Internet Debates??? Careful….

February 8, 2011

I have engaged in many internet ‘discussions’ in my life. I have had some wonderful discussions in which I formed friendships with complete strangers. But often things do not go as well.

One of the challenges that I have observed when it comes to discussing important subjects on the internet is that there is something about the forum that allows people to say and do things that they are unlikely to do if they are face to face. Otherwise sweet and kind people become snarky, rude and even mean when they silently sit behind a keyboard debating someone of a different world view.

This is where people TYPE IN ALL CAPS. Use more than one punctuation mark per sentence!!!!! Use hyperbole (e.g. “that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.”) And they never use sarcasm. And they start posting random links that will never be read (and often are not read by the people who post them).

I admit that I have been guilty of all these sins at some point in time (the double punctuation as recent as earlier today).

The bad thing about this is that the internet can be a wonderful forum for interaction. Christians often pray about how they can “share their faith”. I remember watching a Kirk Cameron video that taught a method of how to approach people on the street and tell them about Jesus. But the internet makes this so much easier. There are whole forums in which people are happy to discuss theology and philosophy. Christians, LDS, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, Scientologists and every other imaginable group can talk together. It is really a wonderful thing.

But it is only wonderful if ideas are truly being exchanged. If people are yelling. WITH ALL CAPS AND BIG PUNCTATION!!!! Hearts are never changed. In fact, it actually can have a hardening effect in which people become more committed – just to spite the other person.

Rodney Stark, a sociologist who has written several books about the rise of Christianity, rightfully pointed out that people rarely convert to a religion unless they have strong relationships with people within the religion. It is hard to develop a relationship online. It is impossible if you do not behave yourself.

So. Watch how you type. Use proper capitalization and punctuation. Avoid sarcasm and hyperbole. Be kind and generous. Read what the other person says. Before you type in anger, walk away from the computer for a while. Remember there is a real human being on the other side of that forum who has real feelings, a real background, and is truly impacted not only by what you write but how you write it.

{this post was mostly to myself.}

3 Responses to “Internet Debates??? Careful….”

  1. Mary Says:

    Oh, you are so right! In fact, I think news websites made a big mistake allowing folks to post comments about news stories. I have seen posts spewing hateful rhetoric generally with poor grammar, lousy spelling and inaccurate punctuation. They post things they would never say face-to-face. It’s as if all the crazies come out of the woodwork. It always reminds me of an exchange between “Josh” and “Donna” on “The West Wing” when Josh wants to respond to posts made about him:
    JOSH: Sit down we’re gonna post a response on the site.
    DONNA: No.
    JOSH: Yeah, we got to post a response to someone.
    DONNA: It’s a bad idea.
    JOSH: Why?
    DONNA: You don’t know these people.
    JOSH: Neither do you.
    DONNA: Oh, yes, I do.
    JOSH: What’s wrong with them?
    DONNA: Nobody knows.
    JOSH: These are people taking a very healthy interest in government. They should be applauded.
    DONNA: Then applaud them, but stay off the site.
    JOSH: These are the people talking. I’m not an elitist.
    DONNA: You are an elitist.
    JOSH: I am an elitist, but I have respect for people who don’t measure up.
    DONNA: People on these sites tend to be a little hysterical. And what Josh doesn’t know is that some of these people haven’t taken their medication. Let’s watch what happens now…..

  2. jen smith Says:

    What?!?!?!?!?! CRAZIEST BLOG POST EVER!!!!!!!

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