Just about every blogger can identify with the frustration. You write an article that is kind and well-reasoned and, at least in your estimation, displays the fruit of the Spirit’s work in your life. With some excitement you share this article with the world and, yet, within minutes, you face a barrage of comments that immediately turn it into a battlefield. The entire tone changes from kindness to all-out warfare. While bloggers have rightly been criticized for being too negative at times, blog commenters can be equally ruthless. You don’t have to keep a blog to be a large part of the problem.
A reader recently sent an email in which he identified just this issue in Christian blogs.
While the content of the articles of the blogs I read is usually discerning, gracious, loving, and “seasoned with salt, giving grace to those who hear”, the comment threads are commonly not NEARLY marked by the same Christlike characteristics, but are rather characterized by sarcasm, anger, backbiting, and sometimes, what even appears to be out and out hatred.
I’d like to address this briefly today in the hope that I can help us all think well about how we interact online.
One of the strange realities of the Internet is that it gives us the illusion of being somewhere together, and yet at the same time it dehumanizes us. We speak of the Internet as “cyberspace“—a space or place where we go and gather. We tacitly understand that the Internet provides a level of interactivity that was not present in many of our previous means of communication. And yet even as we believe that we are actually somewhere together, we ignore the rules that govern the way we communicate when we are face-to-face. In this relationship mediated by computers and blogs, kindess, gentleness and self-control seem irrelevant.
Do you see the tension here? We feel like we are together in a real relationship, and yet we dehumanize the person we communicate with. This leads to exactly the kind of ugliness that reader identified.
There is one part of the problem. The second part of the problem is much older than the Internet: We underestimate the power and importance of our words.