On civility, compassion, empathy and victim blaming

River rescue this week makes me ask… ‘When did we become such jerks?’

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend over the last few years.

I hope I’m wrong, but it seems like people are getting meaner.

Almost every day, I’ll be scrolling through my online social media platforms – it’s part of my job, after all – and I’ll see something that causes me to pause.

It’s not a photo of someone’s amazing dinner or a meme making fun of the Prime Minister or someone selling their car.

It’s someone being an inconsiderate jerk for no reason.

At least, not for any reason that I can understand. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

What benefit can someone possibly see in tearing into a mother who just went through a situation like one local woman had happen on Tuesday this week?

Out for a nice relaxing summer float down the river with her family and friends, she misjudged the situation and the river taught her a lesson she’ll never forget.

Thankfully, nobody died that day on that river, thanks to the efforts of local volunteers and emergency responders.

But was that the overarching theme online about this incident?

Was it an outpouring of support hoping everyone is okay and thanking Search and Rescue for rescuing these people?

No. No, it was not.

It was full of people blaming these people for putting themselves in this situation. Questioning their parenting skills. How dare they put their children in such a dangerous situation?

I need someone to explain to me what benefit is served by such an accusation. I honestly don’t understand how someone can feel like kicking someone when they’re down serves any purpose. Can it possibly make you feel better to say something like that?

And it’s obviously not just this week’s river incident.

Anyone who spends any time at all on Facebook will come across a post once in a while where someone is “warning” others in their area that there’s someone going through cars in the middle of the night, looking for things to steal.

The post will say something like, “Just a warning for people in the (area) area of town. I woke up this morning and had my car was a mess and they got my wallet. Hopefully Karma will catch up with them.”

Sometimes it will have a photo of the mess the thief left behind.

What’s the overarching theme of the comments on a post like that?

Is it, “Oh, I’m so sorry that happened to you! I’ll keep my eyes open for anyone skulking around!”

Nope. It’s, “Why wasn’t your car locked?” or, “Do you have security cameras?” or even, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t leave your wallet in your car.”

When did we get this way?

And is there some weird line where this becomes okay?

Because I don’t think anyone would say, “Oh, you got T-boned in an intersection where you had the right of way and the other person blew through a red light? Maybe you should have waited to make sure they were going to stop.”

Under what circumstances is it okay to blame a victim?

And yes, those people on the river on Tuesday were victims. They were victims of happenstance and the power of nature.

If you think they made a bad decision by being out there that day, that’s fine. If you think they weren’t properly prepared for what that river could do, that’s fine, too.

But we’ve all made bad decisions and we’ve all been unprepared for situations that arose.

I just don’t see what good it does anyone to berate people for that.

Do you think you’re helping them learn a lesson?

Because I’m guessing, in most of these types of circumstances, by the time you hear about them, they already have.