Some time ago Tricycle published an article that caused more grief than we could have imagined. The premise was that online discourse is afflicted with the “disinhibition effect,” which enables people to say things and do things they would not ordinarily say or do in face-to-face encounters. The author took Buddhist bloggers in particular to task, raising a firestorm of protest that included accusations of shoddy reporting and poor editorial choices on my part. I wonder, then, how the Anglicans will respond to Alan Jacobs’s “The Online State of Nature” over at The Big Questions Online. Jacobs makes it pretty clear that Anglicans can be every bit as scrappy online as we can, maybe even more so. And he has an explanation for why the discourse takes such a hostile turn. Here’s a bit:
I have thought a lot about why people get so hostile online, and I have come to believe it is primarily because we live in a society with a hypertrophied sense of justice and an atrophied sense of humility and charity, to put the matter in terms of the classic virtues…. We clothe ourselves in the manifest justice of our favorite causes, and so clothed we cannot help being righteous (“Someone is wrong on the Internet”). In our online debates, we not only fail to cultivate charity and humility, we come to think of them as vices: forms of weakness that compromise our advocacy. And so we go forth to war with one another.
It’s worth a read, whether you agree or not, it’s a thoughtful opinion piece. The story has a happy ending: Jacobs gives up Anglican blogs altogether. But mainly, I liked the cartoon. Cartoon: xkcd.com (they’re pretty funny)