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Senior Correspondent

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who is a few years my senior, but not so much that we aren't peers. Our conversation turned to politics, and we both wondered when and why we as a people have become so mean and nasty. 

I pop over to Twitter every once in awhile and look up what a favorite columnist or talking head might be saying. They are identified as who they actually are. Not so for those who respond. Hiding behind their made up names they become unbelievably foul. Unfortunately, many of those being accosted do the same in return.

Why do they behave this way? My friend contends that it's because they can. Pure and simple. Is that really all there is to it? That because they can, it's permissible to be not only foul but cruel as well? I don't get it.

This is nothing new; it has been creeping into social media from roots in blogging – like my own. I have always, though, tried to be civil even when in disagreement with a commenter or being attacked by one. I could see no point in being otherwise.

But now? Whew. It has overflowed into every aspect of society. The media, the celebrity world, politicians – including the President – and ordinary people amassing protests, many times over no more than a buzz word.

My friend stated quite emphatically that this isn't her America. It's not mine either – at least not the one in which I grew up. I shouldn't have to brush it off as a generational thing, that “times are different now, so get over it.”

No, I won't get over it because it's unacceptable. I hope Twitter's problems generating revenue bring about its demise. I hope people leave Facebook because there are more ads than comments from friends. How many do you have to scroll through to find a friend's comment? Too many. I have no problem with going back to e-mail or even good, old-fashioned snail mail with a real handwritten letter. I know that won't happen in this era of instant communication, but it would cause people to take a time-out and maybe consider what they are about to say – even e-mail can do that much.

The pendulum tends to swing both directions. I hope it has nearly reached the far side of incivility and is ready to swing back before the country finds itself in such a state that the pendulum is stuck. Or broken. As will be the country. And probably beyond repair.

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