Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Accountability and Anonymity in the Age of the Internet

Tim Challies:

Many bloggers and other Internet users value anonymity. A blog is understood by some to be a place of refuge and safety—a place where a person can post what is on his mind and on his heart while revealing little about who he truly is. It is a place to let loose with the anger and frustration. It is a place where a person can speak out to other people and about other people without ever having to look those people in the eye. If every sailor is a bachelor beyond Gibraltar, we could as easily say that every blogger is a pundit or a curmudgeon or an expert or a righteous man when in front of his keyboard.

Guinness says that, in former days, morality was accountability through visibility. Yet today many of us are able to remain invisible. Not too long ago I was an invisible blogger. In some ways I valued my anonymity, and yet I knew that it could be a danger. I wrote a lot and my site was read by many people, but all the while I was safely removed from the people I wrote for and wrote about. I began to see the effect of this in my writing. It became increasingly abrasive and showed a distinct lack of character. But a couple of years ago, by the grace of God, things began to change. By live-blogging conferences I had to emerge from my home office and meet many of the people who read this site and whose sites I read. This has been, in every case, a tremendous blessing. At the same time I made changes to my life, even going so far as to begin attending a new church where I could come face-to-face each week with people who would encourage or exhort me as necessary. I deliberately sought people who could challenge me and keep an eye on whatever ministry opportunities arise from my writing.

I always operate under the assumption that my blog is read in its entirety by my DS, congregation, and Board of Ordained Ministry.

HT: Brett Royal


Todd said...

Thus the guarantee for a 100% zombie proof site.

I started my blog with the expressed purpose for congregations and friends to know more about me. I never intended to hide my identity but instead glory in my identity.

Rev. Jeremy Smith said...

I was an anonymous blogger/internet poster for years.

But after I was commissioned and became the pastor of a church, I thought I would need it as an anonymous outlet for feelings of ministry. Instead, it became less and less useful, and I became much more abrasive online than I was in real life.

Hence I recently started my own named blog...and even though Smith isn't exactly a cool sounding handle, there's accountability and clarity that must be in my writings.

I like your final line, John, about assuming the UM powers read everything you write. That's a perfect rule of thumb that I'll keep in mind.

Ken said...

I researched, interviewed other bloggers and spent time in prayer and reflection before beginning to blog. As a full-connection elder and church planter, it is my hope that my blog is connecting with my community and my congregation. If it isn't doing that or growing that way, then I'd just assume give it up.

Computer guru, Kim Komando, shared a few years ago that she didn't hire someone because of what they shared on a MySpace account. Everything online is just about permanently posted. I try to post nothing that I might not regret saying 30 years from now or that is not consistent with my vows as a UMC clergy.

DGH said...

Yeah, I have always thought what you see is what you get.. and I guess I am known for "too much information", but that is who I am and hopefully what they read on my blog and what they meet in person would not be too different of an individual. At least that is my prayer.

The Thief said...

I also count on my mother reading every post I make.