A month ago Blizzard (a video game developer) announced they were going to require users of their online forums to use their real names with a hope to reduce trolling, flame wars, and other non productive comments. This was a bold move by Blizzard which shows the severity of their problem. Immediately, many users complained, and Blizzard ended up cancelling this requirement.
Blizzard’s problem is common across the web, people can be jerks online, especially Christians according to Jonathan Acuff in his article, “Why Christians are jerks online.” Acuff argues because of anonymity Christians are more daring in what they say online. He also says that Christians don’t want to struggle discussing deeper, more complex issues online so conversations stay at the superficial level discussing clothing, or the merits of a TV show.
Anonymity plagues the web since you don’t have to look someone in the eye or sit through the awkward pause after you say something shocking on the phone. I think Robin’s comment on his article says it well, “There's a measure of distance and protection online; it's like your laptop screen is a shield. You can dish out dirt then duck and cover and it's all good in the end. People can be braver online and say the things they think "out loud", while in real life they'll use better discretion.”
Things can happen quickly online, it’s faster to respond today and you can contribute at any time. This is a change from the past when you had to reach someone on the phone at home, or even further back you had to travel to their home to talk. This has caused a short circuit of the “should I say things out loud or not” impulse and instead many people just say their thoughts.
I’d wager that most of the flame wars, trolling, and heartless replies have actually always been thought, but just not said. Online forums, email, and chatting have uncovered a problem that has always been there but is now exposed because of anonymity and the speed of discussions online.
What’s your take on this? What wisdom do you have to help “love our neighbor as yourself”?