The Demise of Nice

Incivility permeates U.S. culture.

Corporations more concerned with profits than employees.  Sports teams that want to win even if it means cheating.  Popular culture filled with braggadocio.  Self-centered co-workers.  Snarky comments permeating blog posts and tweets.

What happened to being nice?

Incivility seems to be permeating all aspects of our society, according to a new survey by Weber Shandwick.  Two-thirds of Americans – a whopping 65 percent – believe incivility is a major problem in the U.S.  And 55 percent of those surveyed believe that incivility will continue to increase in the next few years.

The annual Civility in America survey, released by Weber Shandwick today in conjunction with partners Powell Tate and KRC Research, found that Americans see incivility in all aspects of life – from politics and entertainment to schools and social networks.

Micho Spring, chair of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate Practice, said:

“Our second annual Civility in America poll confirms that the decline in civility is seeping into all facets of American life, including our workplace, our schools, our online lives and consumer sentiment.  The risk of companies losing business because of incivility is startling and growing. The topic of civility deserves to be part of the growing national debate on how we communicate responsibly in our daily lives.”

The survey found that Americans believe incivility has crept into all aspects of life and that 91 percent of Americans thought that incivility had negative consequences on society.

The survey was filled with interesting nuggets about how incivility is perceived online and in social media.  For example:

  • More Americans consider social networks uncivil this year compared to one year ago (49 percent vs. 43 percent, respectively).
  • YouTube and blogs were considered more uncivil (58 percent vs. 55 percent, respectively) than social networks such as Facebook (49 percent) and Twitter (38 percent).  Strangely, Twitter is perceived as the least uncivil form of online conversation.
  • Almost half of Americans have de-friended or blocked someone because of incivility (49 percent), more than one-third have “tuned out” social networks (38 percent) and YouTube (35 percent) or stopped visiting an online site (38 percent) due to incivility, and more than one-quarter have dropped out of an online community or forum (27 percent) because of it.
  • Cyber bullying or online harassment of children or teens is of great concern to Americans today.  Nearly 7 in 10 Americans — 69% — report that cyber bullying is getting worse.

Noted Chris Perry, president of digital communications for Weber Shandwick:

“Digital conversations are meant to engage and foster multi-dimensional dialogue. They are not meant to demean others or be hurtful. Although this research shows online incivility slightly on the rise, the connectivity and opportunity for dialogue ultimately outweighs the risk.”

What are your thoughts about the survey?  Is being nice passé?  Has incivility touched your life in a negative way?

Disclosure: I work for Weber Shandwick in Boston and work with Micho Spring and Chris Perry.


Is Civility on the Decline is the U.S.?

The Weber Shandwick Civility Survey

Weber Shandwick press release of civility study

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