Jim King column

I discovered “Judge Judy” on the day it first aired in 1996 and have watched it faithfully — probably obsessively — all the way through its 25-year run of new episodes and even now in reruns. 

Several episodes a day. 

The no-nonsense former family court judge presided over the mini-dramas that make up the fabric of so many lives — from automobile accidents to business deals gone awry to the fallout of love affairs ended. 

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda.” 

 Watching a man deny he keyed his ex-girlfriend’s car or sisters complaining their brother kept them away from their dying parents has engrossed me for a quarter of a century. 

“Do you know how you can tell if a teenager is lying? They’re opening their mouth.”

Part of the allure is my admiration for someone who can cut through the clutter and side stories that some litigants want to wallow in to get to the point of what can be resolved by a legal ruling. 

“Beauty fades. Stupid is forever.”

And just as big a part of it were the moments I would look at the litigants and shake my head and mutter thanks to the Almighty that my life has a whole lot less drama than those people’s. 

So very much of what made Judge Judy a television success was its ability to capitalize on the inability of so many people to deal with each other. 

That notion sprang into a full-blown idea as I watched a rerun last week where the defendant was countersuing over some Facebook posts by the plaintiff. 

Actually, it was more a question than an idea: Are we losing our ability to interact with other people (face to face)? 

I’m not pinning this question on the divisive politics of the last 5 years. That’s probably a by-product of my question. 

No, I’m thinking of our mass migration online over the last 30 years. 

It’s the ease of shopping online, posting on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or YouTube or TikTok or Instagram, and even texting that has me questioning. 

Online shopping eliminates our need to actually walk into a store and talk with a sales associate about what we want. Texting, posting and pointing-and-clicking all whittle into our face-to-face, or voice-to-voice, interactions. 

How many times over the last 10 years have you heard people say, “Oh, I just texted her so I didn’t have to put up with her attitude talking.” Or said it yourself? 

I have. 

We text and post because it’s less fraught with repercussions than saying something out loud to someone or a group you’re with.

And if we don’t like the feedback? Why, we just “unfriend” the person or get them kicked out of the group. That’s a whole lot easier to do from a computer or phone screen than in person. 

Now, please note, I’m not lamenting the passing of “the good ol’ days” (OK, maybe I am just a little). I’m just raising the question (at my keyboard rather than saying it loud to you face to face). And, I suppose, I’m hoping that I can raise your consciousness (and mine) to a fundamental change that’s occurring in our society. 

The buffer of living a cyberlife — texting and posting while we’re safely ensconced at home — makes it easier to speak brashly and ignore or reject feedback we don’t like.

Judy Sheindlin stepped down from her iconic show last summer (although she’s streaming a similar gig on IMDb TV). Maybe she made enough money off it. Maybe she was just tired of the grind of creating more than 8,000 new episodes of “Judge Judy.” 

Or maybe she just wasn’t the draw after 25 years because 10,000 competitors have risen up to her little pieces of life mini-dramas — not on one of those other judge shows on TV, but on YouTube and Facebook and all those other social media where people rant and fuss at each other and cellphone cameras capture the video snippets of people not being able to deal with other people in the 21st Century. 

And there’s no chance of the material drying up anytime soon.

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