“By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them” – Prov. 14:3
I was reading from Proverbs this morning, and that verse made me think… that first line explains in part why discussion forums on the Internet don’t work very well. When I was a kid in school, if someone lipped off, said something stupid, there were consequences. If what was said was stupid enough, or the kid was just a little obnoxious but persistently so, the consequences often involved a good beatin’; the proverbial “rod for his back”.
Even in adult life, when people are talking face to face they tend to be more civil than the discourse you usually find on the Internet. People tend to be incredibly rude in what they write in comments on blogs, on YouTube, in discussion forums, emailed correspondence, etc… On the Internet, there is a level of anonymity and an unnatural buffer between the ‘speaker’ and the ‘hearer’ that makes people say things they wouldn’t necessarily say in person. It’s a lot harder to be a jerk when you can see your victim’s reaction, or be subject to their temper.
I’d like to think that I’m above that. That I’d not say anything here or in a forum or in an email that I wouldn’t say to someone face to face, but I know I have. And once it’s out there it’s difficult if not impossible to retract. So I guess the solution is to be more self-disciplined in what I write and say, no matter whether I’m online or sitting across the table from you.
Now, how do I get that message across to the rest of the Internet?