August 18, 2010

Loss of Civility

else—would honestly say they long for the “good old” pre-Internet days. “How did I do my job before having access to the Web?” is a frequent comment. But although I heartily support this sentiment, I stop short of attributing to the Internet all things good.
Along with other obviously harmful and even destructive aspects—such as easy access to pornographic and other immoral sites, the loss of privacy, and rampant deceit—I see the lack of civility as a leading Internet causality. As bloggers and others furiously hammer out their frustrations with only a keyboard and a monitor before them rather than a real person, courtesy and accuracy seem to fly out the window. Criticisms and accusations often include no credible verification—but great damage is done in spite of this, even if the “cause” is noble. Tragically, having the label “Christian” doesn’t always appear to make much difference either.
PC World contributing editor Dan Tynan in an online article* addresses this phenomenon. Along with nine other “things the Net is making virtually extinct,” Tynan includes civil discourse. He writes: “The niceties of polite disagreement are mostly dead, thanks to the Internet. Rudeness and name-calling have devolved into forms of entertainment; entire sites are devoted just to cataloging flame wars. . . . Though you may find some discussion boards and community sites that still encourage good manners and penalize offenders, they are becoming increasingly rare.”
I heartily agree!
When Jesus in John 13:35 said that others will recognize Christians “if you love one another,” I can’t help but believe He’s largely referring not to how we treat those who love and agree with us, but rather, those who don’t. 
* (accessed May 27, 2010)
Sandra Blackmer is features editor for the Adventist Review. This article was published August 19, 2010.