Are you an online coward?
Posted by Pete
It’s been interesting to follow the recent controversy dubbed ‘Yumi-Gate‘, where hosts of The Circle Yumi Stynes’ and George Negus’ comments on air about war hero, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, has met with a barrage of backlash. Extreme vitriole was levelled against Yumi Stynes in particular, and most of it online. Certainly what they said was silly and insensitive, but as this opinion piece in the SMH notes, enough is enough. Given that they had apologised personally to Corporal Smith and were forgiven by him, it’s equally amazing just how unrelenting the hate-campaign has been.
We certainly live in a different world now. Social media is an instant, constant, global, and permanent way of expressing one’s opinion and creating a ‘mob-mentality’. Witness the hate-campaign against former Masterchef contestant Joanne Zalm, or the backlash against Kyle Sandilands. Or a little closer to home, any time a Christian expresses a view in the public forum, scroll down to the comments section and you’ll see just how angry, irrational and excessive the comments are from those who disagree.
Why is it that Twitter, Facebook posts, comments and blogs open the proverbial Pandora’s Box when it comes to hate-speech? Quite simply it’s because we are cowards. It’s easy to shoot a verbal arrow at someone when you’re hiding behind an online wall of safety. Most of what’s said would not be said if it were a face-to-face confrontation or debate. Social media has given a whole bunch of cowards a voice, and the democratic nature of publishing nowadays has ensured that all opinions are treated equally, even if they are cowardly, irrational or hate-filled.
I’m not here to change all of that with this post. I just want to challenge God’s people to be different. It’s easy to ‘vent’ on Twitter and Facebook. It’s easy to post a thoughtless comment or a blog-post, knowing that people are going to read it, but not realising that we might hurt someone in the process. It’s far easier to post a comment or a tweet rather than give a personal and gentle rebuke, if rebuke is actually necessary.
This is a challenge for me as well as for you: don’t post anything critical against someone unless you have explored other means of giving them that feedback. If you really feel like someone on Facebook needs a piece of your mind, why not privately message them? I’ve received a few of these in the past and have been grateful to be able to consider them. Sometimes I’ve posted thoughtless words and have had people private message me about that and was then able to pull the messages off the wall.
Just because we’re not using our literal ‘tongues’ doesn’t mean that God cares any less about how poisonous our words can be (James 3:6). Let’s not be cowards and hide behind technological walls.