01 August 2012


We have all done it. Read an online newspaper article or watched a YouTube® video and posted a comment. Sometimes the comment is complimentary and constructive. Other times, the comments are just downright rude and snarky. But since you can hide behind the cloak of a screen name that does not identify you – with an avatar that makes you seem more mysterious than you are in real life – you feel free to be the person that you would not be if you had to sign your real name to your comment.

Just how responsible are these online publications for the actions – or in this case, words – of the reading and posting public – especially when the writer has not provided their true name or any clue to their real identity? This is an issue facing a lot of newspapers, magazines and other online outlets that cater to the reading tastes of the public. In fact, one newspaper just went to court to defend one online commentator’s right to remain anonymous after a comment they posted was used in a defamation suit against a prominent member of the Republican Party’s political machine. Eventually, the anonymous commenter came forward, but only after the newspaper had already spent a ton of money defending the free speech rights of their online commentators.

It is easier to show your true character, belief system, and general dissatisfaction with a situation when you are hidden within a cloak of anonymity. If no one knows it’s you, then you can say what you truly feel. I have a writer friend who has a blog. I asked her once what the name of it was so that I could subscribe since I know she is a phenomenal writer. She told me that basically I wouldn’t be able to handle her candor on her blog and she would just prefer that I not subscribe. Since I have known this person for decades, I couldn’t imagine anything she could write that I couldn’t handle, but I respected her wishes and drop the subject. However, I still, to this day, wonder about what she writes on that mystery blog somewhere in the ethersphere known as the Internet.

No matter how anonymous we might want to be, there is One Person who always knows our thoughts, ideas, belief systems and character. Our Heavenly Father and Creator is never fooled by screen names and online personas. The Bible tells me that He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:30; Luke 12:7) and in Isaiah 49:1, we are reminded that God called us before we were born and that, from the womb, He called us by name. So, if He knew you (me) then, He definitely knows you (me) now. Shouldn’t that fact alone make us act with kindness and grace, even when we are clothed (from the rest of the world, at least) in anonymity? I think so.

Be blessed.
©2012 Kristina E. Smith

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