How often have we heard of the mistakes people are making by typing and sending before they think of the consequences? This is a well-written and humorous article written in the East Valley Tribune (“Spiritual Life” section) by Ronnie McBrayer, a syndicated columnist and well-known author about how modern spiritual life must include real social networking. Here’s some of what he has to say about real social networking.
My friend had not aimed his comment at me; it was directed at someone else. Further, he was being more sarcastic than sinister, more playful than mean-spirited, but it just didn’t communicate across the online superhighway. I apologized – profusely – and retreated to a corner of the World Wide Web with my foot, mouse, and keyboard in my mouth.
This whole incident, as minor as it turned out to be, is reflective of how we communicate and miscommunicate in the 21st century. For years I have noticed how people will say things in e-mails that they would never say to someone else’s face (good and bad), and I often warn my children about this as their thumbs blaze across the QUERTY keypads of their cell phones.
“Social networking” sites greatly magnify the effect, an effect now known as “online dis-inhibition.” We seem to lose our social restraint, our better judgment – sometimes we lose our minds completely – while hiding behind the pseudo-invisibility of the Internet and the digital airways.
A congressperson posts racy pictures to his account and scuttles his career; a middle-aged husband rattles all his marital skeletons online and ends up in divorce court; a high school football star loses his promised scholarship because of his Twitter rantings; a young woman can’t land a job because prospective employers Google her and deem her a liability: These are the realities, virtual and otherwise, of today’s world.
Later he goes on to talk about people’s faith and their responsibilities online.
People of faith may have more at stake in this issue than most, because faith fails in a hyper-individualized, self-centered world. Faith only flourishes in the environs of an authentic, unselfish community, not a virtual imitation where people hide behind their avatars.
I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that we cannot share text messages and shotgun blasted e-mails, and call these conversations; we would be better served by sharing a quiet cup of coffee and actually communicating with those around us. I know that if we spent more time looking people in the eyes, rather than through an LED display, the world would be a better place. And I know that we cannot “click” our way to real community, because friendships require actual presence, not page counts.
It is important to not only proof-read what you have just typed but also consider the consequences of what you are about to send. When I find I have little time to answer e-mails I opt not to answer them at that time so that these mistakes are not made. Another way to save both face and position is to read your message out loud as if you were saying it to that person. Would you say these words? Lastly, let’s get out of the computer room and get a life so that our modern spiritual life includes real social networking.
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