Hey, readers, what the f*ck is up?
When did talking to each other like this become a good thing?
Growing up, I often referred to friends’ parents as "Mr." and "Ms." which was no doubt the influence of growing up on various military bases. There, acknowledgement of such courtesy titles and rank designations were commonplace. Of course, my preference for politeness was also due to my upbringing; to this day, I recall the time my parents explained the appropriateness of saying, “And how are you,” in response to someone who initially asked the question.
I’d like to think that — except for some foul language I once unleashed on a colleague or that evil expression I recently gave coffee shop staff when they ran out of French vanilla flavoring — I’m a kind, respectful person who values politeness.
I hold doors open for people behind me, even when they’re at distances others would likely deem non-door-holding-worthy. I return the carton of eggs containing a broken shell to the customer service department, happy that I’ve saved another shopper from purchasing an oozing mess. I speak with my mom on the phone every day, have engaged in random acts of kindness, and always try to show others respect.
The rise of the middle finger and bad language
You can imagine then, my disappointment and shock every time I open my laptop. It’s obvious that society is drowning in disrespect, even clamoring to find creative new ways to express such rudeness. Images of people posing with their middle fingers proudly extended are a “thing” across several social media sites, the blank stares behind them often empty and dark. Surely, this one finger salute is far from the military salutes and greetings I witnessed during my childhood.
Today’s excessive, just-for-fun use of the gesture never fails to make me feel embarrassment and shame. Sure, some of it is (sort of) funny, but it’s so overdone, that any humorous aspect has gone by the wayside.
Just to do it, I checked out #middlefinger on Twitter and sure enough, there’s plenty to be seen. Indeed, people are so devoted to the gesture that a slew of images and comments are posted regularly. This, my friends, is what many people are doing with their time. Selfie sticks and middle finger pics, f*ck you very much. Unless, of course, they’re all wrapped up in scrolling through #freethenipple pics, which of course include the best of both worlds: nipples and the presence of our digitus medius.
No, many stories really are not that f*cking amazing
Even the stories that our friends are sharing or “liking” are filled with headlines that often talk about celebs, political figures or historical people who “didn’t give a f*ck.” Articles entice us with images of people who “F*cking nailed the mommy thing” or even a recipe.
Really? Are we that excited about cupcakes that we must reinforce our emotions with a curse word? Is any food that marvelous?
In the case of a story about an individual, such articles often contain examples of what the author believes makes them a revered rebel. Typically, it involves actions that exemplify utter disregard for others, a breaking of rules and tendency towards gluttonous behaviors. There are stories of married people who didn’t give a f*ck about cheating or even little children who didn’t give a f*ck in the classroom. Together we giggle at these videos or stories, until our attention span wanes and another equally, er, f*cking interesting story, catches our eye.
The YOLO, “because I can” mentality has infiltrated the media and, I’m afraid, contributed to much of society’s complacent, “F*ck you and the world I live in” attitude. Daily, we’re exposed to brazen gestures or snippets of unnecessary nudity under the guise of a video that will “make you laugh for minutes on end.” We’re sharing images of cats that “call” people a “F*cktard,” but it’s OK because the animal softens the rudeness and well, because we F*cking can (*middle fingers of both hands in your face*).
Of course, I’m well aware of the feel-good sites and stories out there. Plenty of well-mannered, positive ones exist, brimming with edgy humor, sharp wit and intelligence. I’ve read and shared the stories that demonstrate humanity’s kindness, but even then, steadfast F*ck-to-itiveness often weasels its way in. Eventually, someone is bound to comment with a semi-nude picture or off-topic racial jab. Or maybe Bart Simpson or the Queen of England flipping the bird.
We’re better than this
The ability to lighten up (which I’m sure people — who miss my point entirely — will say I need to do) will undoubtedly be the response of those who see nothing wrong with such rudeness. So too, will those who hold tight to freedom of expression. Yes, I get it. However, too far is simply too far. Still, we continue to push limits, fast-becoming a who-cares-anything-goes-you-mother-f*cker society. We’re in your face, brash and bold, bitter and disrespectful... and proud of it.
Call me strange, but there’s something to be said for self-expression that involves tact and respect. We can express ourselves by raising hope instead of our middle fingers. People need not resort to jumping on the “F*cktard” bandwagon to make a point, provide information or convey a sense of humor.
We’re better than that.
Note: post first published by Jennifer Lea Reynolds on HuffPost, where she's a contributor, in 2015.