The Internet is so powerful. You can get answers, connect with loved ones, buy groceries, read news around the world, or plan a vacation. You can return a photo after a tornado carried it miles away. Return a lost credit card to a stranger. Come together with millions for one family and support them while they never give up. Take away the financial burden for a family who just lost a child, when you can’t take away their pain. Blackout websites in the largest online protest to stop a bill that will censor our words. You can save a life. You can change the world.
Or you can complain. You can hurt others. You can cause tears. You can cast stones.
“Sometimes, the Internet can feel like a middle-school playground populated by brats in ski masks who name-call and taunt with the fake bravery of the anonymous. But sometimes – thank goodness – it’s nicer than real life.” (Susan Orlean)
As a blogger, I open myself up to criticism by putting my life online. I share my thoughts, photos of my kids, and a little bit about my family. I’ve learned quickly that those who have negative things to say will always be the most vocal and those who are happy, often remain quiet.
I’ve been lucky. The complaints I’ve received have always come in emails and comments on my own page where I can easily reply. But, I know I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I’ve made lots of them. The thought that one of these mistakes will be picked up and spread across the Internet to haunt me forever scares me. Maybe I could handle it, but what if it hurt my family too?
Last week a Philadelphia blogger sent out an email to local restaurants hoping to build a relationship. She offered to barter services – advertising on her site and social media outlets in exchange for a free meal for her family.
One of the restaurants she contacted sent her email to a local e-magazine, who published it online in a condescending article, along with her email and phone number. The article was picked up by other blogs and websites, calling her desperate and even the worst blogger in Philly. It was shared, tweeted, “liked”, and reblogged. These websites are rejecting supportive comments and publishing the hurtful ones. Now she is being showered with hateful comments and phone calls.
Why? Was her pitch worded poorly? Probably. Did she over estimate her worth? Maybe. We really don’t have enough information to know. Is her request out of line? No. It’s common to barter services, especially in the blogging industry. Is it because she promised positive promotion? She didn’t promise an honest review. She’s offering promotion (advertising), which should be positive or it’s not valuable. Is she a horrible person? Honestly, I don’t really care.
“No one deserves to be hurt, no one deserves to be betrayed. What comes around goes around, be careful with your ways.” (Tiffany Alvord)
It doesn’t matter why.
Behind that email is a real person. A person who is putting herself out there in the online world. Maybe she’s not perfect. Maybe she’s made huge mistakes. Maybe she’s made enemies. But there is nothing she could have done to deserve the hate that is coming at her and her family.
As a Christian, it always saddens me to see how quickly we are to judge and cast stones. We hide behind our computer and show the worst sides of ourselves online by hurting others. We scream fraud at companies who offer a free sample, just because it’s gone quickly. We attack parents who lived through tragedy, because there’s no way to explain the horror. We mock a busy model who is taking time to breastfeed her infant, because we don’t understand her life. We make a group feel unwelcome, because we don’t know how to help them understand God and love.
Judgement, hate, and hurtful words never help. It’s only adds to the bad.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:27-38)
Love will always be more powerful. You will change more lives and touch more people with kindness, than you ever will with hate. So don’t judge. Just live and bravely show others how to love by being the best you can be to those around you, even online. It’s hard. You will falter. You will make mistakes. But, Jesus never said it would easy. He said it would be worth it.
“You want to know how to change the world son? One act of random kindness at a time.” (Morgan Freeman as God in Evan Almighty)
Imagine if everyone left kind words on the sites and pages they visit each day. Imagine if we used the Internet to say thank you instead of complain. If we used it to pick others up and point out their achievements, instead of bringing others down. Imagine if we used it to change the world one random act of kindness at a time.
Wow. Now that would be real power.
- The Scary Side of Blogging via What’s Up Fagans?
- 28 Things You Can Do Instead of Bashing Another Blogger via Project Purse Club
- An Open Letter to Sarah Lockard of AroundMainLine via Writ Rams