The Age Of Niceness — And RecyclingS

Meredith Bryan writes in the New York Observer that today's Internet is a place "of support and earnest civility, where community-members "retweet" or "reblog" each other's bon mots." Apparently, writers also "recycle" each other's trend pieces.

Bryan writes that applications like Twitter and Tumblr have turned us all into a bunch of back-scratching yes-men — which must be true because back in December, Doree Shafrir wrote in New York Magazine that Twitter and Tumblr were turning us all into a bunch of back-scratching yes-men. Bryan writes,

"There's a lot of incentive and positive reinforcement when you use Tumblr," said David Karp, proprietor of the platform. To "like" someone's post is to click on a heart-shaped symbol-an easy, "friction-less" gesture, he said-but there is no way to express the opposite if you find the post vaguely illiterate. (Similarly, on Facebook, there is no thumbs-down symbol.) There is however plenty to gain in terms of followers for your own blog if you opt to re-post people's posts and add your own witty, positive commentary. Unlike many vicious Web commenters, users of these social-media platforms can be de-friended, unfollowed, ignored and potentially silenced by the platform itself.

And in December, Shafrir wrote,

Gen Y's online mentality might be perfectly encapsulated in David Karp, the 23-year-old founder of Tumblr, who says that he designed the platform in a way that ensured that it "didn't have a lot of avenues for negativity." Tumblr's platform doesn't integrate commenting (users must add the feature to their Tumblrs using an outside service). The only way for a user to put their own spin on someone else's post is to "reblog" it so that it shows up on their own site; it's up to the "reblogger" whether or not to add additional commentary. In February, Karp disabled six Tumblrs for "systematically abusing the reblog feature," he says.

And,

On Facebook, we can only "like" things that people post; on Tumblr, there's likewise only a "heart" button to indicate our approval.

Of course, the big winner here is Karp, who's now been doubly set up as King of the New Nicegeist. Revisiting his vision of a kind-and-gentle Internet isn't all that terrible — after all, people write about the same thing all the time. But it's a little surprising that in a piece all about acknowledging other people — Bryan also says the Tumblr- and Twitterati "promiscuously proffer thumbs-up, help sell perfect strangers' books, drive traffic to each other's blogs and real-world events and even defend one another" — the author failed to acknowledge Shafrir.

On the larger issue of whether Web 2.whatever is actually ushering in an era of real or manufactured niceness, neither article is totally convincing. Bryan cites Tina Fey as an example — has she never seen her Sarah Palin impression (and speaking of which, Palin's own Facebook page is hardly a, um, tea party)? She also writes, "When Kanye West recently stole the microphone from Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Awards to say Beyoncé should have won, Facebook news feeds exploded with tsk-tsks from New Yorkers who surely agreed with him in theory." But when Kanye West recently stole the microphone from Taylor Swift, trend-watchers complained about an epidemic of rudeness. We can't have it both ways.

Or maybe we can. Using the Internet to take the psychosocial temperature of society has become a slow-news-day staple, but our behavior is as complicated online as it is off, and you can pretty much use TwitterBookTumblrSpace to prove anything. If we're in an Age now, it's not one of niceness or meanness but one of Internet trend analysis — easy to write, hard to refute, yet equally hard to believe.

My Town Of Kind! [New York Observer]

Related: The Warm-Fuzzy Web