While the Republican nominees beat their drums and stomp their feet and whoop “class warfare,” we’re reminded of another kind of war on class: That is people’s seeming inability to be decent and sophisticated online.
This isn’t a new problem. In the musical “Chicago,” Velma and Mama Morton lament: “Why is it everyone now is a pain in the a**? Whatever happened to class?” But back in Prohibition-era Illinois, offenses were limited to whatever went down in letters, telephone calls and real-life interactions.
Nowadays, when we’re virtually connected to a gazillion people at any given time (formally reducing our six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon and everyone else to a mere 4.74 — score!), those dodgy, ill-advised and just plain rude acts are happening at arm’s length all the time.
While we can’t do anything about the fact that “no one even says oops when they’re passing their gas” and “even kids’ll kick your shins and give you sass” (yep, “Chicago” again), we offer the following solutions in the war on class. Identify your own faux pas and make the Web a bit less of a bubbling swamp of vulgarity.
Tacky tactic: Posting detailed, passive-aggressive grievances about other people in your circle on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc., a la “It’s really interesting to me how SOME people think it’s totally OK to be nice to your face and then send texts to your boyfriend telling him he could do better, ESPECIALLY when said people wear fake colored contact lenses and ill-fitting clothes and are named Jenny Jenkins. #justsaying.”
Classy fix: When you have beef with one person and yet feel the need to involve hundreds of others, you don’t come off as righteous. You look childish and a bit foolish. In fact, research shows that gossipmongers are seen as unlikable and weak.
If you have something to say to someone, say it to her face (book): E-mail or message her privately.
Or better yet, call her or ask whether you can talk in person and — calmly and without screeching or flailing about — talk it out. Staying cool as a cucumber won’t just be classy, it’ll scare the crap out of whomever you’re confronting. A classy foe is so much more persuasive than a hysterical one.
Tacky tactic: Making big announcements via TMI photos: the new baby, seconds after birth and still gooey; your newly deceased father-in-law on a gurney, moments before they wheeled him away; you passed out next to the toilet after celebrating your new job offer, etc.
Classy fix: Honestly, most big announcements don’t require an accompanying photo. A cheerful update about the baby’s weight and health, a solemn link to the service announcement and an excited sentence about your new gig would suffice.
Eventually your friends and loved ones will want you to share a photo of the cleaned-up baby. But trust us: Your friends want you to be out there celebrating achievements and dealing with losses, not busily tapping away on your smartphone every second of the day. (To put it another way: You’re not nearly as interesting to everyone else as you think you are. Hard truth of the day.)
Tacky tactic: Assuming every digital contact is a willing financial supporter (and prefers to be contacted a dozen times a day).
So you’re planning a self-booked, 12-country mission trip? Forming a nonprofit to neuter feral cats in the neighborhood? Kicking off that company of hard-plastic containers for the transportation of raw fruit that you’ve been talking about? Good for you. Not so good for us if you continue tagging us in daily Facebook notes or spamming us with bullying messages along the lines of “Your contribution is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to the success of Spay & Play, so it is ESSENTIAL that you donate as much as you can.”
Classy fix: Use a carrot, not a stick, to drum up support. Set up a Kickstarter campaign with a low funding limit and offer incentives for different contributions. Send kind, flattering, personalized appeals to different potential donors (“I thought this might interest you since you’re familiar with startup nonprofits, and I’d love to take you out for coffee and benefit from your wisdom even if a financial contribution isn’t possible right now”) and leave them alone if one followup note goes unanswered.
At the end of the day, like when you’re penniless in your 11th country or chest-deep in feral kitties, you want a venture funded by willing donors and well-wishing supporters, not ticked-off friends who are paying you hush money.