The Danger of the Anonymous VoiceBy:
The Internet has provided us with an awesome opportunity to be heard. More than ever before in history, we have the opportunity to make our thoughts and our opinions known. In fact, we can now comment on almost every article we read, or every thought another person shares. But there are inherent problems with this newfound, more-less, anonymous voice. I say “anonymous” because, even though a tiny picture and a name may be posted next to a comment, we may not know who the person is that is saying it. Even though we are “friends” online, if they were standing in front of us, we may not even know we are friends. In fact, our relationship may be entirely virtual and not based on any sort of friendship whatsoever. The other person may not even be who they say they are.
When we are in a conversation face-to-face with someone, we are typically mindful of what we say. When we are looking into someone’s eyes and we say something difficult or hurtful, we can see the impact of our words on their heart. We can visibly see the distress, pain, fear, tears or anger to which our words have contributed. We not only know that we have inflicted harm, but if we are the least bit sensitive or empathetic, we can feel the pain we have inflicted and are thus forced to take responsibility for it.
However, through technology we are now once or twice removed from the consequences of our words. Our new found ability to speak our minds has unfortunately led to many people thinking that just because you can say whatever you think that you should say whatever you think—regardless of how judgmental, disrespectful, hurtful or untrue. And, in many cases, we offer our “two cents” on the subject or bash the person who posted previous to us and may be completely unaware of any pain that was felt on account of our words. We are using our anonymity to reveal the worst of human nature.
While I realize that setting rules for conscious, kind, aware communication will likely be akin to preaching to the choir, I’d like to call for more mindfulness before we speak. And, since I prefer not to simply reinvent the wheel, I’ll share an already existing filter for thinking before speaking….or blogging, or posting, or emailing, or texting or whatever your chosen method of communication may be.
The Rotary Club has a great “Four Way Test” that they offer as an ethical guide for their personal and professional relationships:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
These are excellent guidelines to govern our face-to-face or anonymous or Internet-cloaked communications.
Some additional guidelines I would offer are:
First, consider, “Is this purposeful?” Will people actually change their minds or do something differently on account of your words or is it simply creating more division?
Ask yourself, “What would my spirit say?” We often get so reactive to a situation that we blurt out what the ego would say. The voice of the ego is often in direct opposition to the voice of spirit. Even if the intent is the same, the way the Spirit corrects or guides others is far more palatable than the way the ego does or says it. Taking that extra moment, that extra breath to remember who you are and what you are trying to achieve can make all the difference.
Pretend your online or technological communication is not actually anonymous. Imagine that you are looking into the eyes of the person you are speaking to and that you will feel what they feel on account of your words.
Pretend that your words and picture were linked to your business or credit report such that anyone who read what you wrote, would know exactly who you are and could determine whether they wanted anything to do with you or not, based on everything you posted.
Better yet, imagine that God is going to read what you wrote. Would you still say it? If you imagine that everyone is God in disguise, and your words will land on God’s heart, you may well find a gentler, softer message.
Since you now have the opportunity to be heard, aim to make your message worthy.
Eve Eschner Hogan is a relationship specialist, and author of several books including The EROS Equation: A SOUL-ution for Relationships. In Real Love with Eve, she shares skills, principles, and tools for creating healthy, harmonious relationships—with friends, family, lovers, co-workers, and the world at large. Her uncommon approach to common sense will help you sail away from ego battles and into the calmer waters of real love. Learn more about Eve's Heart Path retreats at sacredmauiretreats.com.