Thursday, September 20, 2007

Anonymity, Pseudonymity, and Reality

Here's a post that I posted some time ago, and given some of the debate that's been going on lately, perhaps it's timely once again. I hope you enjoy:

The internet is an amazing thing. It allows dialogue on a scale that has never been accomplished before. In fact, through the internet now everyone can have a say about anything--and quite often they do. All of us have seen the results of this new freedom. People get to express their thoughts, opinions, and feelings on a myriad of issues with or without their true identity being known.

The problem with this is that often too many hide behind the mask of anonymity (being anonymous) or pseudonymity (using a fake name) as they say things which may or may not be true or good. In the years that I've been using the internet I've discovered an intriguing phenomenon. Whether they be bloggers, internet gamers, or anyone else--people often become who they really are, or wish they were, when they interact with others via the internet.

Here's what I mean: If an introverted person has thoughts and opinions that they would not or could not share in real life, they can be heard and even become influential via the internet. Conversely, if a person seems quiet or non-confrontational in real life, they might take on an assertive or belligerent persona on the internet. I've seen many so-called "computer geeks" become many different things within the guise their internet persona. I believe that this can be a good thing or a bad thing, but it depends on the character of the individual.

The blogosphere is an excellent showcase for this principle. There are some who are the same in real life and on their blog--I try to be one of these people. There are others who say things on their blog that they would never dream of saying in real life--some of these things may be good ideas, but others should never be said anywhere.

As I've said before there is a responsibility that comes with the anonymity or pseudonymity that we have on the internet. We have a responsibility to speak (or write) words that uplift and build up the body of Christ. Sometimes these words may be criticisms, but they are never lies, never malicious rumors, never personal attacks. Paul gives good advice for sound thinking, and I would add, sound speech when he says: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8, ESV).

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