When Is Snark Just Mean?

Snark is the engine which runs the Internet. A portmanteau of “snide” and “remark,” snark are those vaguely mean, often hilariously funny comments you’ll find in tweets and blog posts from one end of the ‘net to the other. I’m a big fan of snark; it’s an integral part of both my personal brand and Roundpeg’s branding. All of us who run the voice of Roundpeg enjoy incorporating a little gentle fun into our marketing materials.

But where do we draw the line? When does snark pass from harmless fun into something much more insidious and cruel? At Roundpeg, we’ve got a few simple guidelines that help us keep our snark positive:

  • Don’t name names. When possible, obscure or hide identifying details. There’s nothing more mortifying than realizing people have been talking about you. Pull out the lessons people’s boneheaded actions can teach your readers, but don’t drag the hapless person down into the mud. Chances are, they know they’ve screwed up. Don’t rub salt in.
  • Look at the benefits. Ask yourself what you gain by being hurtfully snarky. In most instances, when you want to get in that really cutting statement that shows your frustration with the universe, there are only downsides. You could offend people. Hurt them. Make them think you’re irritating. Always look at what upshot there is to writing something that’s purposefully mean. Chances are, there isn’t one.
  • Poke fun at yourself first. You are always a safe target. Self-deprecation is fantastic. It lets you reveal hilarious mistakes and be very human at the same time. Don’t be afraid to snark at yourself…but don’t be mean to yourself, either. It can  be uncomfortable to watch from the outside when someone castigates themselves. But making fun of yourself for a silly mistake? Let us all commiserate together.
I’m a defender of snark. I firmly believe in snark and will never give up my sarcastic ways. But snark doesn’t have to be hurtful. Keep a few simple guidelines in mind and you can have a brand that’s flip and funny without being cutting and cruel.

photo credit: Sham Hardy via photo pin cc