Unbeknownst to the reveling hordes that descended this holiday season, the Vail Valley is not a snow globe come to life for two weeks each winter.  Sure, there are elements of fantasy to our quotidian existence, but largely we are immersed in that which is considered “real life.”  We chat briefly at school pick-up, converse quickly in the markets, yell hello across a lift line, but most of our interactions are inherently superficial as a consequence of our busy lives.

Either because we are too harried to have deep discussions in person or because we are loathe to share our thoughts face-to-face, our discourse is found increasingly online.  Forums like NextDoor and the Eagle County Classifieds group on Facebook provide opportunities to interface with a wide swath of the local population from the comfort of your couch or toilet seat.  Observation of these methods of communication has yielded revelations both affirming and concerning.

This is a community that bands together.    With everyone’s budgets operating on a razor-thin margin, both buyers and sellers are reaping benefits from the online markets for gently used baby clothing, sporting goods, furniture, and transportation.  Jobs being in constant flux, these arenas provide direct contact to potential employers, as well as advice on the relative merits of such employment.  One might even score a relatively affordable rental, although those postings tend to be inundated within minutes.

Apart from strict commerce, there is a wealth of insider information about cultural events, the best place to grab a slice, snow forecasts, and the other tiny tips and tricks that make life in the mountains a modicum easier.  If misfortune is to befall one of our community members, the collective action energized online is heartwarming to witness.  There are also postings that are rife with comedy, both intentional and not.

This is a community that tears itself apart.  The haters are everywhere, lurking in the shadows, ready to rip someone for their perceived Jerry-dom, for not being local enough, for leaving their trash can out a minute too late, for utilizing incorrect grammar (which is usually done by someone using poor grammar themselves), for the audacity to suggest an opinion that is different from one’s own.

These unnecessary nitpicks are bad enough for personal and collective morale, but it is the ad hominem abuses and the outright racist, misogynist, and violent views that make me recoil in horror.  There is one particular post that shocked me so greatly that I didn’t know whether to cry or scream, so I did both.  The author of the assault has since removed the post, but the fact that she believed her anti-Semitic views were appropriate for public consumption was beyond disturbing.

There is an oft-used maxim that one must take the good with the bad.  I am not one for directives, nor for easy distillations of complex matters.  Thus, I challenge the idea that we must accept the trolls in order to reap the benefits of a supportive community.  I welcome the cordial exchange of diametric views, but I cannot tolerate vicious attacks perpetrated by keyboard cowards.  As our recent history has clearly shown, it is not a far leap from a suggestion on a message board to a shooter in a synagogue.

If you want to start a constructive dialogue with me about any one of the many specific and potentially absurd viewpoints that I have expressed publicly or privately, I cherish the chance to kibbitz.  If you just want to tell me that I am an ugly idiot and that you wish my ancestors had never come to this country, we can still sit down to talk, but the coffee is on you.