Snark. It sounds nasty. It even has the word “narc” in it. Maybe the spelling should be changed to “snarc.” It also closely resembles the term “shark.” What do sharks do? They are predators out for blood, and they can kill.
I think snark should be added as a 23rd way you can identify destructive narcissists online (see CZBZ’s awesome article about the 22 indicators of destructive narcissism).
I’m not talking here about humor. Humor lubricates social interactions and makes you laugh. It may poke fun, but when it does, it’s lighthearted ribbing. It doesn’t tear down or destroy. Having a good sense of humor is a great thing. It’s good to be able to take a joke at your expense too, as long as it’s lighthearted and you know the person means no harm. Friends rib each other all the time, and it shouldn’t be taken personally.
I’m talking here about mean-spirited snark. You know, the “I’m so cool/mighty/smart/right and you’re a worthless loser/idiot/lunatic/minion of Satan” kind of condescending “wittiness” that makes you feel like the most lowly piece of pond scum in the lake. You find yourself wondering whether the jokesters are really joking (and you’re just being too sensitive) or are just plain mean. Well, they’re actually both. They are trying to confuse you, control you, make you doubt yourself, and tear you down–all in the name of “fun.” Snark is not fun. It’s nasty and mean. It’s not a social lubricant-it’s a weapon.
Snark is a form of bullying. It’s usually is participated in by several people at one time against one person. It’s a favorite tool of narcissists, trolls and bullies, who want to appear as if they’re not attacking you, when really, they are. They are showing their “superiority” over you. A narcissist will not apologize or take responsibility for their cruelty. If you object, you will be told you’re “too sensitive,” have no sense of humor, or misunderstood what they said. You may be told YOU are responsible for your NORMAL reaction to their attack.
I would like to give an example of what snark is. One of the bloggers who targeted me after I wrote that controversial article they objected to wrote a post that copied mine word for word but replaced some of the words. The intended effect of the post was to compare me to Hitler. The post was removed by the author after I suggested I might have a case for plagiarism. I took screenshots of it, but I’ll spare you. I also don’t want to identify the blogger and thereby stir up the pot again. Of course, the blogger’s excuse was that it was a joke and I overreacted. The sycophants chimed in.
Comparing me to Hitler by using my own words against me and twisting them around and replacing some of them is not funny. It’s mean-spirited and nasty. It’s something a narcissist would do.
A person with a true and honest sense of humor would not laugh at something like that. They would be horrified.
The Internet is full of snark. Sometimes snark is okay. If the snark is directed at a public figure, an institution, or someone most people perceive as an enemy (such as Osama bin Laden, Charles Manson, or Jodi Arias) then I say fine. It can be funny to laugh about the things that frighten us, even if the humor is dark or mean spirited. I have a whole page dedicated to jokes about narcissists. The intention isn’t to demonize narcissists per se, but to make them appear less frightening and thereby remove some of their power over us. It doesn’t target individuals–it targets a destructive way of being in the world. If you take offense to it, then you’re probably a narcissist yourself. But no one is calling you one personally.
Snark should stop there. It’s never okay to target an individual (who isn’t a public figure) just because you disagree with an opinion of theirs or don’t like them personally. If you dislike someone, it’s best to ignore them (or simply tell them you disagree with them) without attempting to tear them down through belittling “humor”, which is a form of gaslighting. Making someone question their reality or feel bad about themselves, or attributing evil motives to them when you don’t know their story doesn’t make you look cool. Intelligent people with a shred of empathy won’t be laughing. Using snark against someone you dislike or don’t agree with says a lot more about the perpetrator than it does about the target.
Objecting to snark directed against you isn’t overreacting. It’s normal. A non-narcissist will never target a person they dislike or disagree with using snark. They will disconnect from that person or explain in a civil manner why what you said offended them and leave it at that. They won’t start a hate campaign using “humor” against you. They won’t use others as flying monkeys to gang up on you.
ETA: a word about the flying monkeys.
Flying monkeys of the snark perpetrator may not be narcissists themselves. They could be friends or supporters of the narcissist who started the smear/snark campaign. They could fear the wrath of the narcissist should they not cooperate. They might perceive the narcissist as the real victim (because they were already friends with them in the first place or the narc is very glib and convincing). Or they just could dislike the target for their own reasons–maybe they don’t like the fact the victim’s blog uses a Times Roman font instead of Helvetica. Maybe they hate the fact you run ads or sometimes write about furries.
All this doesn’t mean what the sycophants and flying monkeys are doing is right. If they’re not narcissists, they probably feel some guilt about joining a hate campaign to victimize someone, but they also could be so brainwashed they’ve come to believe the target deserves the attacks on them.