It’s Not OK To Be a Jerk

Can’t we all just get along?

Stephanie Gruner Buckley
Jan 21 · 3 min read
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Photo by christian buehner on Unsplash

I’ve spent the past hour replying to the last of the comments to a story I wrote about my daughter’s iPhone use. There were nearly 300 comments, which I enjoyed reading and responding to.

I learned something along the way: most people are incredibly decent and kind. Many people told me I was a good mother. They said not to beat myself up for failing to curb my daughter’s iPhone use. They said I was doing the best I could. Some shared stories about their own struggles. Lots of people offered constructive criticism and valuable advice — much of which I’ve taken.

Quite a few young people encouraged me to share in my daughter’s tech enthusiasms and find more creative outlets for her. For Christmas we bought an art app called Procreate, which my daughter loves. So, thanks for that great advice.

But not everyone was nice.

“This is the worst piece of writing I read. You’re a horrible parent,” wrote one reader.

As if that weren’t clear enough, this reader took the time to add a follow-up comment:

“You’re a terrible parent. Please don’t be surprised if your daughter hates you.”

Another called me a “doormat”. (There should be a rule on Medium that if you’re going to say something snarky, you have to make it funny).

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.

Here’s my point: Most people are kind. A lot fewer are jerks. Some may be mentally ill too. And I’m sorry for that. But I don’t get the jerks. What’s the point?

And how did we reach a stage where people think it’s ok to say something nasty on social media that they would never say to someone on the street?

Here’s a good example: a few days ago, someone posted something Vice President Kamala Harris never said about taking vengeance on Trump supporters once Democrats returned to power. It turns out this was first posted on a satire site, but someone turned it into a meme and it’s been reposted on social media as fact. It’s crazy people don’t fact-check this stuff before posting, but putting that aside…

It was the responses to the post that got to me.

A grandfather responded with: Just let that dumb bi$%* come down here and say that.

Three people LIKED this comment.

Really? They LIKED that a man called a woman dumb?

They LIKED that a man called the first female VP in US history dumb? Not to mention a Bi$%*. (It’s so awful, I can’t even spell it out).

They LIKED that a man subtly threatened this ground-breaking clearly smart and accomplished woman with violence.

I looked the guy up.

And there he is, featured on his Facebook profile page: a genial looking grandfatherly type in front of a row of grandkids. (For the record, I could have found an outrageous example of something said from someone on the Left).

Facebook removed the man’s comment, saying it violated its community standards. The man went back on Facebook to say how unfair that was. Democrats could call him a White Supremacist, he wrote, and that was ok. (He didn’t clarify when or where they called him that).

If you’re reading Sir, be thankful Facebook deleted your post. Those grandkids of yours look old enough to read, and in particular, the granddaughters, who may look up to the first female VP in US history.

I’m all for free speech, and cancel culture makes me wince. But I think it’s time to take a stand against jerky online behavior — and this goes for all of us no matter what political views we hold.

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Stephanie Gruner Buckley

Written by

Writer, editor, parent. Concerned about the world around us. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.

Digital Diplomacy

Technology, digital, and innovation, at the intersection with government and foreign policy

Stephanie Gruner Buckley

Written by

Writer, editor, parent. Concerned about the world around us. Former staffer at Quartz, WSJ and Inc. magazine.

Digital Diplomacy

Technology, digital, and innovation, at the intersection with government and foreign policy

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