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The Death of Civility. Was It Ever Alive in the First Place?

Family Arguning Over Real EstateMaybe it’s the circles I run in.

Can You Scream A Little Louder?

Lately, I’ve been reading blogs in the both here on Agent Genius and elsewhere where both blog posts and comments seem to be getting shriller and shriller.  A post may start out innocently enough.  The subject might be Raising the Bar, Duel Agency or maybe even a bone to pick.  Sometimes the author is reasoned and even insightful. A lot of times, not so much.

Then, put on the Kevlar®.  The comments start coming in and, one wonders, if the commenters even re-read their stuff before hitting the Submit button. All kinds of accusations and assertions are made.  Not the “Kind Sir, I believe you may be mistaken about your point of view.” type.  Nah. We start calling each other unethical, uneducated, uncaring, criminal conspirators or — my favorite — morons.

Conversation at a New Level

All of this takes the conversation to a new level.  Unfortunately, it’s not a higher level. It reminds me of the word games some teenagers play about your Mama (“You’re Mama is so ugly the mirror cracks when she puts on her makeup.”). Sometimes these start out in the spirit of fun but, many times, they rapidly disintegrate into arguments and bad will where none existed before.

It also reminds me of many real life transactions where one Realtor starts screaming at the other when one aspect of a transaction doesn’t go exactly according to plan.  Sadly, this seems all too frequent.

I know I’m engaging in a lot of wishful thinking.  It’s a fantasy of mine that the level of discussion in the real estate blogosphere can be both interesting and civil.  Who knows?  Maybe some day.

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In the meantime, I’ll share I line I heard on Prairie Home Companion last night (we liberals love our NPR):

“You must’ve been conceived at home.  That’s where most accidents happen.”

Take that!

Written By

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog



  1. Joe Sheehan

    February 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Thanks, Ken.

    You stated it perfectly. I have a very difficult time agreeing with someone’s opinion when I am so offended by the way it’s presented. Thanks for taking the time to say this.

  2. BawldGuy

    February 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Hey Ken — You’ve recognized a decades long trend which has sadly become the norm for much of the country. I’ve always thought the origin of this trend was the first time Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, began openly and loudly disparaging his latest upcoming opponent. This was then taken another step downward as he’d then transition into a loud and shameful monologue about how good he was, how superior he was, and the like.

    What changed was when the principle we were all taught as kids, bragging is rude, shameful, and unbecoming, was then modified. Free license was granted by changing it to- If you can do it, it ain’t braggin’. Of course, that’s the most insidious form of lie. If a dominating athlete says he can do something at will against another athlete, it’s bragging period — especially if he can do it. If he can’t do it, he’s simply a loud-mouthed fool.

    Once Ali’s behavior was deemed acceptable by a large segment of the population, it spread like a virus. The result is what you observed in your post.

    I prefer class, dignity, and acting as if you’ve been there before. I’ve been personally attacked online many times, as most of us have. I prefer one of two responses. I either point to the ‘scoreboard’ if appropriate, or ignore them altogether. My preference has been the latter. Arguing with haughty arrogance fueled by ignorance and inexperience is akin to debating whether it’s gonna rain a week from next Tuesday. It also tends to make one appear as foolish as the arrogantly ignorant fop who’s running their mouth, insulting anyone who dares disagree.

    Speaking for myself, I much prefer the class and dignity of a Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird to the ‘look at me’ generation of clowns we now have to endure. Though I’ve used sports figures as examples here, I think you’ve amply shown this virus has reached and infected most segments of our culture.


    • Lani Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

      Ken, Jeff and I know each other personally and chat on the phone frequently and I think we agree because we are cut from similar cloth (which is probably why Benn and I are friends with him in the first place).

      My dad said when we were children, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. And if you do, you might get smacked in the back of the head.” Of course he meant by him or an opponent.

      I had an email conversation just yesterday with a friend on AG and he noted that it’s interesting that some commenters use the very tactics to attack the writer that they are condemning the writer for. My response was that it’s not the real estate blogging space, it’s everywhere- people are stretched thin and times are hard and desperation is seeping through peoples’ writing voices in comments across the board.

      This tone will change as the economy recovers.

  3. MIssy Caulk

    February 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Ken, I have that little fantasy too. But like Lani it is not just online.

  4. Gwen Banta

    February 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Ken, if people took just 10 seconds to remember that every word they say or write is a reflection of the person whom they truly are, they might care more about the monikers they attach to people. In my opinion, the road to civility has been closed for repairs for a very long time…

  5. Janie Coffey

    February 23, 2010 at 1:17 am

    there is certainly a certain contingent who feel empowered, superior, emboldened to opine loudly and negatively about any and all topics. I often wonder if they realize their current and potential clients can read those comments as well, but I guess when they put them out there, they either feel they are fully justified or simply don’t care. Sad but true but glad I am not the only one saddened by it.

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