One Day, Snark Free. Really.
By Brian Chandler
You know that person. It’s the colleague or friend who always has something snarky to say.
It could be complaining about the governor’s race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli, the battle over the debt ceiling and ObamaCare, or just poking fun at a colleague for something he or she did. It all adds up to snark and it’s a good example of what is running prevalent in our culture today.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes being snarky as: sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner. Many business leaders are starting to take notice at how snarkiness can manifest itself in a variety of ways in the workplace, creating a great deal of dysfunction and dramatically impacting a company’s bottom line. When snark goes online, it often turns into cyber-bulling.
Almost like an epidemic, snark begins innocently, and becomes more widespread over time. Simple comments such as, “Thanks Captain Obvious,” “I wouldn’t expect you to know that.” “Why are you still here?” or “Wow, what was she thinking wearing that?” are some good examples of how it starts. I’ll admit, I’ve been on the distributing side of snark and it can sometimes make things interesting, but over time snarky comments typically get worse. Let’s not forget that there’s always a person on the receiving end of the snark and if that person decides to be snarky back, a cycle can start that is sometimes hard to stop. We’ve seen this scenario play out in social media many times over the last few years. In fact, when you combine snark with social media, you have an epidemic of massive proportions.
The Internet makes being snarky easy. Hiding behind the veil of a computer screen and keyboard allows you to comment on a Facebook post or tweet something about a person, event or activity that is negative and sometimes degrading. Often, the computer gives a false sense of security that becomes evident as people retaliate by posting their own opposing viewpoints. Some relate this to cyber-bullying.
We must have the courage to confront people before snark gets out of hand. Why? Otherwise, this can reinforce the dysfunctional behavior to the point that culprits think there’s nothing wrong and their words are normal. After a while, this can create a vicious cycle, that causes individuals to grow increasingly hostile and insecure. What often starts out as a comment that was intended to be innocent suddenly transforms the person into a world-class jerk.
How do we stop the cycle of snark?
One way is to agree to put the snark on ice for a full 24 hours. A group of public relations professionals aims to make a single day in October one that is free of harsh comments, back-handed comments, rude social-media posts, and general sarcasm. Declaring Oct. 22 as Snark Free Day, the nationwide affiliates of PR Consultants Group (PRCG) — including Commonwealth Public Relations in Richmond — are committing to a kinder way of communication and encouraging others to participate. The group often coaches clients on communication styles for messaging, news releases, website content, blogs, social media and more. Through Oct. 22, they share these same principles with anyone who communicates face-to-face, pen-to-paper or screen-to-screen.
Let’s face it, the world could use a little less snark. If victims of snark refuse to lash out at others, perhaps people will feel better about themselves and their relationships with others, and maybe other adults – and children – will follow their lead and be kinder to their co-workers, customers, family and friends.
Brian Chandler is the president of Commonwealth Public Relations. He is also the Virginia and West Virginia representative of the PR Consultants Group.