Anonymity of the Internets

Blogger Tim Challies wrote a recent article about the high place anonymity holds in our day, and how easy it is to achieve it with technologies like the Internet. With the ease that anonymity can be had, accountability has become all the more important for Christians.

“Many bloggers and other Internet users value anonymity. A blog is understood by some to be a place of refuge and safety—a place where a person can post what is on his mind and on his heart while revealing little about who he truly is. It is a place to let loose with the anger and frustration. It is a place where a person can speak out to other people and about other people without ever having to look those people in the eye…Os Guinness says that, in former days, morality was accountability through visibility. Yet today many of us are able to remain invisible.”

There is lots more Challies says, so click here to read the rest of the article.

This concept of anonymity and accountability (or lack thereof) on the Internet has been something I have reflected on because of this blog and my browsing and commenting on other blogs. I have to ask myself if I am being a good ambassador of Christ if I am quick to anger and criticism? Does the ability for me to not use my real or full name give me permission to say whatever I want as abrasively as I want? I’ve also been on the receiving end of such communication on my small, unimportant blog. Anonymous users have totally ripped into me without leaving so much as a name. This opens up a whole other topic of how to respond to such people and comments.

Another concept of the Internet that is potentially dangerous if not thought through carefully is its immediacy. It is so easy for me to punch out a caustic, critical reply on an open forum or blog and hit “submit” without thinking twice about if I am responding out of anger or criticism.

I’m in process of writing a term paper/case study on the role of Christian blogs (specifically Reformed Christian blogs) as a tool for building community, and I am still sorting out arguments and thoughts. But one aspect of which I have been thinking is that community building is both additive and subtractive. It is additive in that positive, affirming comments are useful for building one another up and contributing to a positive atmosphere. Community is built through subtractive means as well, such as criticizing a supposed “outsider” for shoddy doctrine, poor biblical interpretation, or liberal views. This is a means of building community among those with similar views as an affirmation of those views. I’m not convinced that the subtractive tactic is beneficial or biblical, though.

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