Jan 282010

thumper“If ya can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

This post is obviously going to be a bit of a rant. I can do that. It’s my blog.

I’m often dismayed at the things people will say when they’re protected (as they suppose) by the anonymity of the internet. Blogs, message boards, comments on news articles, Facebook, Twitter… you name it…. there is a plethora of publicly accessible places to post cyber graffiti. They’re inhabited by the nameless and faceless, tapping away at keyboards to express their opinions on subjects ranging from music to basketball, religion to French cuisine, politics to childrens’ literature.

And as they so vehemently point out, they are entitled to their opinions and have the right to express them.

They also have the right to walk up to any stranger they choose on the street and tell him, face to face, that he’s downright ugly. In most cases it’s not gonna happen though and here’s why:

It’s not nice.
It’s not anonymous.

The same reasons should restrain what people choose to say on the internet. In the unreal world of cyberspace, athletes who lay it all on the line day after day and give everything they have are criticized for lack of effort; composers who bear testimony of Christ as best they can are mocked for their efforts (and no, I’m not talking about myself); leaders who devote as many hours to service as their critics seem devote to message boards are denigrated for their mistakes… the examples are legion. You know. You’ve seen it.

It’s not nice. Don’t believe for an instant that the target won’t feel the sting. I don’t know an internet user who has never done a vanity search. It’s human nature, and hey, it’s fun. Most of the time.

And cyber graffiti isn’t as anonymous as people might think. If you’re savvy enough, you can discover IP numbers and track the likely contributor. If you care enough to overturn rocks to find what lurks underneath.

It’s not likely to make much difference, ranting like this. It will only make me feel better to have said it publicly, with my name attached. But if it causes anyone–anyone!–to think twice before mounting an attack on another human being’s sense of worth, no matter how anonymous they feel or how tough the target may appear, well, I’ll have added my mite of kindness to the collective treasury of charity in the world.

An opinion is your right. Expressing it is your right. But sometimes it’s, well, not right.

Thumper was right.