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Has America morphed from being a fundamentally optimistic nation to one with a disconcerting number of pessimists, some of whom are downright hostile? Lately it seems—at least to me—that some folks prefer to define themselves by an ever-expanding list of dislikes. Snarky blogs, email, and Web pages offer fertile grounds for broadcasting grievances, zingers, and diatribes often lacking in substance, decorum, and veracity.

Perhaps largely due to assumed impunity, online discourse can serve to polarize an already anxious, overwhelmed populace. After one exhausting day of work and mowing my rebellious lawn, I logged on to Facebook to witness a catfight between acquaintances unfold, thread by thread. At precisely that point, I decided it was time to disconnect from reality for a few days and wondered aloud, “Where did the good vibes go?” Well, to San Francisco, Calif., naturally.

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