Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On Blog Commenting

Dennis Prager recently wrote a provocative article (with a bad title) on internet comments that are anonymous. Here's his thesis: "The irresponsible, the angry, the obscene and the dumb have virtually taken over many Internet dialogues. But there is an easy fix, and websites owe it to society to use it. Just ban anonymous postings.”

Prager’s right about the problem, though—as far as I know—his “easy fix” is not easy and it doesn’t fix anything. (Someone could just sign his name as Dwight Shrute, Scranton, PA.)

Prager's main presupposition is that "Being identifiable breeds responsibility; anonymity breeds irresponsibility." He writes:

That is why people -- even generally decent people -- tend to act so much less morally when in a crowd (the crowd renders them anonymous). That is why people tend to act more decently when they walk around with their names printed on a nametag. That is why people act more rudely when in their cars -- they cannot be identified as they could outside of their car. There is no question but that most people would write very different entries on the Internet if their names were printed alongside their submission.
But doesn’t anonymity allow people the freedom to more freely express their thoughts? Prager says no. “Anonymity only enables people to more freely express their feelings. Anonymity values feelings over thought, and immediate expression over thoughtful reflection.”

With regard to my own blog, I hope to leave the Blogger (blogspot.com) platform soon, and hopefully that will allow a greater ability to prevent someone posting as "anonymous." But a bigger problem for this blog is those who use do use their name. So I’ve been thinking that I might discontinue the comments option altogether. Though it has been the means of some fruitful discussion, it has also become a platform for some to engage in divisive chatter and slander.

Here are some questions we should ask when writing blog comments:

  • Am I expressing love for my fellow believers? (John 13:35, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.")
  • Are my words gracious and "seasoned with salt"? (Colossians 4:6, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.")
  • Are my words edifying, appropriate, and grace-giving (Eph. 4:29)?
  • Do my words convey a heart attitude of humility before God, contrition over my sin, and reverential awe at God's Word? (Isa. 66:2, "This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.")
  • Am I "speaking the truth in love"? (Eph. 4:15)
  • Am I "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"? (Eph. 4:3)
  • Am I pursuing "what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding"? (Rom. 14:19)
  • Am I "slow to speak" and "slow to anger"? (James 1:19)
  • Am I "quick to hear"? (James 1:19)
  • Is the fruit of the Spirit--“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control"--evident in my heart and through my words? (Gal. 5:22-23)
  • Am I increasing in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love? (2 Pet. 1:5-6)
  • Am I writing with eternal reality in view, remembering that my words will serve on judgment day as evidence about my heart? (Matt. 12:37, "By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.")

I am not guiltless when I ask myself these questions honestly before God. So I would appreciate your prayers (if you think of it) that I would do better in modeling the sort of interaction I'm calling for.

I would especially appreciate prayer for wisdom on how to handle this issue of blog commenting. I doubt that on the judgment day God will tell me that I should have allowed a greater forum for people to interact—but he may question me as to why I provided a public platform that often includes regrettable content.