For years I’ve been intrigued by the dynamics at play in the digital space and how those dynamics influence human interaction, consumer choice and movements. And make no mistake about it—people are heavily influenced by these dynamics, even if they are not consciously aware of such influences.
While many online factors may be positive and others are simply benign and harmless, one pattern I’ve seen concerns me greatly.
This pattern is when people feel free to show their “true colors,” rather than moderating their tone and demeanor online. Showing true colors goes well beyond transparency—it can get out of bounds and into the realm of being caustic, hurtful and raw. Transparency, on the other hand, is more about being open, honest and real—in a healthy and appropriate way.
There is a huge difference between the two—and I’m really concerned that we are losing our ability to distinguish between them.
The very nature of technology lulls us into approaching reality in the digital space very differently than we approach reality in our personal physical space. But that disconnect is leading to some unhealthy places.
To illustrate the point . . . if you were to go out to eat with a small group of people and get into a tense discussion with someone in your party, you are not likely to stand up in the middle of the restaurant, yell at them, cuss them out (yep, I’m from the South), shout them down and then accost them. You might, but it’s not likely. Why? Because you rightly feel the pressure to comply with established social and legal norms for public behavior.
Unfortunately, people often don’t feel the same appropriate pressure to observe online behavioral social norms. They often behave however they wish, with zero thought given to how their behavior will influence and impact others. I don’t know about you, but my momma taught me better!
Or, perhaps we just haven’t fully established legit rules of engagement in the digital space. Either way, it’s a problem.
Those of us in ministry who’ve been granted leadership platform should be setting the tone, and teaching by example through our social media and online engagement. We should show the digital world what healthy and appropriate engagement looks like through a consistent Christ-like demeanor. Let’s always default to a heart and position of compassion, restoration and redemption in everything we say and do, shall we?