I was reading a list of blog writing tips on Chief of the Least, and he ended by asking for additional advice. I jotted down what I consider the usual for the beginning blogger, then stumbled onto something profound: stats are people too.
One of the effects of the explosion of social media has been a change in people’s behavior due to anonymity. There is now a familiar saying, though perhaps not an old one yet, that on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog. Because our online communication is not face to face, we can forget that those are people we are talking to. We write responses and comments, often personally directed toward other individuals, and say things we would not dare in a face-to-face dialog. Perhaps it is quite exhilarating for some, giving them a written voice they could not find when speaking out loud. But that new-found courage often does more harm than good.
You’ve probably heard about cyber-bullying among teens and even college students. But I say to those in the Christian blogosphere – watch yourselves. The Internet has been a great equalizing force in modern society. Any one of us can take a college class, get a seminary degree, chat with techies in Japan and watch lava flows in Iceland in real time, all from the comfort of our favorite chair. You don’t have to be a nationally known pastor to build a huge internet following around the world. If you had gone to journalism school, climbed the corporate ladder – or graduated from a traditional seminary – you would have been trained in speaking to an audience. Give 300 million Americans a laptop and a wifi connection, then turn them loose on society, and you may not get the same results.
Bloggers: as you build an audience and attract followers, remember that there are people on the other end of those stats. People that disagree with your point of view are still people. They are made in God’s image and we are commanded to love them. John 15 says nothing about loving people that are lovable, attractive, popular, wealthy, or that look and act like us. Jesus says we are his friends if we follow his commands, and he commands that we love one another. The greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and then secondly love our neighbor as ourselves. Those commands didn’t loose relevance when the printing press was invented, nor radio, television and so forth. The power of the Internet is one of those things that grew faster than our understanding of it, and we need to step back now and take a good look at what we have.
Online articles, blog posts and comments are written by living, breathing human beings. Those stats you’re checking represent people. Our Golden Rule must be “Do unto other bloggers as you would have done unto you.”