Is it just me, or have you noticed a real increase in downright meanness online these days?
While cruel and hateful words can rear their heads just about anywhere, unkindness is especially intense in the social media world. It seems the gloves can come off and a verbal free-for-all can explode at almost any time. Sadly, this is too often the approach of professing believers and non-believers alike. It can be sparked by even what may at first seem to be the most innocent of topics.
One article, fittingly titled “The Internet: It’s Like Never Leaving Junior High,” attempts to get to the bottom of this behavior. It mentions the human need for validation and the rather anonymous nature of online activity as major reasons why people feel the need – and the “safety” – to behave any way they wish. Combine this with the high level of unrest, dysfunction and general dissatisfaction present in society, and you’ve got a real problem. It’s not hard to see why name-calling and profanity-laced attacks regularly crop up in such interactive settings as Facebook, Twitter and the comments sections of various newspapers and blogs.
Of course, as Christians, we have the “head knowledge” that such behavior is incredibly destructive to our relationships, our integrity and our credibility. In fact, it’s a very unfortunate commentary on the culture as a whole. We’re also well aware that Christ calls us to set the standard when it comes to personal conduct and how we go about engaging individuals and the world around us. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all vulnerable to a damaging dig here and snipe there when someone or something sets us off. And even when we’re defending a moral principle we hold dear, it can be easy to lose perspective. We can verbally tear down others and get completely swept up in the heat of a particular debate or argument.
This is why, for those of us involved in social media, I think it’s helpful to take a hard look at our online behavior.
Does who we say we are in Christ line up with what we proclaim to our online friends (and foes)? Do our posts, status updates, comments, pictures, Tweets, etc. consistently and winsomely reflect His heart? Or do they undermine our ultimate mission and drive people further from Him?
I’d certainly be interested in hearing your thoughts.