Opinion: Court of public opinion in session on everything, including a change in house colour

Most people don't like change, especially a dramatic one

We painted our house this summer. The new colour is a big change from the cottage red it's been for the past 22 years and that's caused a few raised eyebrows in the hood.

Most people don't like change, especially a dramatic one. Neighbours and non-neighbours aren't shy about expressing their opinion about the colour, some negative, some enthusiastic and some through clenched teeth.  

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I shouldn’t be surprised because when a particularly distinctive house on my street was painted a darker shade of brown I was privately indignant, "They've ruined that house," I told my husband.  

One critic that will be etched in our memory for a while is a 70-year-old woman's cruel racist slurs directed at a Chinese woman in a Richmond parking lot last month after she suggested there had been an accident between their two cars. Captured on video, it went viral.

The woman's racist tirade is appalling and inexcusable but I found the reaction to the video equally as confounding. Over 9,000 people left scathing comments on her Facebook page which included death threats and jail time. My social media streams were filled with indignant outrage, I couldn't get away from the story. Eventually the Richmond RCMP had to ask the public to refrain from posting any comments on social media.

People have become increasingly comfortable telling one another what they think about any issue, even if uninformed, and they don’t care if someone gets hurt in the process. Social media is behind this new phenomenon as it provides the perfect platform. Anyone can express their anger behind the veil of a computer keyboard.

This is happening in our community on local social media sites like Tsawwassen Loop and Ladners Landing. I am appalled with the ever-increasing mean-spirited reactions to people’s Facebook posts. Sarcasm has never had it so good.

You’re safe from criticism if you post about a lost dog or a cat, but if you comment about an unsafe playground, teens making noise or that you heard unexplained sirens, you'll get reactions that would hurt those with the thickest of skins.

Some members of the Facebook groups have become so irate at bad drivers they have resorted to public shaming by posting pictures of the offenders licence plates. That’s something for the police to deal with, not the court of public opinion.

Opinions matter because consensus builds great nations but when opinions become personal attacks it defeats the purpose. There will always be those who can’t distinguish between constructive criticism and nastiness, but the scale has tipped. In today’s society, the mean trolls are everywhere and that’s concerning. 

Our grandmothers used to say, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s certainly not happening in 2019.  

Meanwhile, the new shade of brown has grown on me and I hope my new house colour grows on my neighbours, because in the end we secretly want to please people no matter what their opinion.  

Ingrid Abbott is a freelance writer and broadcaster who spent many sleepless nights thinking about colour and the 50 shades of grey.


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