Why Everyone Is So Rude Right Now
November 7, 2021 11:05 PM   Subscribe

Lawyers are reporting ruder clients. Restaurants are reporting ruder clients. Flight attendants, for whom rude clients are no novelty, are reporting mayhem. “We’re going through a time where physiologically, people’s threat system is at a heightened level,” says Bernard Golden, a psychologist and the author of Overcoming Destructive Anger. This period of threat has been so long that it may have had a damaging effect on people’s mental health, which for many has then been further debilitated by isolation, loss of resources, the death of loved ones and reduced social support. “During COVID there has been an increase in anxiety, a reported increase in depression, and an increased demand for mental health services,” he adds. Lots of people, in other words, are on their very last nerve.
posted by folklore724 (156 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
 
People were shit before the pandemic, I know this because I was in the hotel business for twenty years.
posted by oldnumberseven at 11:41 PM on November 7, 2021 [84 favorites]


For those who remember the episode, "Only a fool fights in a burning house."
posted by zaixfeep at 12:29 AM on November 8, 2021 [14 favorites]


I wrote about this in another thread about restaurant workers or something - and how it was really clear that the people who were polite and civil before the pandemic basically vanished and stayed home because it was the responsible thing to do, and those that went out like everything was normal were mostly super rude, entitled and otherwise complete jerks.

There was this definite shift in customer demographics where we were suddenly missing all of the really polite and kind customers that made the job easier to do in spite of the fact that some customers were routinely horrible even before the pandemic, so during the pandemic we ended up with a lot more shitty people making the job even more horrible.

Locally there was definitely a thing where we enjoyed less restrictions, closures and lockdowns because we were doing the right things early and often, which is fine and good as its own thing.

What was bad was that it brought out a ton of pandemic tourists engaging breaking essential travel rules and bans just for funsies because they sucked, who came to our area in droves because theirs was still locked down because they weren't doing the right things on their home turf and they brought their bad behaviors with them.

In addition to all of this things have been rough for everyone and we're getting worn the fuck out.

Speaking personally and for a lot of my peers we were all pretty used to and skilled at being isolated due to pre-pandemic social anxiety and depression, but in the last two years I've started to go more than a little bonkers if not downright feral. I'm really struggling how to remember to be social and even how to relax and have fun.

And some people are going right properly bonkers and it definitely seems like it's getting worse. It seems to be fueling stuff like the qanon conspiracy cult and having a really negative effect on our politics and social fabric.

People obviously have way less chill and these behaviors are showing up in all kinds of places from how they behave driving on the roads to how people behave in a grocery store. Like every time I go into a grocery store it's like it's Christmas Eve and everyone is in a dire hurry and rush and just wants to get in and out as fast as possible. I mean it's not Black Friday shopping mob mentality yet but it's definitely just way less chill.

And personally I'm not immune to this, either. I'm polite enough but I really just want to get what I came there to get and get out. I don't want to make small talk. I don't want to have a nice chat in the store with someone I know. I don't want to browse or do anything but grab the few items on my shopping list and get the fuck out so I can take my mask off again.
posted by loquacious at 1:06 AM on November 8, 2021 [233 favorites]


This is so real and so hard to deal with, particularly as a bubble of one living alone in a public facing job.
posted by blue suede stockings at 2:18 AM on November 8, 2021 [43 favorites]


This is very real. I and my team used to deal with an upset client once a month maybe; now it’s once a day. Some of it is directly pandemic related, like people freaking out over vaccine passports even thought it’s been a month and yes, we have to see them each time. But some is just - super weird stuff.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:29 AM on November 8, 2021 [11 favorites]


I can't imagine any way to tease out the relative proportions, but I suspect it's the combination of the ongoing pandemic, the rising tide of political tension, and the growing attention to climate change that are all contributing factors to this nervous breakdown that humanity seems to be having.
posted by PhineasGage at 2:58 AM on November 8, 2021 [12 favorites]


I’m sure “people’s threat system is at a heightened level” applies more universally, but “(eg. per loquacious‘ comment) “isolation, loss of resources, the death of loved ones and reduced social support” doesn’t seem to be distributed evenly. Likewise, increased rudeness doesn’t necessarily seem to be distributed evenly, and I’m not sure how much overlap there is between the set of especially rude people and the set of people especially negatively impacted by the pandemic?
posted by eviemath at 3:21 AM on November 8, 2021 [38 favorites]


(Also, describing an increase in assaults on service workers as a problem of manners is… an interesting choice. Certainly there are many incidents that could be discussed that are more on the level of extreme to everyday rudeness, which also seems to have increased. But starting the article with criminal assaults and conflating the two may or may not be useful or relevant.)
posted by eviemath at 3:27 AM on November 8, 2021 [64 favorites]


What's wearing me down is the thousand micro aggressions of assholes actively engaged in automobile ass-holery. Apart from the general rise in risky, aggressive manoeuvring, I'm hearing shit cars with “performance” exhausts in my building's parking lot and high end sports vehicles racing on the parkway at 2am. Driving into rural areas of the province at night means passing tons of lifted pickups that have their high beams on at all times. It doesn’t feel rash, it feels tribal.
posted by brachiopod at 3:30 AM on November 8, 2021 [109 favorites]


In the minds of some of the individuals, snapping at the flight attendant is not rude, it’s civil disobedience.

I think this is certainly part of it. Some people are so self-absorbed, and so disinterested in thinking about systems and dynamics bigger than their own tiny lives, that they seem incapable of seeing situations with any kind of perspective. All they know is that they don't want to wear a mask, the flight attendant is telling them that they have to, and the flight attendant is therefore The Oppressor. Like a teenager rebelling against curfew.

Never mind that the flight attendant has zero control over the situation, and is just trying to get through the damn workday. (Or that wearing a mask is an easy, morally right thing to do regardless of whether you're being told to do it.)

It truly baffles me that so many people manage to reach grown-ass adulthood - with cars, jobs, houses, families - with the emotional maturity of 14-year-olds.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:31 AM on November 8, 2021 [133 favorites]


Yeah, a lot of the people who actually care enough about other people to treat service workers as human beings are also the same people who care enough about other people to stay home when possible and follow distancing, masking, and other guidelines when they do go out. The people who don't and never did care about other people enough to treat service workers as human beings are not only making up a larger percentage of total in-person customers, but they've also been riled up and emboldened by the right-wing science-denying media.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:42 AM on November 8, 2021 [44 favorites]


In the minds of some of the individuals, snapping at the flight attendant is not rude, it’s civil disobedience.

This is definitely true for college professors these days, and absolutely even more so public school teachers. An entire political movement has identified educators as the enemy, and so being rude to us and trying to get us fired is just being a good soldier in their movement.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:47 AM on November 8, 2021 [102 favorites]


I have my own theory as to the increase in rudeness - social media, particularly Twitter. Over the past several years, we have been able to see more people getting away with saying snarky things on twitter and then seen them not get comeuppance for saying it. And Twitter makes it easier, and more tempting, for people to exercise that dark part of themselves and be a little mean themselves too. And if you do that regularly online and there isn't any real fallout, then it just makes you more comfortable with bringing that shit into the real world, and....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:52 AM on November 8, 2021 [31 favorites]


...and if the most famous Twitter Rude Person gets rewarded for it with the presidency...
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:03 AM on November 8, 2021 [41 favorites]


Visitors to the Indiana University Health system are now greeted by a sign that reads, “Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space …your behaviors matter.”

There is a sign like that in the Atlanta hospital and clinic that I take my Mom to. Actually instructing people that they are in a hospital and it is not OK to behave in an aggressive, rude, or threatening way there. I suppose they have had incidents; it's right by where people come in and get checked for temperature and the standard quiz about your recent covid history. Where people discover that the hospital has no interest in their "freedom" to wander around with no mask.
posted by thelonius at 4:04 AM on November 8, 2021 [16 favorites]


isolation, loss of resources, the death of loved ones and reduced social support” doesn’t seem to be distributed evenly. Likewise, increased rudeness doesn’t necessarily seem to be distributed evenly, and I’m not sure how much overlap there is between the set of especially rude people and the set of people especially negatively impacted by the pandemic?

Per the isolation — I think what I’m witnessing is the personal becoming public. Tho isolation hasn’t been distributed evenly, it has affected all of us, and for many people separated them from their distraction / coping mechanism of choice.

What I believe I’m witnessing is the personal becoming public — how people talk to themselves in their head; how these people’s parents must have treated them; how they and their spouses talk to each other during stress and conflict. Relationships where directed, demeaning anger is actually accepted as a normal method of interpersonal communication and (dysfunctional) problem resolution style. I see strong echoes of an authoritarian parenting style where verbal anger escalating to physical anger was accepted (and where the methods of talking to a family member in a public setting is often vastly different to how you would address them in your private space).

I came out of the isolation of the pandemic feeling like my social skills had regressed to middle-school levels: so many of the skills I’d developed to work within a neuro-typical world had to be re-built. I suspect there’s a certain amount of this also happening for anger-motivated people, too. They’ve lost a lot of their masks learned to “pass” in civic society.
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:08 AM on November 8, 2021 [77 favorites]


The corner of Canada where I live has had more restrictions than many of the more conservative parts of the US. But better adherence to public health measures (both initial and ongoing), better and more consistent communication from our government (for the most part - the public health officials here in Canada have been front and centre in many provinces’ pandemic responses, which helps), better social and economic safety nets; and the messaging from the chief officer of public health in the province where I live has really focused on taking care of each other, getting through this together, etc. We have a small number of anti-social jerks and conspiracy theorists, but a very small number. There are a larger number of folks who haven’t gotten vaccinated still aren’t helping overall, but at least aren’t necessarily pushy assholes about it to everyone else (eg. there have been a couple outbreaks this fall among more insular and specific religious communities, who may or may not be pushy and moralistic within their communities, but who have generally taken a more ‘let’s benignly ignore each other as much as possible’ approach to the broader community). The service workers I know are stressed, and have noticed a little increase in customer rudeness, but nothing on the level described in the article. So I suspect the dissenting expert from Australia quoted toward the end of the piece has a clearer, more nuanced take on the issue than the general framing of the piece.
posted by eviemath at 4:12 AM on November 8, 2021 [10 favorites]


All the signs saying "be kind" at restaurants. Why weren't they there 5 years ago? It feels like a defeat to have to ask: decency should be the default. Then again, maybe we need to give people a pass on this: obviously putting people under massive amounts of long-term stress is going to tip a few people from "just about holding it together" to "overturning product aisles at the supermarket". I've definitely had times in my life when I've been more-or-less obnoxious because of various stressors.

Here in the UK, you sometimes hear about the Blitz spirit: people during the war banding together to support each other and get through it in good spirits. Perhaps the same thing will happen with the pandemic. The narrative will be edited by history and we'll remember the good and bad and conveniently forget about the ugly parts.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:26 AM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


Some people have been banding together to support each other during the pandemic. Mutual aid groups proliferated, for example. This is what I’m saying - the rudeness and increases in assaults and such aren’t uniformly distributed, and at least on the more extreme end and in those cases that tip past rudeness (eg. the assaults) I have a suspicion may be disproportionately due to people who actually “locked down” less.
posted by eviemath at 4:47 AM on November 8, 2021 [20 favorites]


I took a retail / front-line workers class in de-escalation recently. In general it was targeted towards how to interact with folks experiencing homelessness or in mental-health crisis, but the facilitator also specifically called out generalized COVID stress putting everyone on edge, and anti-maskers being assholes on purpose.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:55 AM on November 8, 2021 [31 favorites]


Speaking personally and for a lot of my peers we were all pretty used to and skilled at being isolated due to pre-pandemic social anxiety and depression, but in the last two years I've started to go more than a little bonkers if not downright feral. I'm really struggling how to remember to be social and even how to relax and have fun.


yeah this is basically me and my spouse. our solution is to sell our shit and move from south philly to the netherlands and try and figure out how to live from there. meetup in amsterdam end of this month plz.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:56 AM on November 8, 2021 [22 favorites]


Wow I don't know what's wrong with these people honestly. Back in my day the pandemic made us all better people.
posted by phunniemee at 5:03 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


@eviemath - I don’t disagree with your assessment at all, and I think the situation is complex enough to support multiple overlapping causes.

I was in New Mexico for most of the pandemic, and thanks to our Governor, we hit re-open levels much faster than our neighboring states. For a whole series of months, the Albuquerque subreddit was a constant stream of non-state residents saying, “you guys are open, I’m thinking about coming to visit…” and us saying “we got our shit under control, you didn’t, please stay home.”
posted by Silvery Fish at 5:04 AM on November 8, 2021 [17 favorites]


And some people are going right properly bonkers and it definitely seems like it's getting worse. It seems to be fueling stuff like the qanon conspiracy cult and having a really negative effect on our politics and social fabric.

I saw an online comment some months back that said that a lot of people are undiagnosed, high-functioning schizophrenics who have never before now experienced the kind of stress that it would take to trigger a schizophrenic break. This comment was on Reddit, of all places, but I think the theory is probably correct and that it essentially explains the existence of QAnon.
posted by orange swan at 5:24 AM on November 8, 2021 [31 favorites]


I just got my booster. Can I please have a gold star now? Or maybe a letter on official stationary thanking me for being a responsible American and doing my part to end the pandemic? Can I please have something--however trivial--which acknowledges that the past going-on-two years have been total shit, but that I should feel good about myself because I allowed my life to be disrupted, I made sacrifices, and in doing so I didn't make the overall situation a tiny bit worse for everyone else?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:59 AM on November 8, 2021 [45 favorites]


Not to pull too much Deleuze out of my ass, but I think American capitalist culture and all its corruption and rewarding of the worst of society actually increases the amount of mental health issues in the USA all the time.

You're telling being gaslit by the people who run your country for forty years doesn't have an affect? It totally does.

Between massive poverty, lack of social safety nets, abuse from bosses (up to and including sexual assault), and basically zero protections for regular people from fucking anything because cops only exist to protect capital, people have to be losing their fucking minds.

The whole world is upside down from what the people in charge claim it is. You can't trust the cops, who are supposed to protect you. Your politicians don't represent you or your interests. Hard work gets you nothing but more hard work and poverty. Working is for suckers, the real lazy people live off investments while telling working people they are lazy and selfish.

How the fuck is that daily non-stop gaslighting NOT supposed to damage mental health, huh?
posted by deadaluspark at 6:00 AM on November 8, 2021 [142 favorites]


It really takes a LOT of mental resiliency to make it in America.

People like us know that FOX News is nothing but lies, and that many other media are more worried about profit than truth or justice.

We also know you can't actually trust pharmaceutical companies, which will rip you off and let you die to make profits.

Is it any wonder the weak minded started screaming "Fake News!" and refusing to be vaccinated?

They don't have the ability to deal with the gaslighting and move past it to see nuance, and so the gaslighting just makes them more and more unwilling to take anything and face value and more conspiratorial in their thinking.

Literally capitalism is eating itself.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:03 AM on November 8, 2021 [26 favorites]


I'm going to suggest some generic theories, since things have been getting worse for a while. Death threats didn't used to be common currency.

Lack of sleep from staying up on social media. Lack of sleep from long and/or irregular work hours.

Encouragement of bad temper.

Subtle emotional ill effects from steroids and statins.

People were actually unusually polite for a while, so we're returning to normal.

Hostility breeds hostility.

Something physical we aren't even seeing because we don't know it's there.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:13 AM on November 8, 2021 [11 favorites]


Is there any real data measuring this? They mention only two quantitative data points in the article, which are hard to know if it’s just a multi-sampling error, the rest (while people’s individual experiences are important) sound only mere anecdotes. I could be convinced it went either way from my personal experience, but I’m also willing to accept I live in a bubble.
posted by rubatan at 6:14 AM on November 8, 2021 [7 favorites]


Something physical we aren't even seeing because we don't know it's there.

Yes, our generations leaded gasoline which has yet to be discovered. With all the pollutants we're pumping out, and the myriad of other health problems exploding, I think this one is underrated and quite likely.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:14 AM on November 8, 2021 [39 favorites]


I think it is incomplete to talk about the angry customers without also talking about things like "skimpflation." The expressions of anger and hostility towards wait staff and attacks on flight attendants aren't justifiable no matter how crappy the pandemic has been for everyone. But, a portion of that anger comes from how visible the deterioration of quality has been in terms of what you get as a customer -- people are seeing something real, but then attacking the wrong people entirely.

But that is just a portion of what is going on; there's also been a general deterioration in discourse and increase in vulgarity (like driving your truck around with a huge flag saying "fuck your feelings") -- whatever side you are on, just a few years ago that level of vulgarity would have been much more frowned upon. The people working front of house at restaurants and bars get this straight in their face from angry, entitled people, and that shouldn't be happening.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:24 AM on November 8, 2021 [26 favorites]


I hope I'm not getting ruder, especially to servicepeople, but I do think I'm feeling less patient and more irritable and for me I think it's not only all the bad things happening it's also that I can't really address any of them. I don't just mean I can't address them because as one person it's easy to feel powerless, although there is that, I also mean I can't address them because I have to keep doing my stupid little job and that takes up SO MUCH TIME I wish I could use to do work that is more vital, like caring for my neighbors or fighting fascism or trying to do SOMETHING about climate change or being with my kid. I'm exhausted and overwhelmed from a combination of work and life and parenting, but I also don't have the freedom to address the massive problems facing me and all of us and that is incredibly wearing.
posted by an octopus IRL at 6:26 AM on November 8, 2021 [33 favorites]


Only semi-related to the thread but speaking of "people getting ruder" vs. "they've always been rude and now it's just coming out more" I feel like a fucking bizarre and infuriating phenomenon I've seen lately is going out for a meal with a bunch of people who are well aware that there is a giant labor shortage in the service industry, and someone without fail will STILL make a snippy comment about how long the food is taking. "Ugh, I feel like we ordered *forever* ago where the HELL is the waiter?" Let me emphasize that everyone will be polite to service people to their face but something about the needless impatience is really grating to me.

It's really mind boggling. Oh no, the food is taking 10 minutes longer or your glass was not topped off immediately. Little tiny things slipping through the cracks for extremely legitimate reasons just setting people off and creating a giant feedback loop of karmic rudeness? It's always been a thing, but it just *feels* like it's more of thing right now.
posted by windbox at 6:31 AM on November 8, 2021 [23 favorites]


A lot of places are also understaffed which adds to the likelihood of customer freakouts among the entitled, especially when the service professionals that remain assert themselves and delineate standards for fair treatment.
posted by Selena777 at 6:32 AM on November 8, 2021 [11 favorites]


deadaluspark, it's not just pollutants, though it might be pollutants. It could be something like sunspots, or a more subtle virus, or who knows? Actually the idea that it might be common prescription meds was sort of a relief rather than thinking it might be a total mystery.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:33 AM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


I just got my booster. Can I please have a gold star now?

NYC Health + Hospitals has swag. You get a bag including a hat and T-shirt. :D
...though personally I would have been happier if it didn't take two hours to get in and out. I miss the big, military-style vax operations.
posted by anhedonic at 6:34 AM on November 8, 2021 [10 favorites]


You're telling being gaslit by the people who run your country for forty years doesn't have an affect? It totally does.

Just a data point. I ran a retail business for a few decades before the pandemic. Over those decades, we went from having 2-3 belligerent or downright crazy customers per year, to 2-3 per month, to 2-3 per week, and finally, towards the end, sometimes 2-3 per day. There was a definite progression. Also, it was the kind of business where you run a customer's credit report to approve an account, so I ran thousands of reports over the decades, and they went from 90% good credit to, toward the end, 90% bad credit.
posted by jabah at 6:35 AM on November 8, 2021 [98 favorites]


I've heard that vet clinics are having a particularly hard time now because they already dealt with horrible abuse and guilt-tripping from a subset of their clients before the pandemic (what other job has people regularly blame you for killing puppies because you can't work for free?), and now everyone's way more stressed and often lower on cash, there are more staffing problems, and demand has also gone up a lot thanks to all the pandemic puppies.
posted by randomnity at 6:41 AM on November 8, 2021 [18 favorites]


Seems to be especially pronounced in "the land of the free" although locals in other countries may know otherwise. In Mexico things are pretty chill.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:47 AM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


I'm a grown-up and a person that is reasonably good at managing my emotions in public, but it really is very hard not to take stuff personally after the last couple of years. I was not in great head space before the pandemic hit and then the isolation, the anxiety, the overwhelming sink of depression, and the slog of trying to get through the world with what felt like nothing to look forward to really ate at the part of me that wanted to keep on keeping on, right?

Of course, I did and things are better(?) sometimes. But still. A couple of weeks ago I was at an airport for the first time in two years, and it was stressful and so, so crowded, and it seemed like everyone around me was hostile and bitter. For reasons inexplicable there were hardly any seats, even places to sit on the floor, in the entire terminal, and every time one opened up, people dashed for it, once knocking over an old lady in front of me to get to it. The airline staff (diminished) was stressed and exhausted, a bunch of flights got canceled, and as I wandered from gate to gate trying to find a place to sit for a a moment, a corporate looking dude shoved past me to claim a chair, muttering "get out of the way," as his suitcase hit me painfully on the leg. And I am totally a laugh it off/dirt off the shoulders type, but I literally felt myself tear up in this crowd, because I was nervous and it was weird and uncomfortable. It took me a few moments to re-regulate, but if I'd been a different kind of person with a different way of channeling my feelings, it would have been just as easy for me to start yelling than crying.

I don't condone the criminal antics and terrible behavior, but no doubt it is weird out there right now.
posted by thivaia at 6:57 AM on November 8, 2021 [69 favorites]


A factor I've been seeing is that there's a big set of people for whom rules and order have been key to their life are now realizing that there's nothing forcing them to obey social norms. Their positive feedback used to be that the order is preserved, but now they're getting the positive feedback from others who are experiencing the same thing -- the ability to think "whatever, what're you gonna do about it?" is like their mind opened up to new universe, it's like a little kid who realized they can swear even though they're told not to, and sometimes somebody laughs at it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:59 AM on November 8, 2021 [65 favorites]


The elephant in the room is: four years of trump. 4 years of decorum being thrown out the window. if it's okay for the president to call his rivals petty grade-school names, demean the disabled and get away with all the other bullshit, then it became okay for regular folk to do it too.
Sure there have always been assholes, but, like racists these days, those years gave them the courage to be so in public.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:09 AM on November 8, 2021 [162 favorites]


I've heard that vet clinics are having a particularly hard time now because they already dealt with horrible abuse and guilt-tripping from a subset of their clients before the pandemic (what other job has people regularly blame you for killing puppies because you can't work for free?), and now everyone's way more stressed and often lower on cash, there are more staffing problems, and demand has also gone up a lot thanks to all the pandemic puppies.

Yes, I've seen several articles this year about an increased suicide rate among veterinary professionals.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:12 AM on November 8, 2021 [13 favorites]


It doesn’t feel rash, it feels tribal.

This. Being an asshole has been not only normalized by the "tribes" who enact it, it's encouraged. Hell, it's practically mandatory. Farewell Virtue Signaling; it's now all about Asshole Signaling because being a jerk (and worse) is how Trumpists and their offensive, racist ilk everywhere self-identify out in the wild.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:18 AM on November 8, 2021 [46 favorites]


t's now all about Asshole Signaling because being a jerk (and worse) is how Trumpists and their offensive, racist ilk everywhere self-identify out in the wild

They might be the worst, but plenty of non- and anti-Trumpers are being jerks to waitstaff and service staff and other strangers. It's a bigger phenomenon than just the newly-unrestrained racists.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:30 AM on November 8, 2021 [16 favorites]


It truly baffles me that so many people manage to reach grown-ass adulthood - with cars, jobs, houses, families - with the emotional maturity of 14-year-olds.


A scholar in the 90's warned about this trend with his book The Disappearance of Childhood..

Well worth a reread.
posted by ocschwar at 7:31 AM on November 8, 2021 [8 favorites]


We're endlessly taught that in order to get something we need to be aggressive and complain loudly, i.e. the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

But we also live in an economic and social environment where the people responsible for making the decisions have deliberately insulated themselves behind layers and layers of people who are just trying to do their damn jobs and can't do anything anyway.

Over the summer I had to deal with Verizon because my landline would lose it's dial tone every time it rained, and every time the service tech came it was sunny and they'd declare it not to be a problem. I know Verizon's been letting their copper network rot, but who can I complain to? The poor customer service rep? Their supervisor? How can I call attention to my frustration with Verizon the corporation when I can only speak to people who a) aren't the slightest bit responsible for my situation and b) can't really do anything to help anyway?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:44 AM on November 8, 2021 [44 favorites]


The airline staff (diminished) was stressed and exhausted, a bunch of flights got canceled, and as I wandered from gate to gate trying to find a place to sit for a a moment, a corporate looking dude shoved past me to claim a chair, muttering "get out of the way," as his suitcase hit me painfully on the leg.

When I was returning from a trip in early August, a man in the airport stepped on the back my shoe, pulling it off my foot. When I stumbled and looked at him, he muttered something about "you stepped in front of me" as if he were a train at full speed, unable to slow down to avoid stepping on another person's heel.

When I said "I wasn't trying to step in front of you, sir" he just snarked "I didn't say you were trying to, just that you did!" I don't know what the fuck logic that's supposed to be, but gestures at everything
posted by Fleebnork at 7:45 AM on November 8, 2021 [18 favorites]


I think it has a lot to do with the idea that we've deputized restaurant workers, airline employees, and grocery store clerks to be guardians of public health - to verify vaccine compliance, mask compliance, 6 ft of distance, without any additional protections, training, or assistance. I totally get why a lot of businesses are not interested in pissing off their customers with their front-line staff, even if it is the right thing to do in terms of public health (but probably not the best thing to do in terms of all those factors loquacious mentioned).

Some places even put police in stores - how can that not get a bit crazy?

It's a case study in turning a huge percentage of your population into defacto criminals and then being surprised they get pissy. Remember all those articles about removing park benches so people have no place to sit and they get angry? Well, we did that at clinics, the airport, schools, and lots of other places now too.


Or to put it another way, to give white people the same treatment that minorities get always, and then being surprised that they snap occasionally.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:56 AM on November 8, 2021 [25 favorites]


It's a bigger phenomenon than just the newly-unrestrained racists.

I'm of the opinion that the racists were the vanguard. Once Trump showed that you can do what you want without real consequence -- heck, being practically worshiped for getting away with it -- first came the racists, who discovered that yeah, they were able to get away with it, too. Now? All the people whose odious opinions and behavior were held in check by social sanction have been liberated.

Donald Trump is the great liberator, not just of bigots, but assholes everywhere. They love him because he showed them that sanction and consequences were a paper tiger. Can you imagine how incredibly intoxicating it must be to feel like all those who told you what to do and how to do it can no longer restrain your id? This is what we're up against. Not just rage, not just bigotry and misogyny unleashed. We're up against the glorious liberation of the darker impulses of tens of millions of Americans, and yeah they're angry, but almost more important, they're ecstatic at the prospect that they, too, will very likely get away with doing what they want.

As you said, it's a bigger phenomenon than just the newly-unrestrained racists. It's the liberation of every asshole in the nation.
posted by tclark at 7:56 AM on November 8, 2021 [88 favorites]


I remember when theory was that people using their real names on fb would force them to be more civil than the anonymous nature of the www allowed. It seems the opposite happened and many people are now comfortable being as rude in person as they were when they were anonymous online.
posted by bq at 7:58 AM on November 8, 2021 [17 favorites]


Performative assholery is now considered a valid form of political expression by many.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:59 AM on November 8, 2021 [37 favorites]


I understand the urge to "both sides" this, but for real: there is an entire political party right now whose ethos is fuck you, I'll do what I want and it has ripple effects all across society.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:02 AM on November 8, 2021 [87 favorites]


@RonButNotStupid:

Your state's public services commission or public utilities commission (whatever it is called where you live) should be able to help.

In my last residence in Westchester County, New York, I had a series of problems with the landline service, which I needed especially because I could not get a reliable cell signal in the building. (I also prefer the greater reliability and privacy of a traditional land line.) Interacting with Verizon was less effective than talking to my house plants. Once I engaged the Public Services Commission, Verizon put band aids on the underlying technical problems (resulting from failure to maintain the copper wire network), which fixed my immediate issues.
posted by cool breeze at 8:03 AM on November 8, 2021 [11 favorites]


I don't see any empirical data that there is a trend-line one way or the other and that should be the most concerning part of this. One article suggested putting up signs and sharing reminders to be kind on social media -- is that actually an effective intervention strategy -- I doubt it. Is the problem specific to a group of individuals that can be monitored in some kind of social credit score or does everyone have some random fuck up interval where they lose their shit and behave like jerks?
posted by interogative mood at 8:03 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine--a WOC who works in craft beer--went out Saturday night for a relaxing date with her wife. The brewery she chose was understaffed but hey, where isn't these days? She and her wife were fine with it. But a nearby table of women on a girls night out were not okay with it and chose to take it out on their server, also female and of colour. Well, after hearing this poor server just get the shittiest treatment from this table of women, she decided to say something to them. The end result? She was physically threatened by this table of women and was asked to leave the establishment by the management.

I agree that while the pandemic continues to be hard on all of us, there are reams of people desperate to get back to their mimosa/fuck you Jack, I got mine mentality that they don't care if they are decent human beings or not.
posted by Kitteh at 8:05 AM on November 8, 2021 [22 favorites]


Seconding brachiopod's comment upthread: if you want to see the seething rage and entitlement of humanity, go for a walk somewhere in Boston. This has always been a city full of terrible and angry drivers, but holy shit, it has reached unimaginable levels in the past six months. I used to let my kids out by themselves to walk short distances to nearby playgrounds, knowing that the one street they'd have to cross is covered in playground signage and is narrow enough that people don't generally speed down it. No more. All four of us nearly got wiped out by a pickup truck last weekend, after I met the dude's eyes as I stepped into the street to cross, and he gunned it to beat us to the (marked) crosswalk.

Whatever tenuous social contract was in place in 2019, it's largely gone. We're gonna have to renegotiate the whole thing.
posted by Mayor West at 8:07 AM on November 8, 2021 [16 favorites]


I feel blessed I haven't encountered anything like this when I've been out & about.
posted by bleep at 8:09 AM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


Another elephant in the room and one that I meant to bring up but I forgot:

It seems to be becoming more recognized that there are long term psychological or neurological effects to Covid that aren't related to the social or emotional aspects of the pandemic, and the studies that support this are just starting to come out.

I'm pretty sure I've caught C19 at least once, if not possible 2-3 times in total before I got vaccinated. I haven't been able to get an antibody test to confirm or deny this and it's been bugging me.

I have had a lot of the symptoms. I was sicker than I've ever been in my life. I've been dealing with weird metallic tastes and changes in smell ever since the first round in about March in 2020. I was working in the restaurant industry doing gross stuff like washing dishes and I was volunteering at the food bank.

But I've also been dealing with some really extreme brain fog and general fatigue ever since then that seems to go far above and beyond the social isolation and pandemic stress. I just can't seem to think as clearly or acutely as I used to before all of this started.

Another symptom I've been experiencing is major sleep disturbances. Me and a few other people I know keep waking up, often well after midnight and in the wee hours of the morning and experiencing insomnia till dawn. Or having some really serious and vivid nightmares with increased frequency. And I'm not sure how much of this is just stress from the pandemic and social consequences.

Like my sleep patterns have been totally wrecked and they weren't exactly great before the pandemic, but now they're just a complete shit show and dumpster fire.

Another totally weird but anecdotal personal data point was that when I got the Moderna vaccine I didn't get sick or tired at all after like they warn you about. I felt amped the fuck up like someone was regularly hitting me with a vitamin B12 and stimulant shot for the next 3-4 days after each shot. I also seemed to regain some sense of taste and smell back, like I could properly smell and taste things again for the first time in months and months. It felt everything like coming out of depression thanks to work or medications working and feeling like you could see the world in color again.

There have been some reports that the mRNA vaccines may actually help with long covid symptoms like brain fog and fatigue.

So I have to ask myself some questions - given the officially reported and recorded number of cases in the US in particular and how we know how many, many cases have gone unreported and/or were mild, tolerable or asymptomatic - how many people have actually had covid and didn't know it, refused to admit it or even refused to get tested?

And if neurological conditions like brain fog and cognitive decline are one of the hidden or not yet fully studied effects of surviving a covid infection - what does that mean for us as society and what are its effects?

Because it would make a hell of a lot of sense to me to explain the increasingly erratic and shitty behavior we've been seeing in the general public if there were ton of people going around with undiagnosed fatigue, brain fog or cognitive difficulties, especially if it was happening to a wide swath of demgraphics that weren't used to dealing with adjusting their behavior or coping strategies and skills for things like depression, mental illness or neurological issues.


Tangentially this is something I've talked about with my friends, peers and cohorts who are used to dealing with social anxiety, depression, ADHD and/or autism spectrum issues - that the pandemic in general seems to have been easier so far because our lives didn't change as much as others.

Or that for some of us the first few months to a year were a forced and even paid vacation and a relief on a lot of levels, like being left alone in public and not having anyone up in our face or business was actually really enjoyable. Like you didn't have to tell us twice to stay home, isolate and read books or binge watch TV and not go out and be social.

I mean we all joked about it in a "Ha ha funny not funny but real" kind of way in the beginning that we all actually kind of loved the lockdowns and isolation stuff because for once we didn't feel obligated to go out and be social and so it was really easy for us to do because that was what normal life was like for a lot of us.


But the implications of wide spread neurological and cognitive issues from long term effects of both reported symptomatic and unreported asymtomatic covid cases is really kind of scary. What happens to our society if everyone across the board suddenly is 20-50% more tired all the time and suddenly however many IQ points less intelligent or cognitively enabled?

Like what the hell is going to happen if suddenly major portions of the population are somehow just notably less intelligent - and I'm including emotional intelligence in this - from where they were before the pandemic?
posted by loquacious at 8:10 AM on November 8, 2021 [94 favorites]


how many people have actually had covid and didn't know it, refused to admit it or even refused to get tested?

Hey hey hey, from early on in the pandemic, friends of mine got absurdly sick and desperately wanted to get tested, but womp! womp! Some idiot named Trump thought that testing just proved the virus was everywhere so he purposefully did everything he could do to prevent testing and tracing.

Testing and tracing is still abysmal.

So yeah, what you're saying tracks, loquacious, it's quite likely tons of people have had it and don't have "proof" of that, but the long-term effects of that could be massive.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:15 AM on November 8, 2021 [15 favorites]


It's a bigger phenomenon than just the newly-unrestrained racists.

Donald Trump is the great liberator, not just of bigots, but assholes everywhere.

Performative assholery is now considered a valid form of political expression by many.


Exactly right, exactly right.

There has been a cultural point of view that has been reinforced for a while, particularly in the US, where being a selfish asshole is rewarded. Donald Trump is the apotheosis of this, but there are so many examples. Conor Macgregor. Bad baby. The Kardashians. Fox "News" etc etc.

They are often self-destructive and often implode, but not always.

It's become aspirational. People now performatively "love being trolls". It's like a pantomime of rudeness.
posted by ishmael at 8:15 AM on November 8, 2021 [19 favorites]


Thanks cool breeze.

I eventually got the phone line fixed by being persistent and getting indignant but making it always clear that my beef was with Verizon.

It still sucks because the customer care reps had zero leeway. This is a repeat problem, is there any way you can flag it as such? No. Is there any way you can get a message to the service tech that this is a repeat problem? No. Is there anyone I can speak with to complain about my service? No. Can I speak with your supervisor? No. Is there anyone I can speak to who isn't you? No.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


I feel like a fucking bizarre and infuriating phenomenon I've seen lately is going out for a meal with a bunch of people who are well aware that there is a giant labor shortage in the service industry,

I've noticed this too. Often the people kvetching about slow service and longer waits and only one cash open in the grocery store seem to be the same ones who, when hearing about the minimum wage still being ~70% of the living wage, counsel anyone who doesn't like this situation to get a better job.

Well, they did. And that's why you have slow service and longer waits and only one cash open in the grocery store.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:18 AM on November 8, 2021 [52 favorites]


I've heard that vet clinics are having a particularly hard time now

Thanks for this comment, I just contacted our vet clinic to see what I can bring by to help them out/brighten their day today.

A scholar in the 90's warned about this trend with his book The Disappearance of Childhood.

Neil Postman's books provide much clarity on what we're living through, more true now than when they were written.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:18 AM on November 8, 2021 [8 favorites]


It's become aspirational. People now performatively "love being trolls". It's like a pantomime of rudeness.

Literally just look at some of the violently selfish videos of the crowd at the Travis Scott Astroworld concert disaster. People are dying and these idiots are climbing on ambulances and saying dumb shit like "when we rage, we rage for real" like that excuses wanton death.

A LOT of people love being performative assholes.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:19 AM on November 8, 2021 [10 favorites]


I was terrorized by a parent in the car line at school because I didn’t turn into the busy low-visibility intersection fast enough for them. They literally tailgated, honked, gave the finger out of their window, swerved around me, and screamed for the all of 1/4 of a mile until the next light, where they could peel off to wherever the hell they were going. I was shaking for about 45 minutes and this was in the car line at school! I can never go out or go any speed, above the limit or not, without someone making it known I am in their way and they are ANGRY about it. It’s terrifying.

I don’t want to drive anywhere, anymore.
posted by 41swans at 8:19 AM on November 8, 2021 [30 favorites]


Eviemath's assessment of the situation in BC is largely accurate. At the same time, my MP told me the other day that they've had to call ther police out several times for death threats on social media for the first time in his career. There are certainly more dangerous nuts around now (and there have always been dangerous nuts on vancouver island, much of which is like rural Idaho).
posted by klanawa at 8:19 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


Literally just look at some of the violently selfish videos of the crowd at the Travis Scott Astroworld concert disaster. People are dying and these idiots are climbing on ambulances and saying dumb shit like "when we rage, we rage for real" like that excuses wanton death.

In one of the documentaries about the Fyre Festival there was a group of assholes who bragged that once they had secured a tent and mattresses for themselves, they started slashing all the nearby tents because they didn't want neighbors.

Chaotic situations often reveal the psychopaths who were with us all along.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 8:35 AM on November 8, 2021 [20 favorites]


Having spent 98% of time in the past years in the same house, mostly the same room in that house, I can report people here are really chill and cool and having a great time, least depressed they've ever been and I have to think some of that is from simply not engaging with the outside world and it's miserable people. When I do see people, it's basically always good people I like!

Travelling, being out, is where you have to run into people and people is where misery comes from. Simply avoid that stuff, most things can be delivered to your home and "other places" really aren't so great to be at, even if it weren't for the horrible transit part, and you'll eventually wind up back home since that's the best place to be.

Joking aside, this period probably will/has result in a very different feeling country. It's not just COVID, politically we are under attack, like, we talk so much about the division between our parties and the oppression of capitalists, valid certainly, but it seems we also always seem to miss that countries we are war with and have been are waging war against us, as civilians, and it's working extremely well. Disinformation warfare is kicking the world's ass, the USA in particular vulnerable to it on it's own. Can't imagine how fucking easy your job must be if you work for china, russia, whoever as a disinformation agent, how trivial it is to stoke tensions and derail conversation, spread lies, manipulate your targets.

Bonus thought: CO2 continues to rise and that's only going to make folks dumber and dumber so slowly we won't even be able to notice ourselves getting dumber.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:45 AM on November 8, 2021 [18 favorites]


But a nearby table of women on a girls night out were not okay with it and chose to take it out on their server, also female and of colour. Well, after hearing this poor server just get the shittiest treatment from this table of women, she decided to say something to them.

That's the mistake. If you want to intervene for a server, just walk up silently, hand the server a small cash tip, and stand there silently. If the Chad/Karen continues, hand another small cash tip. If they turn their attention to you, (this works even better if you're masked), ask them "do you know who I am?" and hand yet another tip.
posted by ocschwar at 8:47 AM on November 8, 2021 [38 favorites]


Just to add to my anecdotal evidence, some of the dust-ups we've had have been around my team's inability to maintain a seamless experience.

For example, we have 24 (used to be 50, but 2 metres apart) kids in a class where they can't wear their shoes. So when they come out, they have to put on their shoes. In the past, there was kind of a mob at our shoe shelf area and then kids would come out into the lobby either wearing or carrying their shoes. And it was really busy! 50 kids + parents + siblings hanging out sometimes.

Now we don't let people hang out in the lobby (if they want to observe a class they have to book in advance and, by provincial mandate, have a vaccine passport.) We end our 45 minute clases 5 minutes early -- something we've fielded many complaints about, that our service is now degraded -- and we let the kids out slowly so they don't jam up. (Everyone is masked.)

Parents of kids under 10 are asked to meet their kids in the lobby and parents of kids over 10 to meet them on the sidewalk outside. We have daily complaints that someone didn't give someone a seat for putting on their shoes or someone was standing too close or someone's child was let out of class in the last group or whatever.

To my eyes it's actually a calmer and more controlled experience than pre-pandemic. But compared to the way I've been able to do business - through this year I've been the only client at H&R Block, the bank, car maintenance, etc. Costco keeps me apart from other people at Costco. I think I've lost a bit of 'skin' at living in an urban environment - and I've still been running staff training, camps, etc. in person the whole time. For a parent who has a desk job and gets their groceries delivered, our environment is nuts. But it is really the best we can do - I have staffed up so that we have a whole extra person who basically keeps everyone 2m apart, checks passports, and cleans (we trade the duties around, but we have extra people there.)

And we get yelled at and nasty email/phone calls a lot. Which we never did before; we occasionally had a billing complaint or someone concerned about their child's progress.

But there wasn't an expectation that it was our job to keep everyone else out of people's faces. It's weird.

Also, parents are super stressed. I've had so many cry. They are scared, overwhelmed, their kids are 'behind,' they desperately want to get back to having their kids Do Things that they don't have to plan/manage/monitor but it's so hard. It's also hard to get back on the soccer-swimming-tutoring-martial arts route. I get it. But man, when people go after my staff, even my own empathy tends to run out.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:48 AM on November 8, 2021 [14 favorites]


Also as someone who had to disconnect her own PTSD fight-or-flight, all this is familiar. But weird to have so many people behaving like that at once.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:49 AM on November 8, 2021 [7 favorites]


That's the mistake. If you want to intervene for a server, just walk up silently, hand the server a small cash tip, and stand there silently.

That's cool, I'm sure, but it's really not the job of the general public to pay for other people's bad behavior. It's the job of an employer to protect its workers from violence and harassment.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:50 AM on November 8, 2021 [71 favorites]


I said "if you want to intervene." It is the owner's job to keep his staff safe, and in this environment, owners who fail to do so will experience walkouts.
posted by ocschwar at 8:52 AM on November 8, 2021 [9 favorites]


I am finding my own patience running out on me unexpectedly. I had a high-level jerk client do his usual thing this weekend towards one of my staff and I was suddenly Done. I sent one stiff email and then had to stop because I couldn't trust myself not to rip this guy a new one. I still want to. I'm seething. I don't usually let work stuff get to me like that. I'm going to have to consult with my boss on this and basically find a way to talk to this person without snarling.
posted by emjaybee at 9:00 AM on November 8, 2021 [13 favorites]


I'd also guess it's a group of people who are used to always getting their way in service situations running up against constraints of masking, supply issues, understaffing and things of that style.

They're having meltdowns from the smallest amount of friction because they're coddled babies who think waiting 12 minutes at Qdoba is a personal attack on their way of life.
posted by Ferreous at 9:12 AM on November 8, 2021 [20 favorites]


who can I complain to? The poor customer service rep? Their supervisor? How can I call attention to my frustration with Verizon the corporation when I can only speak to people who a) aren't the slightest bit responsible for my situation and b) can't really do anything to help anyway?

I say this as a social media hater, but...Twitter/other social media. I hear these days if anyone complains on social media, suddenly the companies care.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:14 AM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


Well, they did. And that's why you have slow service and longer waits and only one cash open in the grocery store.

Yeah, that's another data point I noticed working in a bar/restaurant during the pandemic.

Tipping rates totally flatlined and plummeted per unit of work or customers served. Like the decrease in take home tips was dramatic and impossible to ignore especially considering the extra stress and bullshit of having to be in put in the place of playing mask cop and on the front lines of that bullshit.

I think this maps to my idea and observation that all of the nice, polite people were staying home and it was mainly the jerks and entitled assholes that were still going out.

Another point is all of the worthless lip service about how retail grocery store workers were essential and how this wasn't reflected at all in hazard duty pay.
posted by loquacious at 9:20 AM on November 8, 2021 [29 favorites]


I was pretty rude at Costco the other day, and have been spending some cringey moments of embarrassment and regret about that. It had to do with feeling like I was obligated to use the self-checkout and then accidentally putting items in the wrong spot while trying to wrangle kids. It doesn't help that, as someone pointed out above, we've trained ourselves to get the hell out of the grocery store asap. And the moment you are at the cashier is/was the most dangerous back when we worried about getting covid in stores. I do find that I still have a danger/anxiety response, even though I don't actually believe I will get covid from a cashier.

Anyhow, does anyone else feel that masks play into this at least a little bit? I love wearing a mask because I don't have to have good breath or wear makeup or smile and generally make myself pleasing to others. I'm basically anonymous. But that's the problem. I'm anonymous, the workers are anonymous, and you stop sensing around you that social contract which dictates that I treat you the way I want to be treated. When I think about it, one of the most awful things you can do to someone in customer service is to allow a really angry or disgusted expression to cross your face. I think I am slipping up and letting that happen - because no one can see it anyhow. And possibly, I'm not controlling my face anymore and I'm less able to control my emotions as a result.
posted by kitcat at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2021 [12 favorites]


Hell hath no fury like a white person mildly inconvenienced.
posted by signal at 9:28 AM on November 8, 2021 [61 favorites]


A LOT of people love being performative assholes.

The hell you say. I am related to a couple of them, including one whose social media profile proclaims him to be “passive-aggressive asshole.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:36 AM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


What happens to our society if everyone across the board suddenly is 20-50% more tired all the time and suddenly however many IQ points less intelligent or cognitively enabled?

Having worked a variety of US customer service jobs over the decades, it would honestly have to be a sharp, persistent dip to be broadly noticeable.

My personal misanthropy apex was when I was working retail 5-6 days a week, and I've wondered a few times how much of this is a byproduct of vast #s of people being liberated from their places of work + thus free to interact w/the general public - strangers - in a more concentrated, ongoing, daily way.

Some aspects - e.g. the air rage - seem new, but I think I mostly agree w/oldnumberseven: there were vast numbers of assholes out there before, unconstrained by any sense of shame or decency. But if you weren't in a position to deal with them all day every day, it might have been easier to convince yourself otherwise.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:42 AM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


Some of this is definitely not new in that it is somewhat standard practice for companies to put the folks given the least amount of authority to tangibly assist customers in challenging situations in the most public facing positions which can create frustrating interactions. This is exacerbated during the pandemic with, as noted by several others here, the folks more likely to be out and about right now are going to tend to be the more Covid-skeptical types who are inevitably going to be annoyed having to deal with any inconveniences that they see as silly to begin with, be it having to wear masks, showing a vaccination card, distancing limitations, or slower than typical service. The folks responsible for enforcing this didn’t come up with the policies, but they are the easiest targets for the rage, creating a bad feedback loop.
posted by The Gooch at 9:45 AM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


Also worth noting, of course, that the assholes have recently had vastly more free time to inflict themselves on the rest of us.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:49 AM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


What happens to our society if everyone across the board suddenly is 20-50% more tired all the time and suddenly however many IQ points less intelligent or cognitively enabled?

I remember reading somewhere that one of the effects of an increase in environmental temperatures- climate change specifically- is that the human brain loses the ability to function properly. Of course we're talking many, many degrees warmer, but I can't help wondering if there's some correlation...
posted by 40 Watt at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


Here's what I learned from the de-escalation class, if it helps:

1. Always be the calmest person in any encounter. Even if you're furious inside, keep it inside. Don't raise your voice. Don't grit your teeth. Don't be snide or snotty or rude. Don't judge people based on appearance or behaviour (or if you do, don't let it affect how you communicate).

2. Assume the other person is already having a shitty day. Maybe they haven't eaten. Or are under slept. The cops hassled them for no reason. Their partner just left. Their dog just died. Got fired. Whatever. We all have bad days. It isn't an excuse, but it keeps you empathic and understanding.

3. Listen, reflect, and don't tell people what to do. Hear what people are saying, pay attention, nod, maintain friendly eye contact. Paraphrase what they've said, ask if you understand. Make suggestions about solutions. Don't be an authoritarian. Guide, help, suggest. Don't make ultimatums, instead propose solutions and alternatives; explain consequences. Give people a chance to come around.

4. Remember that the madder someone is, the less capable they are of higher-order thinking. If someone is red-faced and screaming, you're not going to get them to understand e.g. multi-step process to getting their problem solved. They have to calm down first, and you can lead the way by being calm first.

5. Ask leading and exploratory questions. It's hard to be shouty mad and also explain in detail why something is wrong, how it got that way, and what they would like to have happen. Be curious, draw them out.

6. Sometimes people calm down to rationality, and then get mad again, which means you just have to start back in at getting them calm again.

7. Your own safety is paramount. Don't let an angry person get between you and safety. If you feel like you are in danger, back away. If someone's been hurt or is being threatened, call emergency services.

Remember the essential humanity of everyone as much as you can.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:52 AM on November 8, 2021 [132 favorites]


It's funny; I regularly see signs reading "If you are mean, grouchy, or just plain rude, there will be a $10 charge for putting up with you," and yet I've never seen this policy enforced.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:53 AM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


Of course we learned that Facebook's algorithms value outrage / anger generating content 5x over other kinds of posts because they generate the most user engagement. I wonder if this is part of it. Social media users perpetually bombarded with outrage provoking content and then having no outlet or sense of justice.
posted by interogative mood at 9:57 AM on November 8, 2021 [15 favorites]


My patience is shorter with everyone because I've spent the last 18+ months doing exactly what was asked of me so I can get back to doing the things I enjoy, yet I am still being criticized by both sides. One side calls me a sheep as they do everything they want to without consequence, and the other side thinks that being vaxxed and wearing masks when told still isn't enough. On one very weird day, I was snarked at by someone in a store for wearing a mask, and lectured by another person outside that store for taking the mask off in the parking lot. I used to ignore and scurry away, but now my response to anyone who gets on me about wearing a mask is "please don't fuck with me today" which deservedly adds me to the rude pool.

I suspect that those of us who masked from the start and who enthusiastically lined up to take a vaccine that still only had emergency authorization without expecting a sticker/monetary reward/free beer/etc are all extra tired of humanity right now. I'm vaxxed, I'm masked, I check the COVID numbers every day, please just leave me alone.
posted by kimberussell at 10:08 AM on November 8, 2021 [74 favorites]


Travelling, being out, is where you have to run into people and people is where misery comes from.

Travel/vacation is a interesting comparison.

I group people into two kinds of travelers:

Those who want to relax, lay on the beach, and have someone hand them drinks while doing and thinking as little as possible. They go to the same travel destinations year after year. Nothing interesting happens to them and they like it this way.

On the other side, there are people who travel to do things that they can't do in their everyday life. Their trips are filled with both good stories and bad stories, because they actively seek out unfamiliar situations. The people in the first group are both mesmerized and horrified by the people in the second. These groups generally do not mix while traveling.

The pandemic has changed everything so fast that everyone, in their own home town, is now a tourist in an unfamiliar environment. Their normal places may have changed or closed down. Even things like grocery shopping is different - you can only walk down the aisles in a single direction, foods are out of stock, the wait is longer. People in the first group are in a constant state of stress. And when they try to do things that are similar to their vacations of before, they are doubly stressed and enraged because those places, too, have dramatically changed.
posted by meowzilla at 10:09 AM on November 8, 2021 [15 favorites]


seanmpucket - a thousand times yes! to your summary.
posted by dutchrick at 10:17 AM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


A few months ago I read Oprah's newest book about the effects of childhood neglect "What Happened to You?" and I came away feeling pretty shamed that I've door-slammed a good number of people during the last year and a half.

Healthy people, it was implied, are better at maintaining relationships but COME ON/what baloney!

Early on I tried to limit trips out of my apartment to prevent the spread of covid, NOW I try to acknowledge that trips out of my bubble will involve people demonstrably losing their shit and it's exhausting and REAL and I'm NOT being too sensitive.
posted by BeeLIC at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2021 [6 favorites]


For more proof that there really is a disproportionate shittiness coming from one side, the Vermont GOP has just scheduled a "Let's go Brandon" rally (i.e. 'f*ck Joe Biden') in the town of Brandon.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:37 AM on November 8, 2021 [18 favorites]


i don't think "please don't fuck with me today" really puts you in the rude pool, kimberussel. maybe, depending how you say it. but the please part, in print, looks pretty conciliatory.

one of the wisest things a buddy ever said to me: "never underestimate the other party's capacity to escalate out of proportion," or something like that; he probably said it pithier. recalling it has served me well.

yeah: drivers are pretty wild out there. between the so-timid-as-to-be-hazardous and the i-got-used-to-driving-90mph-while-the-roads-are-empty-so-fuck-you-weavers it is stressful out there on the road. in this region the assholery probably isn't attributable to t[nope]ist/normal person divide. be careful out there. (i don't know if traffic is back to prepandemic levels here, but over recent months the wonted congestion has returned to roads that, for most of a year, were almost entirely empty and unpoliced; it was eerie, but wow what magnificent unobstructed driving! then there was a period when traffic was sparse, but you'd unexpectedly lose a lane to a line of stationary cars a whole block before the turn-off to the fast-food drive-in or garden center. now, gridlock and probably still not back to capacity).

on preview: PhineasGage, i'm sure the chamber of commerce couldn't pass up such a good brandon opportunity.
posted by 20 year lurk at 10:47 AM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


I find myself writing and then erasing comments both here and on Facebook. I have no wish whatsoever to contribute to the current misery we are all in together. So I bite my tongue -- well, finger actually. The only thing that continues to enrage me is Autocorrect, which I have disabled wherever possible. One plus from that is that I am forced to proofread everything I write more closely before posting, which makes me even more temperate. Or so I would like to think.
posted by y2karl at 10:59 AM on November 8, 2021 [11 favorites]


yeah: drivers are pretty wild out there.

I've never seen so many people driving through red lights. I know they see the lights; they slow down or sometimes even come to a stop, but then they just drive straight on through. It's bizarre. And when you see so many people doing things like this, it makes you wonder if anything matters anymore.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:04 AM on November 8, 2021 [16 favorites]


Capitalism relies on easy access to a cheap, replaceable labor pool and it's been weird to see that people raised in capitalism simply don't know what to do when the pool runs dry. I quit my job in September, and when I checked back in to say hi, they had received THREE applications. One of the reasons I quit was being sick of being treated like disposable smiling front desk lady. I'm sure nothing has changed, even though apparently I wasn't so disposable after all.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:06 AM on November 8, 2021 [18 favorites]


"Something physical we aren't even seeing because we don't know it's there."
Everybody's livers are toxed out from all the crap in the food, air & water. Unhealthy irritated livers are ANGRY.
Everybody's adrenals are stressed out from all the caffeine.
Fried adrenals are SCARED.
Eyes, thumbs & brains locked into the cyberworld have leached out the natural touch of the humane and turned humans into non-thinking/feeling robots.
posted by Mesaverdian at 11:10 AM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


The only thing that continues to enrage me is Autocorrect, which I have disabled wherever possible.

Oh my god, lol, I have the appropriate broad, powerless rage at the global catastrophes enfolding us &etc. but nothing on this earth can send me stratospheric as quickly as AutoCorrect!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:15 AM on November 8, 2021 [6 favorites]


In my area, the biggest issue faced by the service workers I am friends with is that they're treated as 'less than human' by others. The wage disruptions are real and terrible, but they've managed to survive those. What's truly breaking them is that so many people think that they are better than those workers, that they do not need to be respectful towards those workers, that there is no dignity in the work they do that can be taken into consideration when interacting with them. Yeah, masks are making them crazy, too — but it's the increase in casual abuse of dignity that's causing them to burnout. This sampling of pandemic stories I've either witnessed, heard second-hand from a service worker, or read in the news highlights my viewpoint:

Someone walks in five minutes after close and argues for five minutes that, because this is their second time showing up after the published closing time, they deserve to have the kitchen staff interrupt cleaning and cook them a meal.

Someone slams their cart into a grocery worker and doesn't even apologize or ask if they're okay before going around them in a disgusted huff for having dared to obstruct them in their business.

Someone gets tired of waiting for a traffic light and drives their $100,000 lifted truck onto the curb in a school zone to make an illegal U-turn and then speeds off to cut through the nearby park zone, running stop signs and red lights and kills a crosswalk guard who dies to save a child.

Someone complains that their beer is a short pour every time they go to the upscale brewpub, because that half inch of foam at the top reduces their how-drunk-can-I-get-per-dollar ratio, and they keep going back and keep complaining every time, and even bring their friends and talk loudly with them about how awful the service is.

I do respect that, for kind people, the problems in this article are real and pressing and serious problems, that cause even the best of us to snap and lose our cool. And in aggregate, if all of us snap once, that's a great burden placed on service workers. It's important to self-care, so that we don't lash out at others. I do my best to assure anyone I'm talking with that I appreciate their efforts personally, even if they work at an insurance company that's trying its very best to screw me over.

But.

It's not the kind people that are breaking them down and wrecking their sanity. It's the people who treat them as less than human, who act entitled to have their demands met by those whose duty it is to serve their every need. And I don't see that addressed by this article almost at all. There is a single sentence that hints at this:

"America has lost sense of social cohesion, as a result of the widening gaps between the wealthy and working class."

And I think this sentence cruelly understates the problem that has been exposed by kind people staying home during the pandemic. It's not that we've become more rude here in America. It's that so many locals now feel safe in public openly treating our workers as subhuman, as subservient, as undeserving of dignity or respect for their efforts. It was bad enough when tourists did that, and in fact it was an almost guaranteed way to identify the rich tourists from peninsula cities further south. But now the locals are treating them like this as well, the locals feel safe to be seen behaving in this manner. No one in the working class can offer public censure, because they cannot afford to lose their job and home over yet another loss of dignity. But they all dream of being able to say "no" to a rude customer, of being able to hang up if someone yells at them, of being able to deny service to those who do not treat them with respect. It's not about a lack of smiles or friendliness. It's about wanting to give up and walk away from unceasing everyday violations of their dignity.

I do what I kind to emotionally support them, but I am not a service worker, and there's only so much I can do as one person across the counter, and no one who treats them in this manner would listen to me anyways. No social, financial, or legal harm will come to them for ignoring and mistreating those who stand in their way. And I don't know how we're going to solve that as a single farming region slash watershed, much less at the scale this article describes.
posted by Callisto Prime at 11:16 AM on November 8, 2021 [24 favorites]


I'm always amazed at people who are rude to restaurant workers.

Why would you anger someone who is about to touch your food?
posted by freakazoid at 11:20 AM on November 8, 2021 [21 favorites]


We’ve had a huge increase in fatal auto accidents since the pandemic. Well at first increased reckless speeding on wide-open roads, now deaths.

A personal data point. My kid just gave notice after working in medical care for homeless folks for a couple of decades. Management stupidity was always a stressor, but the patients kept her feeling energized. Now she’s burned out at both ends. And outreach work in the community which once felt good is increasingly dangerous, partly because the cops are venting by not doing their jobs (apart from killing people now and then, which for some reason makes them unpopular, and that makes them even less interested in doing any work) and other people are venting with guns and it’s time for her to do something else. I was so happy when she said she was putting in her notice because she was clearly getting fried.
posted by zenzenobia at 11:28 AM on November 8, 2021 [7 favorites]


if you have it in you to go above and beyond, just do it. tip big, go out of your way to be civil and even kind. it can't hurt. and if you don't have it in you, then just try hard not to bleed out the badness unto others. I think most of us posting here today are really trying to maintain at least that. I don't need any more stories of how others are just letting their asshole flag fly, my own asshole flag keeps trying to peek out believe me.

just keep doing your best, good luck. and thanks to seanmpuckett, it's good to get those reminders.
posted by elkevelvet at 11:31 AM on November 8, 2021 [17 favorites]


> Why would you anger someone who is about to touch your food?

Unexpectedly, an interview* I read this morning touches on this point. It's on a different topic, but it resonates here all the same:
I have a son and he sometimes pulls on the dog’s tail and instead of saying, “No Sly, don’t do that. That’s bad,” I say to him, “You’re hurting Columbo.” You want your child to not hit their brother or sister because they know it’s causing them pain, not because they’re scared of the time out. And we haven’t applied that to the macro level of culture.
...
I’m sure that he’s a good person, in some ways, but also, in that particular moment, he felt like he had power over my body that he didn’t have and was able to do something that was disrespectful. And I think we need to change the thing that allows him to feel like that’s not a big deal.
And I agree with the core of this point. Fear of retaliation is a band-aid, not a cure.

* The only link I have is both proprietary and paywalled. I'm so sorry. I would have linked the word 'interview' above if I could find a better one.
posted by Callisto Prime at 11:32 AM on November 8, 2021 [7 favorites]


Time: “In the minds of some of the individuals, snapping at the flight attendant is not rude, it’s civil disobedience. ”
To the fascists, all of their immoral actions are justified by their twisted values. Cf., “People Resort to Violence Because Their Moral Codes Demand It,” Tage Rai, Aeon, 18 June 2015.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:40 AM on November 8, 2021 [13 favorites]


if you have it in you to go above and beyond, just do it.

I was watching my daughter play field hockey yesterday. Her team got a point after a play that should have rendered the ball dead. We cheered, but the people right next to us weren't happy. I even joked" Killjoy" when the mom behind me said it was dead.

But by the end of the game, I didn't want to spoil her day, and I realized my joking could have been misunderstood -- so I turned around and commiserated that the call was wrong and the outcome had changed. She seemed OK with it, and was nice enough. I was really glad I hadn't been That Dick who gloated.

(And anyway her daughter's team stomped all over my daughter's team in the tournament, so it all worked out in the end.)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2021 [7 favorites]


In the past 19 months, roughly 750,000 Americans have died from covid-19.

And masks are still a political issue to be debated, argued and fought over. Powerful people are still shamelessly spreading disinformation and doing the exact opposite of every reasonable thing one should do to stop the pandemic. And they're still doing it with impunity.

If you had told me two years ago, I never would have thought that the status quo could withstand the deaths of three quarters of a million people, I wouldn't have believed it, and yet here we are. As shitty as the way things were before the pandemic, the sheer resilience of how such a terrible system can hang on and even seemingly grow stronger despite everything that's happened.

There are times when I just don't know what even matters, because certainly the pandemic has never mattered despite it's unprecedented toll.

It's a little refreshing to see that Senators Warren, Markey, and Heinrich have introduced legislation to create a national Covid Memorial Day and there are similar efforts playing out in various state legislatures, but I had no idea about it until I just googled.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:52 AM on November 8, 2021 [17 favorites]


Living in a red state, I've spent decades watching grown adults (mostly white ones) throw temper tantrums in private and in public anytime they didn't get their way. I have absolutely zero doubt that it's gotten a million times worse since the pandemic hit TFG got elected, because a lot of people were waiting on the sidelines for a license to make a scene and mistreat people. Cruelty isn't a byproduct of American conservatism; it's the entire point.

But I do wonder if the increase in such histrionic cruelty is magnified by an increase in the scope of who gets subjected to it. I feel like now we're hearing more stories from upper management, from people whose jobs require advanced degrees. Fewer front-line/pink-collar workers to push around, thanks to the Great Resignation, so the anger gets redirected up the chain of command.

In the Before Times, you'd often see the biggest assholes browbeat the cocktail server, the nursing staff, or the receptionist, but when someone with "status" (doctors, managers, owners) emerged to intervene, the loudest assholes would often kiss up to them. Not every time, but as often as schoolyard bullies kiss up to playground monitors. Often, it worked.

Now, more than pre-2016, "status" really only means whatever the antagonist wants it to mean, in any given moment. TFG identified as richer, smarter, and more powerful than everyone else on earth, and he demonstrated this by acting like a spoiled child. His admirers are merely following suit.
posted by armeowda at 11:57 AM on November 8, 2021 [12 favorites]


as a restaurant veteran of...god, i guess i did 12 years...let me further clarify what it means to 'go big' in terms of a check in the US:

standard tip is 20%

if your bill is quite small (you had a couple beers or something), standard is a dollar a drink. if you're a regular and you had two beers and your check is ten bucks, going big means tip 100%. leave twenty bucks.

this doesn't scale to larger checks.

if you had dinner and drinks with a few people and your bill comes to (let's just say for easier math) 200 bucks, standard is 40, which is honestly not really enough, but whatever. going big means leave 100 bucks. 30% is not going big, it will not get mentioned. 100 bucks means that after everyone leaves and ppl are doing sidework and cleaning and doing their checkouts, you will actually get mentioned. "huh, table 12 left 100 on 200 tonight. thank fucking god, rent is due tomorrow."

if you go back, you might get comped something. if you get comped something at a restaurant because you're a regular, here's what you should do:

check = 50
comped a round of beers for 10 bucks
check is now 40

i would have left 20% on 50, that would mean i would have paid 60 bucks. 60 is what i came ready to spend.

the check is now 40. if i leave 20%, that's 48. 12 bucks less than i planned to spend, thanks to a 10 buck comp. so i'm gonna go ahead and leave 55. i'm tipping 40-ish percent, sure, but i'm still saving 5 bucks (thanks, staff!) and leaving 15 on 40 is a good way to 'go big'.

okay hope that was helpful, sorry if not

oh one last thing -- if you're a regular at a place that isn't SUPER DUPER CORPORATE and you never get comped anything, you are most likely undertipping.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:59 AM on November 8, 2021 [35 favorites]


Any chance at least some of this could be attributed to an increase in substance abuse problems? So many people just seem completely unreachable at this point.
posted by wondermouse at 12:04 PM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


I do wonder if the increase in such histrionic cruelty is magnified by an increase in the scope of who gets subjected to it. I feel like now we're hearing more stories from upper management, from people whose jobs require advanced degrees. Fewer front-line/pink-collar workers to push around, thanks to the Great Resignation, so the anger gets redirected up the chain of command.

A site I check in on the daily is Not Always Right, which deals with stories of bad behavior directed towards people in the service industry; it has also expanded to deal with bad behavior dealing with health care, legal issues, schools, and between neighbors. I haven't noticed any significant increase in the stories people are sending in - and the site started in 2007.

...I think this supports your comment, though, since the people who tend to submit such stories don't always have any other recourse other than "complain to other service industry workers because they get it".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:07 PM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


Even when it's not a political issue, masks are making communication worse. I'd been in a bunch of situations where a stranger or service worker makes a jokey comment and I struggle to figure out if they're grinning behind their mask or not. There are paranoid people who think that all conversations in other languages are about _them_, now they think that everyone is sneering at them behind their mask, instead of the big fake smile from service workers.

It's similar to how communication has changed from in-person, then to speech, and now text only - we're losing context cues and it lets people fill in the blanks, often incorrectly. I now intentionally add smiley faces and other emojis now, even in work chat, because people were telling me later that they couldn't guess my intentions. I also find myself annoyed when I get ambiguous messages.
posted by meowzilla at 12:12 PM on November 8, 2021 [6 favorites]


It's similar to how communication has changed from in-person, then to speech, and now text only - we're losing context cues and it lets people fill in the blanks, often incorrectly. I now intentionally add smiley faces and other emojis now, even in work chat, because people were telling me later that they couldn't guess my intentions. I also find myself annoyed when I get ambiguous messages.

I am the world's biggest work-from-home proponent but have been forced to realize over the last two years that reliance on written words for communication is fraught with real peril. There used to be a pretty solid demarcation between Work Writing and Internet Writing that has become super blurred in the age of ForeverSlack. I don't mean in terms of formality or hierarchy--it has become both less formal and less hierarchical and I support that!--but people just don't actually seem to know how to turn their thoughts into text instead of into speech.

So much anger in my day comes from a situation where someone is sloppy in their Slack message and includes wrong or misleading or insufficient info, sending the whole rest of the team down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out WTF they meant, while meanwhile they've vanished into wherever it is people go while working from home. And it's real anger, because I have no recourse really, and this is my own job and my own salary on the line, at risk because someone couldn't take a second to proofread their Slack.

The same emojis that people use to reassure someone of their friendliness are what I use to mask an absolute fountain of frustration and rage. :/
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:20 PM on November 8, 2021 [6 favorites]


drivers are pretty wild out there

Last week, in a span of less than 24-hours, our small city had not one, not two, but three seperate incidents where vehicles smashed into power-poles/lines, knocking out power to large sections of the city.
posted by rozcakj at 12:21 PM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


What happens to our society if everyone across the board suddenly is 20-50% more tired all the time and suddenly however many IQ points less intelligent or cognitively enabled?

A little less advanced science or other academic research gets done, or it takes longer to do.

Being tired is a stressor, for sure. And yeah, I personally would find it distressing to notice myself losing cognitive function from what I currently have, as would many people I’m sure. But your comments (the one quoted from and others) are coming across here as ableist, implying that people with learning difficulties or cognitive processing difficulties are necessarily more likely to be assholes, or are worth less or not able to make important contributions to society.

Rather, I’d lean in to the other component of your comments: capitalism not only failing to adjust to people’s changing health needs from various factors (the pandemic, effects of climate change, negative mental health impacts of rising fascism, negative mental and physical health impacts of capitalism itself) but continuing to ramp up and use people up at an increasing rate is a fundamental feature of capitalism, and is a very serious problem. It’s not a problem because it keeps individual humans from meeting some normative expectations of their ability to contribute to society in some way other than being basically decent humans, though. It’s a problem because it impedes people from living fulfilling and healthy lives (noting that that may be defined differently for different people).
posted by eviemath at 12:23 PM on November 8, 2021 [9 favorites]


(Or, more succinctly: there are worse fates than, for example, being a bonobo; so worrying about IQ loss almost certainly misses the point, regardless of what the point was.)
posted by eviemath at 12:25 PM on November 8, 2021


Also as someone who had to disconnect her own PTSD fight-or-flight, all this is familiar. But weird to have so many people behaving like that at once.

Yeah, honestly? I think this is just... what you get when you have a long-term chronic stressor that affects absolutely everyone. We're all developing post-traumatic syndromes to varying degrees of severity, and because it's affecting all of us at once we don't really have good ways to handle any of it or mark it as anything but "new normal". It's really hard to handle others' trauma when you don't have many resources yourself.

It is, um, a little embarrassing how long it has taken me to understand that I have actual PTSD as a result of the January 2017 grandparents-abandoned-me-on-the-side-of-the-road thing, nightmares and furious tension every time I hear the name "John McCain" and inability to re-regulate without very careful attention and all. And I mean, part of that is because--this level of fear and worry and glum acceptance of life and death risk is our new normal, and because we can't mark it it doesn't feel like "real" trauma or stress so... it becomes a matter of having to navigate a much more difficult and frightening world on our own.

We're seeing a lot of people struggling with dropping their own threat responses, being much more easily triggered, and having outsize reactions to everyday stimuli. Uh, congrats, PTSD is a present for everyone now--including both customers and staff in this retail example we're honing in on here.
posted by sciatrix at 12:36 PM on November 8, 2021 [21 favorites]


If the increase in rudeness was linked to stress from the pandemic, I would expect to see it from those who were most stressed. I'd expect to see more stories of retail workers attacking customers. But it's the other way, and so I agree with what eviemath and others have said -- it's tribal, it's the fact that one side of the political spectrum not only feels liberated but encouraged to be public assholes. It's how they make their bones with their in-group.
posted by tavella at 12:38 PM on November 8, 2021 [34 favorites]


^ I feel like it must be this because I haven't seen or heard of anything like this where I live where vaccine rates, mask compliance, the recall vote numbers have all been very high. It seems to me like some kind of behavioral Cold War.
posted by bleep at 12:47 PM on November 8, 2021


^Or "Uncivil War" rather.
posted by SPrintF at 12:53 PM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]


If the increase in rudeness was linked to stress from the pandemic, I would expect to see it from those who were most stressed. I'd expect to see more stories of retail workers attacking customers.

Eh, I don't think there is enough info to make this leap. Retail and service workers certainly drive, where there is evidence of increased fatalities, and it's just a guess to say retail workers aren't harassing restaurant service workers in their off-hours and vice-versa. That people aren't attacking customers at their place of business isn't that strange -all those cameras are there to protect the business owners and employees know that.

Just because we would like the people we support to be on the kind side doesn't necessarily make it true.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:56 PM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


>> What happens to our society if everyone across the board suddenly is 20-50% more tired all the time and suddenly however many IQ points less intelligent or cognitively enabled?

> A little less advanced science or other academic research gets done, or it takes longer to do.

Being tired is a stressor, for sure. And yeah, I personally would find it distressing to notice myself losing cognitive function from what I currently have, as would many people I’m sure.


I mean, let me tell you, I have lost cognitive function in the past couple of years and I rely on my brain to earn my bread. It is fucking terrifying. Actually I was just today having a chat about the effects that the terror of internalized ableism wreaks in the academy on attempts to create a wider understanding of disability among academics at all career levels: that internalized terror causes people to be resistant to talking about this and confronting their own shame and exhaustion about all the little things they are carefully not thinking about and normalizing.

So I don't think that the cumulative effect of trauma is just to slow down academics and researchers. IQ is... a tricky topic, but the problem with a collectively traumatized society that sees threat everywhere is... eloquence doesn't desert us when we are activated? Like, look, last week I wrote this comment, and I was absolutely triggered all to hell when I wrote it. I don't think I'm necessarily wrong there, but I certainly am not losing my ability to hook into the emotions of other people and haul folks with me when I'm frightened and overwhelmed and reacting to a cue that my brain has hooked to the concept of threat. I'm not losing my ability to craft arguments and sentences and make cases, but my ability to respond to stimuli around me productively is damn sure hindered, and then later I have a lot less energy for other things.

When you're reacting to a trigger, things collapse into threat and not-threat. It's harder to think about third options. It's harder to innovate and feel safe enough to experiment. It's hard to find middle ground, and it's hard to break your mind out of existing paradigms. I often find mine is running on rails. My first reaction is dictated by reflexive reactions to the things around me, reflexes I learned when the stressors which set into trauma first happened.

One of the things I am worried about, then, regarding the increase in PTSD-like reactivity elsewhere but particularly in the academy is... not just "academic work happens slower because people can't think," it's "academic work is delayed because subfields reflexively get driven down unproductive tracks because a critical mass of scientists take all-or-nothing approaches to a topic."

I'm quietly worried about us not being able to let down our guards and listen to each other even when everyone is working in good faith, because we are all listening carefully for hidden enemies--enemies who have, in our collective experience, actually popped out where we least expect in the past. Overrunning this is work because it involves re-learning how to interact in the world and also what the world is like in terms of the potential for threat it contains. Threatened, reactive people make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes add more inflammation and actively make things worse.

If the increase in rudeness was linked to stress from the pandemic, I would expect to see it from those who were most stressed. I'd expect to see more stories of retail workers attacking customers. But it's the other way, and so I agree with what eviemath and others have said -- it's tribal

To be clear, I should note, there's a difference between stressful experiences and lingering trauma--and the most likely factor to turn the first into the second is the perception of judgement and lack of support from one's social group. We're seeing a lot of social turmoil, rejection, and the polarization in black-and-white mentality that comes with trauma. This trauma has been deliberately perpetuated and inflamed by the actions of the GOP, but that doesn't make its aftereffects any less real or erase the emotional reactivity that trauma inflicts.
posted by sciatrix at 12:57 PM on November 8, 2021 [21 favorites]


During COVID, I had to quit my people-facing job, my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, my grandchild was born five weeks early, and people were blowing up ATMs and setting off fireworks in my neighborhood. We had demonstrations in the city that resulted in fire, destroyed stores, and produced police violence. I became a masked hermit in order to protect myself and my loved ones, and as a result I basically wore the same outfit every day and stopped putting on makeup or getting my hair cut.

And this is not to deny that things are getting worse*, but in my Northeast/Mid-Atlantic city people are darn good about wearing masks. They are surprisingly friendly in retail settings. I took a plane flight a couple of months ago and nobody misbehaved or took off their masks, either way. Today, I watched a masked bus driver and a masked passenger help a masked person in a motorized chair (who had never taken the bus before) get on the bus, taking forever, and nobody complained. I keep being surprised by how extroardinarily nice people are still capable of being.

I did quit Facebook entirely, and I started taking people off my Twitter lists who insisted on writing in all caps or speaking in extremes. And on Reddit, I only frequent subreddits where people are generally pleasant. I think that helped.

*thinking of the bus driver who got impatient with me having difficulty getting on, and who just told me "step back" and drove away.
posted by Peach at 1:00 PM on November 8, 2021 [12 favorites]


There are also different cultural definitions of "rudeness."

I grew up understanding "rudeness" to mean "inconsiderate, boorish, or outright cruel behavior, with the potential to alienate and harm others." If I call someone rude, it's likely because they're disregarding the innate worth and dignity of any person.

But where I live, I often hear "rudeness" used as shorthand for "a lack of deference, to which I am entitled, from someone whose job/gender/color makes them inferior to me; the failure of such a person to recognize that I am a VIP to whom rules, policies, and laws do not apply."
posted by armeowda at 1:06 PM on November 8, 2021 [26 favorites]


The idea that academics are the only people who need their full intelligence to work and function is so disturing it's... a word I'm not smart enough to think of anymore.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:12 PM on November 8, 2021 [11 favorites]


I've taken hundreds of flights.
I've snapped at a flight attendant once.
My spouse and I were exhausted, it was our third transfer, we hadn't been able to get literally any kind of food in almost twelve hours, and I was trying to get in my seat and I asked the attendant if I could get a menu or something.
She politely responded, "I'm sorry sir, there is no meal service on this flight," and I lost my ever-loving-shit. "Damn it all we NEED to EAT. MAKE IT HAPPEN!"
She was incredibly polite and said, "please take your seat, sir, I'll see what I can do."
Ten minutes later she had a basket of nuts and pretzels and everything else, she dropped it in my lap and walked away.

I have issued countless apologies in my life but I spent that entire flight carefully crafting the words I needed to say to that poor human being. I felt like absolute garbage. I think I managed, as we were leaving, "I am so incredibly sorry for my behavior. I have no excuse for the way I spoke to you and it won't happen again."
She shrugged and said something like, "travel is stressful! It doesn't always bring out the best in us."

I will take that memory to my grave. I'm cringing so hard just remembering it. And I cannot imagine inhabiting a human brain where that sort of shitty behavior is so common, so "par for the course," that it doesn't instill in the practitioner a life-long memory of each shameful display.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:01 PM on November 8, 2021 [63 favorites]


A little less advanced science or other academic research gets done, or it takes longer to do.

Yeah, I'm with sciatrix, here. There's a lot more to intelligence and the utility of intelligence than just pure research, development and academia.

I personally find that it takes some intelligence to be able to practice mindfulness and emotional intelligence. I'm not talking about intelligence in a purely clinical MENSA IQ test points kind of way or anything.

Even washing dishes or cooking in a restaurant takes a remarkable amount of intelligence and presence that a lot of people who haven't been in the industry don't seem to understand, especially when it's couched in terms of unskilled labor.

Meanwhile I can barely focus on my work from home tech related job and rack up enough useful billable hours to stay afloat and I'm struggling with work that would have been practically mindlessly easy to me just a couple of years ago.

Honestly if it were possible to check myself into cold storage and hibernate for a few years and hope things get better in the relatively near future I probably would just go do that.

Meanwhile I'll just keep up the maladaptive fantasies about being a nice, big glacial rock somewhere and think about how nice it might be to be able to experience geological time scales as a big rock and holding perfectly still for about ten thousand years.
posted by loquacious at 2:24 PM on November 8, 2021 [19 favorites]


What's wearing me down is the thousand micro aggressions of assholes actively engaged in automobile ass-holery.

I've noticed a lot of this around where we live in south London. The general level of "fuck you" driving has increased tremendously - getting cut up, jumping lights, shouted abuse - along with the racing on public roads, especially in tricked out BMWs with roaring exhausts that seem to backfire every time the driver takes his (and it's always 'his') foot off.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 2:35 PM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]


The idea that academics are the only people who need their full intelligence to work and function is so disturing it's... a word I'm not smart enough to think of anymore.

Yeah honestly which is more tangible of a problem, an academic who has become somewhat more rigid in their research or a school bus driver whose reaction time and memory of route changes is significantly less than it used to be? I know which one I'm more worried about. (But what do I know, I wasn't smart enough for Academia long before COVID hit.)

Meanwhile I can barely focus on my work from home tech related job and rack up enough useful billable hours to stay afloat and I'm struggling with work that would have been practically mindlessly easy to me just a couple of years ago.

Never mind the amount of ever-increasing complexity required just by regular old daily non-employment tasks. I have always been the go-to person for multistep bureaucratic bullshit in my family but I find my facility with this very diminished, even as simultaneously all of the websites and hotlines required seem to be more abysmally maintained and staffed. It requires a shocking amount of brain power to be a person in the U.S., especially a person who needs any amount of medical care.

The other day I listened as my mother received approximately 19 phone calls. 18 were scams, and 1 was a much awaited call from her doctor. All came up "unknown," which meant she had to actively deflect 18 attempts at identity theft in order to receive 1 unit of actual information. That's not nothing, y'all! That's exhausting and the penalty for fucking it up is weeks of being on hold with banks and credit card companies and Experian, etc., changing all of your passwords, you name it.

Then, upon speaking with the doctor's office, she was told the doctor wasn't available after all and asked to wait for another call back. Was she rude to the receptionist who wanted her to run that ABSURD gauntlet again? Reader, she was. Do I blame her? Reader, not exactly.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:52 PM on November 8, 2021 [48 favorites]


A lot of jobs take intelligence, and that matters. However, it's intelligence which comes up with vaccines and treatments. If we're becoming not smart enough to do better with this disease than waiting it out for natural immunity, it's going to be a long haul.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:16 PM on November 8, 2021


Whoa guys I hope we can distinguish expressing our own little corners of hope and fears without having that be perceived as taking everyone else down. I took sciatrix’s remark in that vein; I could be wrong.

I will say people dump on “dumb jocks” and so I do have a bit of a potential chip on my shoulder, but it takes a lot of intelligence- spacial, emotional - to teach a bunch of kids how to kick and punch without anyone getting hurt - and in the older and higher levels teaching self-defence and sparring it takes some command of one’s own fight or flight responses too. So yeah, if all of us are suffering cognitive impairment it’s going to be a long haul. I hope we can be gentle anyway.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2021 [5 favorites]


I think I managed, as we were leaving, "I am so incredibly sorry for my behavior. I have no excuse for the way I spoke to you and it won't happen again."
She shrugged and said something like, "travel is stressful! It doesn't always bring out the best in us."

I will take that memory to my grave. I'm cringing so hard just remembering it.


In the early 'aughts, I had a summer job hawking theatre season ticket subscriptions to existing customers. Over the phone. Didn't matter that they were existing customers; no one wanted to be telemarketed-to. Many people snapped at us, understandably; some lectured us at length about the evils of our job, our employer, and ourselves.

The only one I remember in any detail, twenty years later, is the woman who called me back an hour later. (Our landlines showed up on Caller ID.)

"Armeowda, you called me earlier this evening, and I was terribly rude to you. I'm just sick about the way I acted. I think I need to buy some season tickets."

"Uh, buh...um, are...are you sure? You don't have to buy any--"

"I think I do. I have my credit card ready right now."

Making that sale was nice, not gonna lie. But the boldness of the apology is what really sticks with me after two decades. Her previous dressing-down was a mere needle in a haystack. I couldn't tell you what she said. All I remember is how floored I was when she owned up to it, knowing no one was making her.

I guess this is my way of saying, that flight attendant might remember you more fondly, and more clearly, than she does the countless people who couldn't muster an ounce of contrition after-the-fact.
posted by armeowda at 4:40 PM on November 8, 2021 [44 favorites]


I was on an evening flight returning home back in late summer and was happy to be able to order a glass of red wine after a stressful experience at the airport. A flight attendant bumped into me and spilled wine on my shirt. Of course, she apologized and gave me something to wipe it up so it wouldn't stain (it didn't). I told her not to worry about it and didn't make a fuss, even though I was still fuming from the airport incident. Later in the flight, a different attendant gave me a free glass of wine, so I was feeling pretty good. On the way off the plane, she apologized again and I just said to her something like, "Thanks. I understand how difficult your job can be."
posted by perhapses at 5:23 PM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm with sciatrix, here. There's a lot more to intelligence and the utility of intelligence than just pure research, development and academia.

I personally find that it takes some intelligence to be able to practice mindfulness and emotional intelligence. I'm not talking about intelligence in a purely clinical MENSA IQ test points kind of way or anything.


Ah, you had brought up IQ, so I thought that was exactly what you were talking about. Which I then wanted to point out was not related to kindness, nor to maintaining human society. We all seem to be in agreement on that latter point, then.
posted by eviemath at 5:24 PM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]


The idea that academics are the only people who need their full intelligence to work and function is so disturing it's... a word I'm not smart enough to think of anymore.

Oh fuck I'm so horrified and astonished that that's the implication I left there--no, absolutely, no it is not what I meant to convey at all, I'm just very tired and narrowly focused on my own industry and working life.

The point I wanted to make is actually that mass traumatization is in some ways worse than just chronic fatigue because you wind up with a lot of fights and inflexibilities that are probably not necessary to have. This because folks find it hard to relax and let go of "maybe this is THREAT?? Need SAFE" and, for some people, "need WIN", which can wind up aimed at both things that genuinely do matter but also some truly petty and mundane things. Those conflicts take up a lot of energy and cognitive attention that could probably be better spent elsewhere, and they also contribute to the general feeling of un-safety that can continue perpetuating the whole thing.

But no, I am not trying to say that academics are the only people who need their full cognitive power. Absolutely not, no, and I'm sorry if I did accidentally say that.
posted by sciatrix at 5:37 PM on November 8, 2021 [18 favorites]


I vote toxoplasmosis.

Or mold.

Or that white people are increasingly scared of not being the elite, but that feels mildly snarky.
posted by Jacen at 5:39 PM on November 8, 2021 [7 favorites]


kudos to those with stories of actually apologizing, not "sorry if you were offended"
posted by thelonius at 4:20 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


Curious how close comments and conversations in this thread come to letters of French Revolution. My exposure to Revolutions podcast indicates Planck unit distances.
posted by filtergik at 6:54 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


A Tik Tok suggested a view on neuro diversity that I hadn't previously encountered. The question was, why are some people so good at reading body language when humans have spoken language to communicate with? The suggested answer was that neurotypical people are successful in ignoring their trauma, in order to get on with things. The result is a lot of people with a lot of unaddressed trauma, some of whom are parents. Subsequently, children become good at reading body language to discern whether they should be threatened by someone, rather than by relying on what they say. Neurodivergent people who are not good at reading body language, detecting nuance, detecting sarcasm or humour survive despite this, due to reasons beyond the scope of one 60 second clip.

The part of this which rings true in this context is that most people are carrying around a lot of unaddressed trauma. As a society the continuous push forward, without addressing past trauma, results in instability. People site the German society as one where past trauma has mostly been addressed. People in Germany seem to be able to maintain a sense of pride in their country without that necessitating ignorance of past atrocities and trauma.

We are living through an unprecedented global trauma, and there are a number of people who seem to think that the best solution is to get everything back to 'normal' as fast as possible, rather than dealing with the effect this trauma is having on most people. Perhaps the realisation of the futility of this desire causes considerable mental anguish and cognitive dissonance which manifests itself in anti-social behaviour.

I see this as an additional factor to the traumatic impact of the global climate crisis, and the conniptions of the death throes of white supremacy, and other hypernationalist granfalloons.
posted by asok at 2:16 PM on November 9, 2021 [11 favorites]


My husband is a restaurant manager. Like all in the industry, he's been dealing with the intense stress of keeping a restaurant operating with limited staff and trying to hire new people when the higher ups won't increase pay to attract quality.

So I went and asked him if this is something he's seen, whether customers are ruder now than pre-pandemic. He said no, not really. The majority of his customers are polite, but there are always assholes.

However, his restaurant is in a rural small town, a legit picket fences kind of small town where everyone really DOES know everyone, or knows your cousin or whatever, and that breeds a real politeness that is very distinct to both of us who are from a large city originally. So, at least in Small Town Texas, politeness is still the rule.

Although I think the biggest problems he's had with a customer was over what news channel they would have on the TVs. He refused to put on Fox, keeping it on CNN, and he got repeatedly abused for it (it got called Communist News Network; he would threaten to put on MSNBC...) so eventually it's No News Anymore as policy.
posted by threeturtles at 2:35 PM on November 9, 2021 [5 favorites]


I wish he would have put on Democracy Now! to really blow their minds.
posted by flamk at 3:34 PM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


The discussion about intelligence that we've had here is still bugging me.

What I'm taking from this discussion is that some folks believe that cognitive decline from covid-19 or rising atmospheric CO2 (or other sources, that have less evidence behind them, were hypothesized) may be contributing to an increase in anti-social behavior.

To be clear, the article that is the subject of this post is talking about a range of behaviors from verbal abuse to physical assault or reckless endangerment - its examples mostly go beyond the simply rude. But examples from other comments seem to be more on the rude but not abusive or criminal end of anti-social behaviors (with the exception that some of the driving-related examples folks have given in the discussion seem to be reckless endangerment), and I'm not sure how much folks are reacting to the article versus only reacting to other comments or something the post reminded them of from their own experiences. So the comments I'm reacting to may not have been made based on the more sever examples from the article.

However, I've also gotten the impression that some folks think that there is a causal (albeit likely only partially so) relationship between a hypothesized widespread cognitive decline and a decline in social cohesion, potentially leading to the failure of the US as a nation, but more immediately leading to an increase in incidents of verbal abuse to physical assaults such as are described in the fpp article. So, regardless of the examples that have been focused on more in this discussion thread, it sounds like some folks are, ultimately, arguing that cognitive declines => verbal abuse and violence. Albeit mostly indirectly or by implication.

I suspect that everyone or nearly everyone here would be uncomfortable with making a causal link from cognitive difficulties to abusive or violent behavior directly if they noticed that connection. But consider the following situations where society used to more commonly make such a link implicitly, in ways that we have now realized were erroneous and problematic, that were considered indirect at the time but we now realize were pretty direct. I think we should be very cautious of potentially doing the same in this new situation.

We understand that eg. men who abuse their domestic partners or families may often excuse their behavior as somehow being out of their control, and that has been a culturally accepted excuse for far too long. Yet the same individuals can usually control their anger or other harmful behaviors around people of higher power or status, giving the lie to the excuse. We should be extremely wary of inadvertently replicating this excuse in the pandemic context. We're coming to understand that there are some exceptions to this in cases of certain types of traumatic brain injury. But in those cases people can't consistently turn their impulse control on or off based on who they are associating with and the potential consequences they may experience. In contrast, I haven't been hearing about widespread increases in people being generally rude or verbally abusive toward, or physically assaulting, eg. their bosses in a job that they want to keep, or people telling their boss off while quitting when they need to keep that professional contact intact for their future career prospects.

In recent memory, the false and quite harmful myth that people with mental health disorders are more dangerous to others has been widely believed. I imagine most folks here know that the opposite is true: that people with mental health disorders are more likely to be victims of violence and abuse than the general population, and no more likely (possibly less so) to act violently toward others than the general population. I suspect most folks here also recognize the problem or error in alt right talking points that try to use eg. autism (mostly on the Aspberger's end of that collection of neurodivergent traits) as an excuse for misogyny. We can clearly see that being neurodivergent doesn't cause someone to be acting from a place of contempt for women, or people of different races or genders or sexual orientations than themselves, although neither does it necessarily protect one from learning any given bigotry, and it may affect the particular expressions of ingrained bigotry that such an individual enacts. We have always had sub-populations with us who experience some of the same cognitive issues that we're seeing as side effects of covid-19 or overall pandemic stress. The brain fog and executive function difficulties some folks report overlap with ADHD symptoms that can make someone come across to others as a bit less reliable. But we're gaining an understanding that this is not rudeness, but instead indicates a need for our social, work, and other systems to be structured in a way that accommodates a wider variety of people. On the other end of things, living with hallucinations from un- or insufficiently treated schizophrenia or other psychosis disorder is extremely disruptive to the person experiencing them, and can inadvertently lead them to act in non-socially-normative ways that come across to others as also socially disruptive. But we're gaining an understanding that this difference is generally not a threat or danger to others, and that more people (particularly in public facing roles in the service industry, emergency medical services, or police) should have some mental health first aid training so that we can respond supportively instead of harmfully or fatally; and regardless, it doesn't sound like covid-19 or pandemic-related cognitive effects are quite that severe, except perhaps in some very rare cases. Overall, if our economic and social structures are so stretched and inhumane that we can't accommodate some increase in people experiencing similar cognitive changes and differences to what a subset of folks have already been living with, the problem should not be attributed to the cognitive losses, but to a failure in our systems.

Dementia is a slightly different context. We're coming to understand that keeping elderly people who are developing dementia in their homes as long as possible is best, and when they do have to move to a assisted living facility, it is to protect their health and safety, not so much because they pose a risk to others. But many dementia patients do eventually go through a stage of anger and extreme irritability where they can be quite verbally abusive, that is directly attributable to their cognitive decline (and, especially, their confusion and stress around and stemming from that decline). However, my understanding is this tends to be at quite advanced stages, not with the level of cognitive declines that are being reported as side effects of covid-19.

Some of my parent friends re-post things on social media about how young kids can be very good all day at school and then come home from school and have a meltdown. This is also a possibly relevant comparison, since the assertion (and it seems to have some valid research backing it up, from what I can tell?) is that kids use a lot of mental processing energy in being well behaved at school all day, and just run out by the end of the day. The point of comparison being the relatively diminished ability to do this sort of emotional/mental processing that adults are reporting experiencing either as a result of pandemic stress, as a side effect of covid-19, or the combination of the two. Another posited contributing factor to kids having home-from-school meltdowns is that if their parents are loving and supportive, then home is a safe environment for them to express difficult feelings. An underlying assumption seems to be that kids need to learn emotional processing skills beyond wailing and crying and potentially thrashing about and hitting if a much larger adult tries to hold them or move them or something in a way that they aren't comfortable with but aren't able to verbally express their discomfort with due to the overall meltdown. This is a bit different from the incidents of verbal and physical abuse of service workers that are being reported. Yes, both are meltdowns in a sense, but the kid version is not aimed at the parent and doesn't involve targeted hurtfulness toward someone else in the way that the adult versions seem to be aimed at causing hurt or harm toward others. That is, the kid is releasing negative emotions in a disruptive way, but just kind of generically into the room and the parent just sort of happens to be there. While the adult is specifically releasing negative emotions onto the service worker. (Or onto other drivers on the road.)

If you ascribe to the idea that humans are by nature mean to each other, and that cruelty and dominance behaviors need to be trained out of people or reigned in through learned skills and through ongoing mental effort, then I can see where it would look like I'm trying to make a false distinction in the last paragraph. This is like Lord of the Flies - specifically, what I have read here on Metafilter is a popular misreading of Lord of the Flies as making a statement about human nature, rather than a statement about the institutional failures of British boys boarding schools. In contrast, we had a post a couple/few months ago about a group of Tongan boys (from an entirely different culture) who really were stranded on a deserted island for 15 months, but who acted with kindness and compassion toward each other and made sure to cooperatively take care of each other, despite being only kids still, and being in a very stressful and new situation. Do we think that the cognitive issues people in the US are experiencing as a result of pandemic stress and/or covid-19 effects leave them with less capacity for social and emotional processing than 13-16 year old boys stranded on an island and forced to survive on their own with almost nothing? In the town I live in, there's an organization that provides supportive housing and work for adults with mental impairments that would preclude them living independently, and that in many cases mean that folks cognitive development is comparable to kids or teenagers. Several folks I know work for the organization, eg. keeping an eye on things at the homes overnight. The organization's clients are your normal mix of kind to mean as you see with everyone (or saw, pre-pandemic), and are quite rarely verbally or physically abusive of others even when out in the community on their own. Do we think that the pandemic or covid-related cognitive issues that people in the US are experiencing leave them with less capacity than folks who have been deemed too mentally impaired to live on their own as adults?

In my experience, a lot of people in the US aren't actually very kind people, and it has been perception of social or other consequences that has kept them from being assholes to more people in the past. They have developed the habit of soothing their negative emotions by transforming them into anger or cruelty that they take out on others, and so keeping themselves from doing so does require cognitive load, and anything that negatively impacts that could indeed lead to them acting more abusively more often to more other people. But, both in my experience and based on comparisons across cultures, this seems to be a cultural phenomenon not an innate human characteristic. Plenty of other people are conflict averse by nature, and for them, it would require greater cognitive load to start a fight. Plenty of other people have more inwardly destructive responses to stress and negative emotions. Blowing up at someone else is a learned stress response, albeit an unfortunately common one in our culture. Which means that while cognitive issues may or may not be affecting at whom, how, and how often people who respond to negative emotions and stress by being cruel or abusive toward other are doing so, they aren't causing the behavior. Not being clear about that distinction - eg. by attributing QAnon spread to widespread undiagnosed schizophrenia; implying that the negative mental health effects caused by capitalism help cause the negative behaviors rewarded by capitalism (rather than the other way around); postulating an as-yet unknown environmental contaminant such as (but not equal to) lead, or statins, or toxoplasmosis, etc. as a cause of increased abusive behavior targeted fairly narrowly (although expanded in scope a bit from pre-pandemic times) to service industry workers or others where the personal consequences will not be as major (in our currently highly polarized social climate); or suggesting that increased substance abuse, masks making communication more difficult, the 'fight' option in our fight or flight reflex, or pandemic PTSD are related without also mentioning underlying causative factors or clearly indicating that related =/= causative - I think risks stigmatizing mental illness, stigmatizing neurodivergence, or excusing abusive behavior. Again, this is almost certainly not what folks had in mind in making the comments I allude to, and many of you probably agree with me and what I've getting out of your comments is really not what you intended... thus this call for caution and care in how we discuss this topic.
posted by eviemath at 3:50 PM on November 9, 2021 [12 favorites]


eviemath, carbon dioxide doesn't just impair intelligence.
In both experiments, CO2 inhalation significantly increased negative affect; state anxiety and fear; symptoms of panic; and systolic blood pressure/heart rate. Overall, CO2 inhalation produced robust anxiogenic effects and impaired fronto-executive functions of cognitive flexibility and working memory.
There's a whole host of effects that have been observed, and even mildly excessive CO2 has an effect on things like strategic thinking, information usage, strategy and crisis response.

In sufficient quantities, CO2 can induce panic attacks in people who are physiologically incapable of feeling fear.

Less intelligent people aren't ruder or more violent, but frightened people do tend to be.
posted by MrVisible at 4:41 PM on November 9, 2021 [9 favorites]


MrVisible, that is definitely a more nuanced and better sourced description than the initial comment on the topic upthread that I was responding to. I appreciate your taking the time to assemble the links. Ultimately, I don't think it's relevant to the present discussion, though I see the connection (and, correspondingly, I do have a similar critique of your last statement).

How people act when frightened depends in large part on what sort of responses they've learned and practiced for managing stress and negative emotions - what are the habits they fall back on. A lot of that is culturally dependent.

Of course, if increased CO2 harms the right (or wrong?) parts of the brain, it can, concurrently with causing anxiety or fear, cause increased aggression and decreased impulse control, leading to increased likelihood of violent or abusive behavior for more purely physiological rather than culturally-influenced reasons - similar to some types of traumatic brain injuries, or over-use of some types of steroids. However, atmospheric CO2 levels are not high enough yet for that to be a likely cause of the increase in abusive behavior toward service industry workers under discussion. In particular, as with other physiological causes of increased aggression and decreased impulse control, I'd expect to also see increased incidence of that behavior in circumstances where the people behaving abusively would experience negative consequences for their actions if it were a factor. So it's an interesting discussion, and certainly something to add to the list of things to be concerned about with global climate change; but in the current context, postulating it as a causative factor also runs the risk of excusing abusive behavior.
posted by eviemath at 6:03 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


For more proof that there really is a disproportionate shittiness coming from one side, the Vermont GOP has just scheduled a "Let's go Brandon" rally (i.e. 'f*ck Joe Biden') in the town of Brandon.

Yes, the Republicans promote shittier policies than the Democrats do, but I honestly don't understand what makes this story an example of "disproportionate shittiness coming from one side." Is it that it's "low class"? Is it that the office of the presidency needs to be respected? Is it that the rally was organized by party officials?
posted by cinchona at 6:21 PM on November 9, 2021


Yes, the Republicans promote shittier policies than the Democrats do, but I honestly don't understand what makes this story an example of "disproportionate shittiness coming from one side."

It could be because making rallies that use childish code to say "Fuck Joe Biden" are really pathetic. You know, dislike for Trump got people out to vote, but people who voted against Trump don't usually spend all their spare time organizing rallies to say "Fuck Trump."

The point is that these people will pointlessly waste time, egg on disaster, and then cry when disaster blows up in their face, and the only thing they have to bring to the table is anger and wrecking shit.

Many of these Republican voters are hurting. Financially, medically, spiritually. They couldn't be fucked to make a plan that addresses any of those things, they'd rather run around being children speaking in code so daddy doesn't get mad when they say "Fuck Joe Biden." Shit, I'd have more respect for all this useless bullshit if they actually just said "Fuck Joe Biden."

I don't have a problem saying it, because really, fuck that old piece of shit who made student loans non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. I can say it and I voted for the stupid ass. Fuck Joe Biden.

No, these losers can't even imagine a world where you say something like that about someone you voted for.

There is disproportionate shittiness because one side literally thinks they only thing you do is politics is "own the other side" and they don't care how much they hurt themselves and others as long as they get to chant "Let's Go Brandon" like the petulant fucking children they are.

It's not low-class, it's the actions of fucking children who aren't mature enough to be taken seriously.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:02 AM on November 10, 2021 [31 favorites]


Tipping rates totally flatlined and plummeted per unit of work or customers served. Like the decrease in take home tips was dramatic and impossible to ignore especially considering the extra stress and bullshit of having to be in put in the place of playing mask cop and on the front lines of that bullshit.

I think this maps to my idea and observation that all of the nice, polite people were staying home and it was mainly the jerks and entitled assholes that were still going out.


I increased my tips from 20% to 20-30% the last couple years because I'm so thankful people are still working in restaurants, but that's probably more than offset by the fact that my wife and I only went to restaurants to pick up to go orders and even that was about a tenth as much as we used to go to restaurants. Sorry to say it, but the people you think are assholes probably saved restaurants during the pandemic.

I wonder what would have happened if restaurants had banded together and made a concerted effort to abolish tipping during the height of the pandemic?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:07 PM on November 10, 2021


Sorry to say it, but the people you think are assholes probably saved restaurants during the pandemic.

Oh, no arguments about that. This is like Capitalism in the Service Industry 101. It's part of the restaurant industry even without a pandemic.

But this doesn't really do anything to mitigate how much more difficult and draining the work was to do especially when it involved doing things like washing dirty dishes during a pandemic and possibly even catching C19 from work. It was already hard work, and the distinct lack of more polite customers made it especially difficult because there was a lot less appreciation and positive feedback.

Also less take home cash despite restaurants that were open in my area being at or above mandated capacity and having to turn away customers until enough tables cleared.


Also, I rightfully walked into a minefield when clumsily trying to equate intelligence with kindness, politeness, or rudeness. I would like to explicate this and walk it back away from the loaded word "intelligence" and the ableism that this inherently implies.

That was not my intent or what I was trying to say at all.

I'm trying to articulate a difficult concept and maybe it would have been better to use an analogy like running out of spoons or something like that, and considering I seem to be struggling with depression and symptoms of brain fog myself this is a nuanced thing that has been difficult to put into objective or clinical terms.

My main point is that people have been behaving particularly badly or more erratically, impulsively or otherwise less patiently and there's been symptoms of this in lots of different public domains ranging from runs on toilet paper to driving more aggressively, or more prone to verbally lashing out. There's also been a dramatic increase in gun related violence and violent crimes in general during the pandemic.

And yes, correlation is not causation.

My general statement and question that I'm trying to articulate is a What If - what if there's something more than just the social pandemic stress and social disruption going on with cognitive issues directly due to C19 and how that might affect social behavior.

More importantly my line of questioning and thought about this is how could we even quantify or define this concept that C19 and asymptomatic or mild cases of infections itself is causing cognitive or emotional behavioral disturbances that are manifesting in increasing amounts of social stress and a lack of mindfulness - something that was already lacking in the general public of the US in particular - and how to define it as its own problem and issue that's more than just the social stress and isolation of trying to endure the pandemic.

Because parts of all of this have felt like a very slow motion zombie apocalypse or epidemic or something. To me huge parts of this have felt like watching the scenes of public panic out of a movie like The Day After or Threads, or maybe when the Vogons from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy show up to destroy the Earth or something when people run screaming into the streets - but slowed way down and just a few people at a time, and instead of it happening all at once in 15-30 minutes it's happening with just a few people at time over months and now years, and it's slowly becoming the new normal and status quo and easier to ignore than something more dramatic than 30 minutes of panic due to whatever.

If there is a behavioral and neurological component to endemic C19 infections it could explain a lot of this behavior.

I am not at all trying to make blanket statements that a lack of intelligence of intelligence automatically makes people meaner. I'm not at all saying that neurodivergent people or people with mental health issues are more dangerous or prone to violence. Not at all.

I am trying to say that if people who were normally typical who suddenly did have new behavioral or cognitive health issues whether they were subtle or acute who didn't have the experience or coping strategies to function with them and who would never stop to consider that their own emotional behavior and health may be declining may not even know that they were acting impulsively, reactionary or otherwise out of their baseline.

We have historical precedence of large scale emotional and mental health issues causing broad social problems with things like the use of lead in gasoline and the decline of these problems after leaded gasoline was phased out.

Another similar and analogous scenario might be seen in the behavioral epidemic of methamphetamine addiction fueling crime ranging from petty theft to outright violence and psychosis.

This is the kind of thing I'm trying to articulate, here. How we didn't really make the connection between violent crime rates and lead poisoning and brain damage mostly after the fact, and while it was happening and leaded gas was still the default we couldn't see the proverbial forest for the trees.

Because as difficult and thorny as this "What If?" is - mental health and cognitive issues like this definitely do have an effect on the broader social climate and behavioral issues, and if this idea that behavioral issues can be directly caused by C19 infections is true it's going to have consequences on our culture and society for years and decades to come.
posted by loquacious at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2021 [3 favorites]


I'd think anything that C19 causes in terms of mental health issues would be masked be all the other factors. Between stress, social isolation, and fear it feels like at least half of us are living entirely in our amygdalas right now. Many of us are locked into emotional reasoning and reaction and can't engage in analytical thinking to check our emotional reactions. Our social reinforcement of community oriented behavior is somewhat broken as well. I know I'm having to consciously break myself out of loops of thought that normally don't occur so often. I not only miss spending time with friends, I miss the emotional regulation I get from spending time with friends. I'm actually rusty at just conversing right now even though I've been spending more time socializing the last few months.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:25 AM on November 12, 2021


It may be useful to remember that not everywhere has had the sort of shitshow response to the pandemic that the US has had. A number of countries had more widespread infections due to maybe some poor choices about public health measures, but otherwise have relatively robust social safety nets, including generally better income supports as well as pandemic-specific income supports. A number of other countries had both relatively successful public health measures and robust social safety nets. And some countries did better at general population testing, as well, so there are some places where you might have a better sense of who had truly mild (not clinically mild) or asymptomatic cases. So you could control for other things that have been pandemic-related stressors for many people in the US by also studying other countries. It would probably require a large and expensive study, kind of on the order of the study of mask wearing interventions that there was another post about the other week? (Given that they did some testing to see actual rate of infections in the various villages in their study, those might be some reasonable locations to study pandemic outcomes as well, actually?)
posted by eviemath at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2021 [3 favorites]


However, I've also gotten the impression that some folks think that there is a causal (albeit likely only partially so) relationship between a hypothesized widespread cognitive decline and a decline in social cohesion, potentially leading to the failure of the US as a nation, but more immediately leading to an increase in incidents of verbal abuse to physical assaults such as are described in the fpp article. So, regardless of the examples that have been focused on more in this discussion thread, it sounds like some folks are, ultimately, arguing that cognitive declines => verbal abuse and violence. Albeit mostly indirectly or by implication.

I do want to circle back to this point and underline something different: the argument I was trying to articulate upthread is more along the lines of "man, if only the cumulative stress from Covid19 was only sapping the processing speed of everyone in the world right now and making folks run ideas through their heads slower. That would be better than what we have now, in the sense of a wide-scale traumatization of many many people, because not only does trauma make it harder to think flexibly, but traumatized people are constantly winding up in recurring conflicts that would probably be less frequent if people weren't coping with an over-sensitized nervous system. And those recurring conflicts can, suprise.... inflame and create deeper conflicts which produce new stressors and traumatize more people. We will be watching the results of the mass stress and losses of trust caused by COVID for decades.

The other point I was trying to make is that someone whose emotions are doing a thing may or may not have any impairment in the other cognitive skills they can bring to bear, and that people often retroactively fill in cognitive reasons for their emotional responses instead of the other way around. So if you have a bunch of people who are very good at verbal reasoning and rhetoric, say, and you traumatize them around a topic, you can wind up with a bunch of people who are very good at rhetoric having outsized and exaggerated responses to stimuli that might or might not be a new and improved threat...... which means that other people are maybe more likely to be convinced and go along with it.... which can also be counterproductive.

I will note that the way I think of "intelligence" or "IQ", given that these are loaded terms, as being sort of like.... processing speed and facility picking up new ideas or processes. This does not necessarily create new inferences or ideas, if you're not interacting with different concepts that you can put together. Nor does it inherently create understanding or skill. I have friends with TBIs and cognitive declines; they are still very capable of coming up with new insights that make me drop my jaw and go "holy shit, yes, of course!" because they are still people who are accessing a different subset of human experience than I do, so they have a different perspective on the world. Intelligence can speed some things up but it is not really very useful in the long run, I think.

Blowing up at someone else is a learned stress response, albeit an unfortunately common one in our culture.

I am actually not sure this is correct? I'm basing that off my experience with toddlers, animals, and--ah, myself--in that externalizing stressful experiences by melting down completely is pretty common, and once you are melting down you're probably externalizing those results. I would actually guess that consequences for externalizing training people to internalize their negative emotions and processes for stress.
posted by sciatrix at 3:56 PM on November 12, 2021 [5 favorites]


Agree with almost all of the above. Regarding the last paragraph, what I was saying is that I see a distinction between melting down in a way that coincidentally happens to negatively impact others versus blowing up at others. If my cat scratches me when it is being held while experiencing stress (an unrelated sudden loud noise, or that I’m trying to trim its very sharp nails and it doesn’t want that), it’s not because my cat is trying to hurt me - the cat is just trying to get out of the situation and has limited options for how to make that happen; that I get hurt is an unintended side consequence. Same with most toddler meltdowns I’ve seen. Lashing out with intent to cause harm to others is also an externalized response to negative emotions, yes, but not every externalized emotional response is directed at causing harm to others. It is the particular type of externalized response that is specifically directed at or intending to cause harm to others that I was claiming was a learned rather than innate response. (And, as I noted, I do think that it’s common enough in US cultures that its non-inevitability can be difficult for folks to see or believe in.)
posted by eviemath at 5:56 AM on November 13, 2021 [4 favorites]


I've heard that vet clinics are having a particularly hard time now

Yup. I work in a vet clinic and I got a call from a client demanding to be seen right at closing. He was belligerent and even offered to "make it worth your while". I felt bad for saying no, but...that's not how that works.
posted by cozenedindigo at 3:00 AM on November 14, 2021 [5 favorites]


I wonder what would have happened if restaurants had banded together and made a concerted effort to abolish tipping during the height of the pandemic?

Would restaurants even WANT to abolish tipping? Tipping benefits restaurants by keeping payroll lower.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2021 [6 favorites]


As if we needed it, a new example of deranged public anger: a woman doesn't like a comedian's jokes so she jumps on stage to tell him so.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:18 AM on November 15, 2021


I mean, people jumping up on stage to do shit is not really that new.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on November 15, 2021 [3 favorites]


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