A Question for the World Re: The Lost Art of Classy Criticism
The other day I was tooling around on Medium — this wonderful and scary site where we are all wearing our hearts on our sleeves — and I came across a food post that, by the time I reached it’s end, had me laughing my ass off.
The writing was brilliant. Totally, outrageously, and perfectly over-the-top. Full of slang acronyms and enough f-bombs to rival the script of a cop drama. Crass as all hell and a marvelous, raucous undoing of the vanilla same-ness that so many foodie blogs (including mine, yes; go see for yourself) tend to fall into.
As I came to the end of the article and moved to give it a big, ol’ heart for its pure chutzpah, I saw the preview of another subscriber’s comment. I felt myself blink in surprise, and then I clicked on the comment to read more.
The comment left for the writer could be described as follows: patronizing. Demeaning. Snarky. Snide. And just God damn rude.
When did it become perfectly acceptable to be so arrogantly disgraceful in our words towards one another?
In this Celebrity Age that we are living in, in this world of self-promotion, we are encouraged to publicize both our mental and private lives to the nth degree so that others can profit off of our desire to win a golden ticket to a moment of internet fame. In this world of instant celebrity, we impulsively post videos, photos, comments, and blogs — images and words that slowly evolve into a lasting digital persona for each of us.
As in the physical world, the material and manner with which we each choose to represent our Selves online are personal choices. I would argue, however, that when your creation of your online Self involves deriding another in order to elevate your status — when the desire to see yourself as an avatar trumps your conscience that derision of another human being is not witty, clever, nor flattering in any way — there is something royally unclassy about that kind of behavior.
There were days when men would kill each other over the same types of public shaming we see and hear all the time, online and off. When did we stop finding it completely dishonorable to act in such a manner? When did we degrade the word “classy” to simply refer to how one dresses and not to how one acts? When did we lose perspective and forget that celebrity does not make us? Character does.
I would argue that it takes more brains and balls to refrain from publicly patronizing or demeaning another than it does to come up with some pert, little, cheeky insolence. It’s easy to be a snark. Mindlessly and arrogantly easy. We’ve all felt it. Our human nature is constantly looking for ways to say, “Look! See? You are better than ________. Go ahead and step yourself up onto that pedestal.”
It is even easier nowadays, I would continue, to let that snide comment fly when our right pinky or thumb is so trained to reach for that ‘Enter’ key. Easier, and therefore all the more important to hold tighter to the reins.
I’m not saying that there are not times when serious arguments can be made for why X is better than Y. So the commentator didn’t like the writer’s post for particular reasons. That is perfectly understandable; people have opinions. The commentator thought the writing was disgraceful. I get it.
But instead of carefully crafting a private, intelligent critique that encouraged growth and reflection through constrained expression of her opinion, the commentator chose to publicly stroke her own ego and did very little in the way of actually being constructive and helpful with her words.
Words, dear world, are tricky. They are so easy to spout without thought and consideration and yet so difficult to craft. They can destroy in the fraction of a second and yet can take lifetimes to heal.
Let us learn to craft our words of every kind to make us all better writers, better people, a better world.