This week, I happened to see the overview of results from a new Pew Internet Survey: Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online. While I understand completely the desire for some level of privacy and security on the internet, the idea of anonymity struck me as curious. I recognize that this survey likely included a broad range of people, and not all of them were Christians, so the concern for anonymity is not particularly surprising. But it got me to thinking…As Christians we are called to live a life of integrity. A part of that, I believe, means a willingness to own up to the things that we do, say, and believe. If we are truly living a life worthy of the name and sacrifice of our Lord, should we ever desire anonymity on the internet?
One of the things I tell my step-children frequently is that they need to think before they post something on the internet. Not just for the sake of privacy and security, but also in remembering that there are real people on the other side of the post. Real people will read it or see it. If that person was standing right in front of you, would you still say that thing to them? If not, then perhaps you need to reconsider how you say it or whether you should say it all.
The internet has dramatically changed the way we communicate with others – both for the good and the bad. While it makes communicating quickly much easier, some people use the internet to hide. They create false identities so that they can pretend to be someone they would never be in the physical world. People tend to be more bold in the digital world…even, unfortunately, some Christians.
When I am online, I try to remember that my actions and my words speak volumes about who I am…even if no one reading them knows me. If I call myself a Christian, showing Christ to the world must be reflected in every aspect of my life – both digital and physical.
It’s not always easy. The internet provides us with an immediacy of communication and a natural feeling of anonymity that makes it tempting to shoot off an angry email or leave a nasty comment without considering the consequences. I think, though, that reminding myself of my desire to live a life worthy of bearing Christ’s name; reminding myself that God loves each of us; reminding myself that I have not only a responsibility to share God’s love but also the privilege to do so…then it becomes a little easier. Just like with other aspects of our Christian life, the transformation that comes from the renewing of our minds makes it easier to become the living sacrifices we are called to be (Romans 12:1-2). A sacrifice is only anonymous in so far as the glory goes to the recipient of the sacrifice.