There is a skit on Saturday Night Live that comes up frequently in the reruns. It involves a game show where people (commonly referred to as trolls) who write nasty comments on the internet come face-to-face with the folks who wrote the original post the commenters are vilifying. As you can imagine, the commenters are aghast that they are meeting the original writers, and they stammer through excuses and apologies; except for one commenter who is gleeful of his rants, not apologetic at all. The segment ends with the game show host going up to each commenter and sucker-punching them in the gut.
Watching this skit, my first reaction was to laugh my head off, raise my fist in the air and cry out, “YES!!” Haven’t we all had enough of these semi-anonymous people who have nothing better to do than spread senseless profanity and negativity on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and on movie and music reviews? But then I backtracked and thought, “Wait a minute! If all I want to do is get revenge on those commenters with a sucker-punch, then I am just as bad as they are.”
The internet provides a false curtain of anonymity that many people seize as an excuse to say whatever they want, with no thought for consequences or hurt feelings. In a school context, this is known as cyber-bullying but the hurt and bad vibes can be just as devastating for adults. In civilized society, everyone should be held accountable for actions and words that can destroy reputations and even drive people to depression or suicidal thoughts.
Social media is an amazing tool that enables instant communication among people of diverse interests. This is a good thing because it reveals our deep-seated desire for connection with other people and with God. But many have not given adequate thought on how to handle the power and responsibility of this tool, and of the consequences that stem from its abuse. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul says:
“Putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another… No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear… Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:25-32)
God, Our Source and Life, Unite Us [MP3]
- Trevor Thomson
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