Earlier this week I had a bit of fun with my wife’s phone. She works part-time and leaves for work in the early morning hours. In the blur of the early morning she forgot her phone, so I kept it with me all day in case anything important came up. Over the years I have seen many friends ‘hack’ the Facebook accounts of spouses, siblings, parents and friends. I thought it would be fun to write a few nice things about my wife on her Facebook page since her birthday is coming up…and because I think she is pretty swell. My little ‘trick’ was met with great approval from my wife’s friends. I found it interesting that several commented what I had written was the “best” thing they had seen on the internet all day.
Those comments pretty clearly point out that the internet can be a fairly negative place. Case in point, did you hear about former major league baseball player Curt Schilling being in the news this week? He recently took to Twitter to have a ‘proud papa’ moment about his daughter. His girl is 18 years old and had signed on to play softball with a university. His tweet was met with many congratulations and the occasional good natured college boy joker who said something like ‘I can’t wait to show her around campus.’ But there were a few internet trolls who went well beyond the realm of acceptable behavior when they started talking about raping Mr. Schilling’s daughter, etc.
As a Dad of girls I can identify with the rage he must have felt. In a blog post he channeled his inner Liam Neeson and said that defending his daughter was one of the few things he was willing to go to jail for. The young men who typed up these tweets were publicly outed with their real identities, the schools they attend, and their place of employment. It wasn’t hard to find. They have since been expelled from their universities, fired from their jobs, and released from the sports teams they were a part of. Their unacceptable behavior will be an enduring legacy anytime someone Googles their name. Online activities have real world consequences. These guys knew they weren’t joking around, they were just being ugly.
The internet can be a place where people are ugly. The anonymity and detachment provided by cyberspace allows many people to say things they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. People leave comments on photos, videos, and blog posts that go well beyond the realm of rude and crude. They are fooled into thinking that their words have no real world impact for themselves, the target of their derision, or those observing their behavior.
We recently attended an event at a local church where the Sunday morning sermon was titled “Ugly Christians.” It was a challenging lesson given by a young man about the impact of the words we say and type as Christians. Teens face unprecedented challenges in a landscape of new technology but adults also need to make sure they are not a hindrance to the cause of Christ with their online and offline activities. May we always check our motives, reasoning, and purpose with the things we post online and the conversations we have in the real world.
I have an informal personal policy that I use for online activities. You might have heard of it… if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. The public forum of social media is not the place to have a war of words. I know there are probably people who really enjoy the ‘sport’ of online word jousting, but I think it truly impacts our ability to reach out to people as Christians.
Look back at my online posts and you’ll find a hodge-podge collection of posts about my family, interesting things we are doing, funny things my kids say, great deals we want to share, posts about faith, and other things I find inspiring or interesting. All in all a pretty good collection of nice things. I’m not advocating that we bury our heads in the sand regarding tough issues, but there is a time, place, and method for these things to be handled in personal conversations. It is challenging to take a look back in the ‘mirror’ of our online activities to see if we are being lovely or ugly.
Of course one of the most lovely things we can do for our families is teach them about God. I hope that your family spends time studying the Bible on a regular basis. It is my hope that Written On My Heart – Week 9 will be a blessing to you in that endeavor.