Does Blogging Bring Out the Worst in People?

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I don’t know if you have experienced it or maybe you have even done it yourself…a comment is made, a name is called, assumptions are thrown about as if it really didn’t matter. There is something about blogging that gets people to say things that they would never say in real life and treat people in a disrespectful way that they would probably never do to the person’s face. There is certain boldness that comes over a person who has a keyboard at their disposal to type whatever comes to mind with little or no concern for the repurcussions.

In real life if you insult someone you immediately see their reaction. You see the hurt look, experience the tears, and know that you have wronged someone or hurt them by your words. This doesn’t happen so apparantly and quickly in the blogging word. Words are posted in a comment that may or may not be read by the other person. What is more, tone is impossible to read from text on a screen and so even harmless comments are often taken with offense or as a personal attack. I don’t know what your experiences are but I have had people say demeaning things to me or about me and even made comments concerning doing physical harm to me (even if in a joking but not joking kind of way).

I don’t know about you but all this makes me pretty uncomfortable. People are people whether we are typing something to them or saying it to their face. You know Paul was once accused of being bold in his letters but not so much in person. But I doubt Paul would have stooped to the lengths many in the blogging world, even the Christian blogging world go. As Rex pointed out – what is so hard about disagreeing in peace? Do we really believe that those we disagree with deserve to be chastised?

I think we need to take inventory about our own blogging and email habits. We need to be in tune with the tone of what we type on facebook or on message boards. It is important that our character be strong and pure even if it is just text on a screen. Those words can do tremendously good and edifying things…or they can be very hurtful. Words matter and words are powerful. So let us all use them wisely and consider how they might come across if we took them off the comment we are typing and said it to the person’s face.

0 Responses

  1. Good topic. I feel that blogging is a way of writing the things we think or would actually say to one of our friends about the topics we choose to write about.

    So, yes, I am guilty, too.

  2. I have always thought about the way I and others misread what somone is actually saying because we cannot hear the inflections in their voice nor can we see the body language the other speaks with. Language (words) is meaningful and expressive but as long as it is wriiten and not spoken, it remains only partial communication.

    As for watching what we say… when I first started blogging, I found myself getting too caught up in debates (not dialogue). The result is that I found myself trying to argue simply to defeat the other. Not only do I think such a purpose is morally wrong, it was neither helpful to me nor to the people on the other end.

    What I like about your blog and the others I frequent is the dialogue that takes place. Even when we disagree, there does not seem to be an argumenative spirit about the dialogue as though we all are not on the same team (the way of our Lord).

    Grace and peace,


  3. Rex,

    That is one of the things I love about your comments and thoughts. They are thoughtful and respectful and always open to listen. We need more people like that. We also need more people who don’t think they have to be right on all issues, all the time.

  4. I don’t know about that last comment, Matt. I think I’m right about everything. I’ve been wrong about some things in the past, but then I changed my mind & now I’m right about those things, too. πŸ˜‰ Don’t we all think that way?

    I don’t always keep to it well, but I find a good rule of thumb is that little creed from our supposedly creed-less tradition: “speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.” I heard Buddy Bell say this once, but I too take this to mean that I wanna make a big deal out of the issues that the Bible makes a big deal about. And the issues that the Bible doesn’t make a big deal about, I’m not going to be as bold on those issues. It’s usually a pretty helpful way of thinking when a conversation might get heated when personal pride gets all tangled & in the way.

    I’ve definitely participated in some ridiculous scuffles. I find that blogs aren’t as bad as message boards, though. THOSE are the worst.

  5. Message boards are certainly the worst! That is a great rule of thumb and I think an excellent application of that Restoration principle that can really keep ourselves from getting in a pickle!

  6. Matt,

    You are more right on this than you know. Try having a civil on-line discussion with an atheist or a Calvinist sometime, and you’ll see some serious blowback.

    I call this phenomenon “internet courage.” The miles that separate bloggers and the warm blanket of anonymity seems to encourage people to show their backsides (figuratively speaking, of course) with abandon.

    When I started blogging I made a commitment to myself to never say anything on-line that I wouldn’t say in the exact same discussion face-to-face. It isn’t always easy, but so far I have kept that commitment.

  7. I was raised in a family that always appreciated dialogue and asking the question “why” rather than just assuming what you are hearing is right. That is good for the most part but it also lends itself to wanting to be right. It has been a hard and long lesson to learn, but sometimes you can show yourself as right but still loose in the bigger picture (I had to learn this in my marriage and now I have learned this in other spheres of life as well).


  8. The thoughts all of you are offering up or right on target. I think what Rex said has so much to do with it – that in his marriage he has learned that he can be right but still lose. Why are we willing to do that for a spouse? Because they are worth it and the relationship is too important to us to jeopardize over being right. Once we start seeing our relationships with those we encounter while online as valuable and them as valuable people it will be hard to talk the way we sometimes do because relationships should be too important to jeopardize over triviality. That is just a lot harder to see in someone you have never met who lives 1000 miles away than it is with your spouse but it is true nonetheless.

  9. Matt,

    I think one of the keys to avoiding this is to insist on not making or allowing anonymous posts. I had one person come after me pretty harshly about a year ago who was heavily questioning my integrity, but was refusing to say who they were, though they insisted that they “know me.” They were mad over one post I made, which was actually just mentioning a local dispute in my community, and the fact that I linked to a blog, they saw me as guilty by association.

    Since I stopped allowing anonymous posts that helped a lot. One other time, I had one (former) friend who publicly attacked me on his blog because I posted a video on FB which questioned Obama’s abortion stances.

    Basically, I try not to be overly critical of people and churches. That seems to be the best policy. Also, I’ve learned that politics for many people run deeper than friendship or faith, which is sad.

    You’re absolutely right, though, it is so easy to attack people because when it’s digital, it doesn’t feel like as real of a thing. I’ve known a lot of people who’ve hit the “send” or “submit” button much more hastily than they should have. Sometimes that’s been me.

    I’ve accumulated quite an impressive bank of drafts in blogger of angry rants and posts I thought about making, but decided not to. I hope that’s a sign of improving maturity that those posts haven’t been published.

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