Do You Have Keyboard Muscles?

Why is it that people are so rude online? So brave behind their keyboards?  Modern Manners Guy explores the phenomenon of online bullying. 

Richie Frieman
3-minute read


Mason Cooley, once said, "There are different rules for reading, for thinking, and for talking. Writing blends all three of them."  I love this quote, and not just because I'm a writer, but because it describes how powerful something you write can be for those who read it. 

I’m pretty sure that Cooley was not talking about social media, but it can certainly apply. Nowadays, people take the power of words for granted. Whenever they hop behind their computers, they become the most influential, powerful, humorous, and creative minds to ever grace the internet. People like to flex their social media muscles on everything from politics, to sports, to the Kristen Stewart-Robert Pattinson cheating scandal. I can't believe this is an issue, but apparently I’m in the minority. 

Why is it that when we get behind that keyboard, we become more unmannerly with every exclamation point and emoticon? The phenomenon of “keyboard muscles” was even explored in a recent Wall Street Journal article called "Why We Are So Rude Online."

Whether you call it "witty," "brave," or just "opinionated," writing nasty things online about other people is actually called bullying. Bullies are everywhere: in school, in the office, even in your own social circles. And in every instance, bullies are bullies simply because they’re covering up for something they can't stand about themselves. This makes it very easy for a bully to go online and post comments on a site that are so offensive and harsh, that in a million years they wouldn't have the guts to tell someone to their face. 

For example, I find that sports always brings out the worst in people. Take the guy who calls an NFL lineman who had to leave a game after a torn ACL an "Overpaid, piece of crap, cry baby!" (this is an exact quote, although I substituted "crap" for his crude word choice).  I don't know this guy, but I am pretty sure that he is by no means an NFL-caliber player, nor is he educated enough to make a medical diagnosis of the player’s injury. As well, if this same football player walked into this guy's house, the last thing he would do is offer his ridiculous opinion to the athlete's face. In fact, he'd probably turn into a teenage girl and ask for an autograph. But online, he’s Mr. Muscles.

Same thing goes for a recent situation with a TV newswoman who received a letter from a viewer who said that she was unfit to be on TV because of her weight. The newswoman stood up for herself, publicly pointing out how rude this bully was. I gave her a standing ovation when I saw the clip. I can't possibly imagine what ignorance is going through someone's head when they decide to comment on a journalist’s appearance via an email. What did he think would happen? That the newswoman would go on the news to thank him? That the newswoman would retire? It was not helpful, it was rude. And like the football commentator, I guarantee that if this person saw the newswoman in person, he wouldn't have the guts to say a thing. 

It's improper -- and cowardly -- to call someone names, period. We all learned this in kindergarten. Heck, my four-year-old knows not to call people names! But still, behind a keyboard, well, everyone is hilarious and brave, right? Wrong! You are a fool if you think that posting rude statements online makes you cool. 

Next time you run into someone who writes negative things about you or something you care about, try approaching them. Don't get confrontational; simply ask what the goal is of their rudeness. I promise you, they will quickly morph into a coward. I do this all the time at work. When a colleague emails me something insulting, I simply walk over, sit down in their office or cube, and ask what’s up. They immediately act like it was no big deal and that we are the best of friends. 

Bottom line: Bullies are wimps disguised as over-confident imbeciles. What appears as intelligence is really ignorance. Posting something negative online is about as courageous as the guy who sits in his house cursing at the TV over a bad call, saying he could have made that 85-yard touchdown pass easily. Riiight.

Check out more of Modern Manners Guy's tips for a polite life.

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