Anyone who knows me knows that I can be an incredibly irreverent and snarky person. At times it can quite humorous and, at other times, it can be…less so, so I’ve come to found. I’ve thought about this – about what I say, how I act, what I do – about the roots and causes and effects of those words.
What is snark? UrbanDictionary.com defines it as a combination of “snide” and “remark.” “Snide” is “derogatory or mocking in an indirect way”…so to be snarky is to make indirectly derogatory remarks. I am certainly guilty of this.
Snark rarely adds anything to the world. In fact, it allows me to retreat from a discourse without giving anything back. Often, I use it in lieu of expressing actual disagreement or the opposite side to an argument. It lets me dish out my opposing view disparagingly in a way that cuts the other person.
I can trace its evolution in myself back through my growing cynicism and into my sarcastic youth. I grew up on the East Coast in New England and – without seeking to justify or apologize for it – can point to a general sarcastic cynicism in that population. Perhaps it stems from bitter cold winters – I’ve felt chills in my bones that stimulated anger in me I didn’t even know I had. Perhaps it stems from elitism – pride of place that metastasized into a better-than-thou attitude. In any case, I can see how it has perpetuated my own arrogance and I don’t think it’s been very helpful.
If I am honest with myself (and I certainly hope I am), I know it is a defense mechanism. I am cynical about New Age movements. I am cynical about the Government. I am cynical about marketing and the vast Capitalist system. The list goes on. George Carlin said it best: the root of every cynic is a disappointed idealist. At some point, my hopes were dashed enough that the cynic took over and started driving. The idealist went back to painting because no one can ever tell me otherwise in the arena of art. I can make the canvas as beautiful as I want and I can be as raw and deep as I want, and my cynic became the guard at the door. But I’ve let that part of myself go unchecked, and it grew into something that I don’t want to be anymore.
What we put out into the world may or may not come back to us. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. What we put out – what we choose to be – is the important part. I’ve realized that the snark is just divisive. It doesn’t create more open-mindedness or love, or help create a happier healthier world – which really IS something I want. In the arena of debating opposing ideas – and I see and hear plenty of ideas that I think are misinformed and ill-advised – responding with a snarky answer merely tells the person, “I think you’re dumb for thinking that and it deserves mockery.” It doesn’t ENGAGE. It doesn’t unite. It’s not a compassionate response. Because, even if there is truth in there, the recipient hears only the mocking (and, in a sense, the hate).
Everyone has built their ideas of the world based on their experiences in it. Even if they have a belief system that seems so against our own logic as to seem absurd, they hold that view based on everything they’ve learned – from birth until now. If we hope to offer some new idea or what we feel is a healthier way of being, smearing the ideas of another doesn’t help. Snark is a passive-agressive way of spitting on another person’s beliefs. In the end, it only strengthens the egos of both parties. And then we’re right back where we started.
I realize now that I’ve done that plenty and I’m done with it.
On this planet, as every day goes by, we are in a constant state of creation. We create words, sentences, ideas, objects… These days, many of those “objects” are virtual objects, “content,” shuttled back and forth between servers and computer screens. That content is used as a marketing tool by the media companies that host it and display it, analyzing it for demographic data, displaying ads next to it, selling it to the next highest bidder. That might sound cynical but it is the truth of one aspect of this internet marketing game and nothing is going to change that any time soon.
So I’ve thought about that – about the content I create. I’ve seen my blips and beeps transmitting across these interweb tubes and wondered, “Are they seeds promoting growth, or are they poisons perpetuating a broken and divided system of ‘us vs. them,’ disagreement and disharmony? Do they promote health? Happiness? Does it help to unite or to divide?”
Snark is a poison that divides. It perpetuates the broken system. There is no empathy in it. No wisdom, no compassion. And so I apologize if my snarky commentary has caused more separation. It was never my intention. I don’t think there ever was an intention. And if its intention is not the perpetuation of a healthier, happier world, then I don’t think it’s worth keeping around.
I want to be a part of the continuously created world around me, so I look to the ways I can help to make it healthier and happier for those who live here…and examine the ways that I don’t.
The snark is one of those ways. The only thing worth replacing it with is more love, more compassion.
Related Reading: “Oh, Irony!: An Ode”