I woke up Monday morning and did what I always do: turned off my alarm, stretched my arms (with the accompanying groans and screeches), said a quick Hail Mary, and then opened my social media applications to see what happened on the world wide web in the 6 and a half hours since I’d last checked in. I quickly learned the Grammy’s should’ve been called the “Sam Smith Awards,” that Kanye once again decided to interrupt someone’s acceptance speech (is anyone really that surprised?), and saw meme after meme making fun of Brian Williams’ on-air fibs about being shot down in Iraq. Nothing too out of the ordinary for a night on the Internet, to be honest. But then, there it was…the rabbit-hole of a Facebook post that so many had fallen down…
A guy I knew in college had posted a status the night before about how women should not wear tight pants in Mass for fear of leading men to lustful thoughts. His sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek (but for some reason infuriating to so many) status had garnered over 217 comments in the course of a couple hours (now 239 at the writing of this blog). Curious as to how many varying opinions there could really be over what was clearly meant to be a simple “let’s all do each other a favor and wear things that don’t accentuate the wrong area” I clicked on the comment box and began to read what everyone had said.
After just a few minutes of reading the dozens of comments that had incited World War Three on the World Wide Web, I wanted to destroy my phone, delete all social media accounts, and go live in a cabin in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania and stay off the grid forever.
For some reason, the Internet has become a fenceless playground surrounded by busy highways with cars full of chainsaws flying out the windows aimed right at the frolicking children within. It’s a madhouse out there – a place of baseless discourse with mud-slinging, defaming of peoples’ characters, and grandiose egos trying to out-shout each another.
It needs to stop. There’s no excuse, there’s no getting around it, and we can and should do better.
There is way too much that would take way too long to write about how we should treat each other on the numerous social media platforms so many of us employ each day. And if we’re being entirely honest, no matter what I (or others) say, and no matter how many times we say it, the sinful troll (which we all have) will occasionally (or sometimes frequently) succumb to concupiscent tendencies and hijack comment boxes, sub-tweet about enemies, and use passive aggressive hash-tags to make a point that doesn’t need to be made. Being cruel, rude, sarcastic, and judgmental on the Internet, in whatever capacity, is never acceptable. Even if you’re correct, and even if the person you are intensely engaging in debate with is rude to you first, there is never a justifiable reason to stoop to the level of base insults and unintelligent comments that are offensive and nasty.
My second grade teacher, Mrs. Tartamella, had a poster hanging in her classroom. It said “THINK” and explained what steps to take to filter your thoughts, words, and actions.
The Internet is a great place for posting cute pictures of babies, swapping new ideas about youth ministry, sharing your clever thought about Left Shark during the Superbowl halftime show, while also simultaneously bemoaning the worst play-call in history. It’s also pretty great for meeting the love of your life at the moment you least expect it (see Tommy McGrady for details). It can also be a place that gives us access to far too much far too quickly, and gives us a chance to say way too much before we’ve had the chance to fully think about the implications, which can hurts our souls, damages our friendships, and ruin reputations.
Ultimately, I think we should (and are capable of) letting the Internet be a place for honest, insightful, and engaging discourse. When we stoop to the level of baseless criticisms, trolling arguments, and rude gossip, then we have let the snake take up residence in the garden of the World Wide Web and sneakily corrupt us within a place that could be purposefully and joyfully used for the building of God’s Kingdom.
When we THINK before we comment, THINK before we tweet, THINK before we hashtag and filter, and THINK before we communicate with the methods most used today, then we can begin to sanctify the Internet and allow it to be a place where truth, beauty, and goodness can prosper and be effectively shared.