Some of the synonyms for contemptuous are scornful, disdainful, disrespectful, insulting, mocking, sneering, scoffing, scathing, snide; condescending, haughty, proud, superior, arrogant, dismissive; high and mighty, snotty, and sniffy. I think that many of these words have come to characterize much of our communications in America on and off the web. These types of things have become common for us even among the most prominent of people.

During the 2016 election it became more clear to me that on a very intense level our culture was infested with what used to be considered embarrassing and or shameful. Our attitude, tone and rhetoric seems corrupted with twisted amounts of pride. The sum of our feeds are laced with biting remarks, clever insults, passive-aggressive jabs, condescending rants and the sound of entitlement.

In what is clinically known to psychologists as Illusory Superiority it is proven that most people deem themselves as more clever than most people. You can quickly see the problem with that being possible. Unfortunately our fallible brains and our over exposure to snide and arrogant “expert” like speech results in a clinical bias that effects all of us. Beyond this all too common illusory superiority we contend with other cultural / psychological issues.

Confirmation bias is “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.” You combine this “systematic error” in people’s brains with the erroneous sense of superiority and you have a recipe for ugliness.

We also face other “brain problems” when it comes to our use of the internet. Our online presence is often effected by what researches call the disinhibition effect. When communicating online people tend to be more aggressive and mean in speech, others may tend to “over share,” and still others might be overtly generous than what their typical human interactions would reveal. All of these more extreme expressions happen online due to a number of things that lead to our conscious mind being detached from real world effects (consequences) and or perceptions.

On top of our predisposition toward more extreme actions on the web we are also experiencing a “silo” effect socially. Google (and other search engines) and many of the popular social networks are all being engineered in a way that is extremely personalized. They are tracking what we like, open, interact with and say. They use this highly personalized information to tailor our news feed and search results creating an echo chamber. Imagine a world where every thing you received as news was bent toward your predetermined worldview exclusively.

Some of us may be consuming this type of slanted rhetoric more than we share it. We are daily training ourselves in a very narrow and divisive way of thinking. We are conditioning ourselves in pride. We have to resist this caustic culture that’s becoming increasingly and aggressively fractured, mob-like and territorial. We’re headed in the opposite direction of what would be regarded as healthy. We tend to demonize whole groups of people due to our lack of self-awareness, bad brain circuitry, malformed social networks and a lack of character. The dying elements of healthy and safe societies like decorum, a basic respect for our fellowman, restraint and an effort toward true discourse are needed desperately.

The next time you’re about to post, share, retweet or respond, take a pause and consider your contribution to the ever growing divide in our country and what seems to be our disgust for anyone that thinks differently than us. Let’s shed our confirmation bias, practice empathy, think deeper and retain some amount of dignity. Let’s not spew insults, scattering the web with condescending and arrogant content. Maturity should enlarge our capacity to understand others (even our enemies) and ultimately ourselves.

Review your posts and consider the tone, source and nature of your content. Is there a trend? Let’s break out of the box our poor circuitry and cultural miscommunications have put us in.

Art by Johan Wahlstrom

Interesting addition: (link: text: A recent study finds a decline in empathy among young people in the U.S.)

Description: During the 2016 election it become more clear to me that our culture was infested with what used to be considered an embarrassing and shameful way of being. Our attitude, tone and rhetoric seem to be corrupted with twisted amounts of pride. The sum of our feeds are laced with biting remarks, cleaver insults, passive aggressive jabs, condescending rants and the sound of entitlement.