The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word conversation as the “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.”
Similarly, the Cambridge dictionary describes conversation as the “talk between two or more people in which thoughts, feelings, and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information is exchanged.” It also provides a sample sentence: “Because of television, many people have lost the art of conversation.” If this is true, the same can be said of social media exchanges: Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms have replaced meaningful conversation with impersonal typed comment threads.
Indeed, social media offers a platform to make statements that you may not – or likely would not – voice in person. Unlike a conversation with your neighbour at the corner store, you can be anonymous and unknown. Unfortunately, some people choose to use this anonymity to respond to online ideas, opinions, and questions with insults and attacks.
In my opinion, one of the most hateful and disrespectful terms online is NIMBY – an acronym for Not In My BackYard which can be used either as an adjective or as a noun. If you say that someone has a NIMBY attitude (the adjective), you are criticizing that individual’s views for not wanting something – like a new road, housing development, or prison – built near their home. If you call someone a NIMBY themselves (the noun), it is often considered to be condescending, derogatory, and quite frankly, rude.
Either way, the term NIMBY is often directed toward those who are simply asking questions or wanting clarification.
Barry Parr, the editor and publisher for a California community news site called Coastsider.org, summarizes my thoughts best when he writes:
“Personally, I don’t find the label [NIMBY] useful. But if you insist on using it, why must it be so applied to opponents to one type of activity in one’s backyard (development) and not another (conservation)? When will we accept that every proposal must stand on its own merits – including its relationship to its environment – and that name-calling has no place in our community?”