I admit I'm not the cheeriest guy lately. But compared to some people, I'm perkier than Kelly Ripa with a large gift certificate to a high-end shoe store.

No, I'm not really sure where that came from, either. ...

I've pretty much had to stop reading online comments attached to my stories, because, as you know, the Internet has become a conduit of evil. Or, at least a forum for anonymous folks who like to point out how smart they are and how stupid everyone who disagrees with them is.

I don't need to hear how dumb I am. I have two preteen girls at home who have that base more than adequately covered.

But things are getting really nasty out there, and the Internet apparently isn't going away anytime soon. That we're in the middle of one of the most polarizing presidential races ever isn't helping, nor is an economy that, while seemingly in recovery, isn't coming back fast enough to please most people.

I can take a joke

Good-natured ribbing is one thing. I thrive on it. If I couldn't rib people, good-naturedly of course, I'm not sure I'd have anything to say. My wedding vows were sarcastic. I want Louis C.K. to officiate at my funeral.


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No, I'm talking about all the seriously nasty discourse. Most of it is on the Internet, which has pretty much erased the need to confront someone face to face. Look at the comments following any political story, or stories about people of color, or even sports stories. People are unhappy and ready to pin their troubles on the first demographic crossing their path.

It just confirms my belief that our purpose on Earth isn't to spend hours at a time on a computer, viciously debating someone you've never met over things neither of you can control. No, our purpose on Earth is obviously to watch reality TV and enjoy the nonscripted troubles of others.

A few simple gestures

So, short of joining hands across America and singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy," we need to do something about all this negativity. This isn't a plea for world peace. Peace and harmony would really get boring after a while. But we can do a few things to take care of our own end of the world. Because, as ironic as it sounds, there really is no better way to make yourself feel better than to do something nice for someone else. So take a deep breath and try:

Playing with your kids: This is an easy one, unless you don't have kids. Then you could play with someone else's kids ... at least until their parents call the police. Never mind. Play with your own kids. Nobody ever thinks on their death bed: "I just regret spending all that time with my children."

Paying someone's bridge toll: I've had people do this for me, and I can't tell you how uplifting it is. It's only a few bucks, but if it helps restore someone's faith in humanity, it's worth it. Plus you may stop a depressed person from stopping and jumping off the bridge, causing a very inconvenient traffic jam.

Talking to a homeless person: A little compassion for someone down on their luck can go a long way. Sure, they smell bad. They also might remember you when they win the lottery with that dollar you just gave them.

Saying hello to your neighbors: It makes it less likely they'll complain to the homeowners association the next time you have a party that results in a mushroom cloud over your backyard.

Being nice to animals: Especially ones that can kill you. Besides, they're not the ones making all those nasty comments online.

Contact Tony Hicks at thicks@bayareanewsgroup.com or at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks.