…participation in online communities often provides a sense of satisfaction that actually dampens a willingness to interact with the real world. When you’re commenting with like minded souls you feel like you’re accomplishing something by arguing out the smallest details of your perfect future world, while the imperfect and actual world takes no notice, as is it’s custom. (Clay Shirky)
The delusion of participation, brought by the democratization of authority and competence that is the Internet. The idea that what I say is as important as someone who has put in the time and legwork to actually become an expert. That and that I fulfill my obligation of social participation by blindingly commenting upon and with, the faceless man; cloaked in the selfsame anonymity that I clothe myself in.
To close the circle even tighter and address the issue within my own self-identified Internet community of Reformed/Evangelical thought, Kevin Deyoung adds this,
…you represent Christ in a real way even if it is in the virtual world…So let’s all think before we post. If we go by the name of “little Christ” we ought to be careful to show a little more Christ.
…be careful little fingers what you post. The Internet is like God and like the devil. It sees all and forgives nothing. Knowing this, I will still tweet and blog, and I’m sure I’ll make mistakes from time to time. But I hope I wont forget the one indispensable rule. Remember, the web that gives you access to the world allows for worldwide access to you. And if you don’t like that bargain, you can always shut the screen, put down the phone, and stop feeding the beast. (The One Indispensable Rule for Using Social Media)
It seems all to easy to misconstrue a faceless comment, when that comment is hidden behind a disembodied avatar stripped of the physical attributes we associate with the art of communication. Anonymity becomes the one stable aspect of an individuals online identity, it can be both the cloak and dagger of our egos; and the one thing that most of us generally know about each other is that we don’t know each other. And the subtle or not so subtle, depending on who you ask, effect of this new found measure of obscurity is the democratization of intellectual authority, often producing the complete collapse of any and all educational competence in favor of the assertion, that because I have an opinion, that opinion is as valid as anyone else’s. Every participant, whether an adept or not, is promoted or demoted to the competence of an intellectual weekend warrior and like the man with Bi-Polar disorder, we often struggle to delineate witticism from criticism.
We live in an age of overwhelming self interest, the politics of civil rights; the exaltation of the self over the the community. Civility is replaced by disregard and the insistence that what I have to say is as important as anyone else’s and if you deprive me that, I will lash out. Just take a moment and look at some of the user names that some have chosen for themselves and ask yourself if it is innocent or actually is a real descriptor of their character based on how they comport themselves. In the same way that we as children were taught that there is a right and a wrong way to express the same thought, we need to understand that there is a right and a wrong way to type a thought.
Just as a Reminder, Way Station has moved here…though I will continue to post in both places for a bit.