Snark Free Day Aims to Stop Snide Online Banter (Natalie Ghidotti Commentary)

Ever shut your laptop in disgust of all the sarcasm seeping from your social media portals? Deleted your Twitter app (at least for a moment) because the negativity is taking over your news feed? Declared a Facebook sabbatical because the rudeness is affecting your quality of life?

If you have, celebrating Snark Free Day might be just for you. Today is the official, first-ever Snark Free Day. It’s a day of celebration. A day of self-reflection. A day of fasting (from that sarcastic comment you’re just dying to make). And, more importantly, a day of just being plain ‘ole nice. 

The Urban Dictionary explains snark as this: “Combination of ‘snide’ and ‘remark.’” Unfortunately, for all of us – including businesses – snark is way too prevalent due to the growing popularity of social media. Stealing a line from SnarkFreeDay.com, the brainchild of Snark Free Day creators PRConsultants Group, snarky behavior is all over the place and can otherwise be identified as “sarcastic, snide, cranky, snappish, mocking, conveying contempt, snippy, grumpy, rude, seemingly morally or intellectually superior, and other dwarves that aren’t sleepy or happy.”

Want some examples? Check your Facebook or Twitter app right now – you’ll most likely find numerous examples right off the bat. Here’s a taste of my feed as I write this:

“Does anyone else find irony in that the red ribbons for Red Ribbon Week are sponsored by a funeral home?”

“This look needs to die in a fire immediately, if not sooner.”

“If you don’t want to know the answer, then perhaps don’t ask the question.”

“And Gregory is victorious! He won a blue ribbon in the Ar State Fair!” Response: “It was the bath.”

At Ghidotti Communications, we see snark every day, all day as we work with clients to manage their social media strategy and execution. It’s way too simple for people to hide behind their screen and fire off a sarcastic or rude comment on a Facebook Page or through a tweet or as an anonymous blog comment. We would venture to say that many of these comments would never be made if they had to be made in person, face to face.

This creates a serious challenge for businesses when working to communicate via social media portals. It’s often challenging and confusing determining how to respond to these remarks, and businesses often find themselves scratching their heads at how they became the center of a snarky debate.

In most incidences we advise to ignore the snark. Engaging negativity often begets more negativity. Typically if you ignore, the trolls go back under the bridge. Businesses should focus their energy on what really matters instead of spending needless amounts of time fighting snark. Of course, if a customer has a serious complaint or issue, address the problem immediately. But if it’s just attention-seeking behavior – which is most of what snark is – don’t waste your time. You have better things to do!

And for the parents and grandparents out there, we need to ask ourselves what we’re teaching our children with all this snark. We’re constantly after our children about manners and playing nice in the sandbox, and then we turn around and hide behind a hashtag, smiley face or a “bless her little heart.” It’s a double standard, and if we have any hope of raising children who don’t use sarcasm and rudeness as a communication crutch, we better pay attention to what we’re modeling.

We’re not here to say that a little bit of harmless snark doesn’t have a place in your day. I mean who doesn’t love a sarcastic hashtag now and then (#Ibetterusereallysmallwords) or a laugh at grumpycats.com or for my agency friends, clientsfromhell.net (apologies to my clients, but, man, that site is funny!)? But as routine, do what your mama told you do: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Join me today as we say adios to the snark for a day. Maybe we’ll turn a day into a week, and a week into a month and on and on. We can only hope.

(Natalie Ghidotti is president and CEO of Ghidotti Communications, a Little Rock-based public relations firm and member of PRConsultants Group, a national network of senior-level PR practitioners representing the nation's top 50 markets.