, I loved it, you?" His response, "No. We did not care for it."

Has it become so incredibly out of vogue to just earnestly like something good? Sorry for the after school special tone, but this is all making me depressed. I'm guilty for my share (and more) of eye rolls, so I'm very much saying this to myself as well, but I think it's worth stating that it's not easy to open a restaurant, be a girl in the Little League World Series, start a magazine, produce a movie that makes you laugh for an hour and a half, put out an album, or start something that the world cares about. It is easy, however, to craft a snarky tweet or a nasty comment with almost complete anonymity. No we shouldn't be robotic in praise, and yes criticism is a sign you've "arrived", but I feel like we're starting to create a culture that praises the hate of art more than the actual creation of art.

*Julia Louis-Dreyfus is awesome.

Update: The New York Times also covered this topic (with more research and reporting, obviously) just this weekend. Thanks for the tip, Lite + Cycle!

38 comments:

Diane KC Hughes said...

Thank you! Very well stated and all too true, in my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

YES~ Thank you! Social media has become too much for me, I went off of Facebook and Twitter and haven't looked back!

Lexie said...

I can't tell if my comment was received or not, but I agree 100%!

Lizzie said...

@Lexie

I don't think so, sorry, the comments apparatus is kind of wonky I think...I mean it's basically unchanged technology since 2005. I still use blogspot, I need to get on something else! Haha.

cmf221 said...

here here

cmf221 said...

that's "hear hear" ;)

Coley said...

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is such an icon and she just won an Emmy too! Woop woop!

Anonymous said...

Amen!

Allison Zadrozny said...

Cynicism is so viral in our culture these days; it's such a shame. The person who dislikes everything have nothing to stand for and no solid opinions. How lame! I love it when I meet people who are [finally] open about what they love and joyful about new things they're exposed to. It's those people that are truly cool with who they are and how they fit in the world - powerful characteristics! Those that quickly write things off are probably pretty self-conscious, no?

Matt said...

Nice article (as usual). You make good points. I don't mind actual criticisms of a given thing - that is, carefully conceived and supported arguments on a given topic. But most of what passes as "criticism" is simply "hey: you suck!" Not very helpful.

I do wonder about the erosion it is creating. I have a tumblr blog, and I follow a few other tumblr blogs. It seems like every other post on my dashboard is something that reflects severe self loathing, or is more or less a suicide note*. We all have those feelings from time to time, but if my Tumblr dashboard is any indication, we've got big problems afoot.

*-I am well aware that a huge swath of Tumblr users are teenagers; and as such, this self loathing is going to be expressed a lot more. However, I don't follow a single teen on Tumblr.

Casey Creates said...

So true. I was just talking about this with my friends yesterday! It makes me want to toss my computer in the Hudson River. This generation of people, as compared to those before, sit in their homes and can be cruel to people through the internet- never seeing the person on the other end as anything more than a virtual opinion of the glowing white screen. Yet we rarely protest or take a punch outside our safe walls; not a whole lot of people doing these negative things would actually say these words to another person outside of virtual reality (let alone think this way outside of their internet world).

Erin said...

Conan on cynicism! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiSpULCYJn4

Sarah said...

I whole heartedly agree. It's depressing sometimes!

Tonia said...

Amen amenamenamen!!!! If I could high five you right now, Lizzie, I would. Thank you for voicing these observations...the same things have been bothering me for months now. On top of what you mentioned, I've noticed my Facebook feed has been incredibly negative recently. Friends of mine are complaining about everything from the weather to–well, I don't actually care what else they are bitching about, so I'm not even going to finish that sentence. What gives? Do we not all have SO SO MUCH to be thankful for? Why not focus on that stuff? Me thinks folks need to gain a spoonful of perspective. Or in some cases, a salad-bowl-ful.

Cheryl Cochran said...

Absolutely.

Jenna said...

I could not agree more! I am so glad that you put it out there, and so eloquently at that. I think it's the state of the world these days, although that's no excuse for bad behavior. The only thing I can think of is to keep on creating art. Hopefully there will be a shift in thinking. Can't come soon enough!

dana joy said...

Amen sister.

Miloucat said...

I agree!

Cassandra said...

I so needed to read this today! Thanks for your words.

Poppy K said...

And speaking of joy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is making me look forward to aging. She looks better now at 53 than she did 10 or even 20 years ago!

Erin said...

This is so refreshing, thank you!

I don't consider myself particularly doe-eyed but am increasingly jolted by the negative commentary of friends + coworkers. It feels so unproductive to neg what someone spent time and effort creating.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! This is exactly how I feel. I'm tired of negative, nothing-is-cool-enough-for-me attitudes.

Kels said...

Nice post! And I agree, particularly about awful social media posts. Have you seen Jimmy's Kimmel's "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets" series? Both hilarious and tragically indicative of our sometimes cruel society. We forget there are real people who read these mean comments.

The only thing I will say, in regards to Hirl, is that gentrification is a really damaging process. Essentially, people from a higher socioeconomic class start raising the overall cost of rent in a certain area, so the poorer natives are eventually pushed out of their own neighborhoods. It doesn't improve poverty--it shuffles out the impoverished, and turns their neighborhoods into playgrounds for people using hip urbanism to pretend they come from a rough part of town. So I can understand the critique on Hirl, even if it has a mean-edged sarcasm to it.

Alberta Art Classes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alberta Art Classes said...

I get it. I live in Portland. Sometimes I feel as though people ain't got no home trainin'...

Lizzie said...

And, just caught up on this New York Times piece from the weekend.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/sunday-review/dealing-with-digital-cruelty.html?smid=nytcore-iphone-share&smprod=nytcore-iphone&_r=0

Jessie said...

Thank you. While I understand the purpose of constructive criticism, I generally feel unqualified to provide it. As in, do I really have the experience and expertise to comment on the topic? Internet commentary is not equivalent to reputable peer review or the opinion of close trusted friends and family. I tend to stick to the adage "If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all!"
I much prefer to share about things that I find interesting and exciting instead of wasting negative energy complaining about things on social media.

Anonymous said...

kyrigne This post is so true! Part of growing up (i.e., becoming an honestly adult person) has been being able to happily admit that I like what I like. If other people disagree or think I'm a total dork, well, so be it. I am happier now than I have ever been with my superpower of admitting that some things (um, dorky and very uncool things) make me smile. I applaud people who go about their business, honestly making this world a better place. People, just try to be a little happy, mmmkay?

Danielle said...

The Mo'ne Davis comment is clearly racist and sexist as all get out and clearly out of bounds.

That being said, there are serious issues with gentrifying neighborhoods (which Kels pointed out) and something that seems as harmless the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge - wasting water especially. There are serious droughts across the world that have political, economic, and social consequences.

As someone who works in the non-profit sector, any time you're raising money you want to be raising awareness as well - especially for a disease as cruel as ALS - and I don't think the challenge is doing that.

I think there's a difference between being nasty and cynical and being an engaged and critical thinker, relating to the world around you. Fingers crossed that people are choosing the latter.

Simona M said...

Thank you, can't stand snark. It is something else than being critical where you carefully consider what the specific person intended to do and if he or she succeeded. Snark is just envy disguised as coolness. Now I have been sometimes almost been 'accused' of being cool, haha, and I like so many things. I am only critical when I feel something is not sincere, and let face it, we are also being lied to a lot. About the wasting of water, if it results in millions raised for an awful disease, it is a pretty good use of it better than just washing your hair with it. Anyway great piece!

Anonymous said...

May I also add to these great arguments that being *too cool for all that* strikes me as being fundamentally un-tomboy?? Admiring, supporting, finding inspiration in what makes us unique - that's the nut, not knocking each other down.

Courtney Lewis said...

For REAL. If anything, it's made me more aware to not get involved in comments on the interwebs sometimes. After Robin Williams death, I was taking all of the mean comments so PERSONALLY (why?!). It's a weird thing, because you don't want to just hide it or ignore it, how do you educate or stand up to the bullies? Why can't we all just get along? :)

Anonymous said...

I appreciate honest, thoughtful commentary/feedback on sites specifically designed to provide that (GoodReads, Yelp, etc.), but like you and the folks commenting here I've had enough of snark and general unkindness. What draws me to people and media is hearing what other people are passionate about and why - and, I'm impressed by people who put forth the energy to create and achieve. Thanks for your GREAT site and the comments here.

Jamie said...

Another timely cross-reference: there's a piece in the New Yorker this week (no paywall) about a classics professor at Cambridge who writes a lot for the general public — and how she deals with the criticism she gets, most of which is directed at her gender and her appearance but degrades her work in the process. She's style icon for sure!

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/01/troll-slayer

amewx said...

I never comment on blogs, but I've been checking this blog casually for like, forever, and I'm really digging the chill, smart, feminist voice I've seen emerging. Please don't apologize for sounding too "after school special," your tone is great.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for this post. It truly is sad and astounding the amount of vitriol that is spewed out these days over just about everything. It's like giant vomitorium out there. What if instead of expending all that energy ripping someone or something to shreds, who is having some measure of success and recognition and whom one doesn't even know or have an experience with, one volunteered their time at an organization in need, or wrote his/her congressman or woman about some injustice or another, or got angry and vocal about all the terrible things going on around the world?

Mamavalveeta03 said...

You're absolutely right, Lizzie. I'm the kind of person who likes to be open to meeting new people...I'm Midwestern, and a trusting sort, so when someone blindsides me with a mean comment, it actually knocks me off-guard a bit. It's because of this that I've pretty much given up on Facebook and Twitter, and I just look at pictures on Instagram. Even there, some people can't resist posting nasty and cruel comments about people's photos. I'm disgusted. Yes, I am.

reid.damnit said...

We have a term for it in New Zealand, it's called "Tall Poppy Syndrome". Where-in, if you're doing something awesome people who are not as rad and motivated and risk takers lop you off at the roots with negativity to bring you back to their level. It's sad, to say the least.