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Entries in Online Communication (2)


I you can't stand the heat, and all those clich├ęs

This is a rather quick post. I have three chapters of Millard Erickson I want to have read by Monday, and I want to get well into Confessions today, in addition to replenishing my rather empty pantry and fighting off the puppy mania that is running rampant around here this week.

I have three older brothers, and as a young girl, I was a mouthy little thing. I was also too easily offended (why is it that some of the most sarcastic, nasty people are also easily offended?). My mother would warn me that if I wasn't prepared to do the battle, I shouldn't get into the fight. Mama was right about that one. I was the one who ended up in tears.

I have noticed a similar situation online. People who are out there in the public, using their voice balk at criticism and are eager to point the "you offended me" finger. Explanatory posts fly through the internet as each side is sure that his or her post will be the one that changes everyone's mind. And when those posts don't, and another appears to challenge them, things get heated. And yet again, someone objects to having been treated badly.

I have learned through being married for 29 years that very often, just because my husband doesn't agree with me, it doesn't mean he "doesn't understand." He may very well understand; he just doesn't agree. It is only my ego which contributes to the notion that in order for him to have perfect understanding, he must come around to my way of thinking. That has been a valuable lessons for me.

There's been a lot of debate online over the summer. In between school and other responsibilities, I have paid attention a little here and a little there, and each time I give a little attention to it, I see it again: participants getting offended and crying foul. And sometimes, the online diaglogue is not befitting what Christians ought to involve themselves in. Yes, speak truth, but seriously, some of the writers I have seen over the past few months know less about courtesy than my children did as teenagers.

We had a bit of a discussion about a passage in Romans yesterday in class. The prof was talking about differing views of Romans 2:12-14 and how it contributes to biblical evidence for general revelation. One of my classmates spoke up and asked for clarification of the view my prof presented. The discussion which ensued was civil and well done. Perhaps my prof having been teaching for 40 years contributes to the knowledge of doing debate well. Plus, we were all face to face. There is simply no way the dialogue would resemble some of the ranting I've seen online.

My husband has reminded me frequently over the 11 years I have been blogging: if I don't want negative feedback, don't write. If I am too sensitive, be quiet. I think we can all learn something from that. There are some who cannot take as good as they give. Frankly, the energy expended continuing a battle day in and day out can be draining. Everyone needs a break now and then. Look at pictures of kittens, puppies, or bunnies. Spend some time with our family. Read a good novel. Watch a British crime drama. Sometimes, we just need to get out of the kitchen for a while.


When critique comes from the right source

There is an online discussion forum where my seminary classmates and I post answers to questions and where we can discuss with one another. It kind of reminds me of The Well-Trained Mind Message forum in the good old days.

Our professor also interacts with us, commenting on our responses and then asking us questions to challenge us. This week, as we discussed the book of Judges, I responded to the reflection question by making some observations about Jephthah. I responded to his query about my answer, but he still did not entirely agree with my points. He explained why, and I was able to see his point, and I learned something further in the process.

Responding to critique is not always fun. Whether or not we respond well often depends on the motive. My prof's motive is that I learn to think critically and to support my assertions. His motive is that I learn. It was easy for me to welcome his critique because I know his motive.

What are our motives when we correct others in an online venue? Do our motives have any altruistic purpose? Are we more concerned with proving someone wrong? Putting someone in his place? Is it just to have a meaningful conversation? It's hard to communicate motive online, in words, with total strangers.

I really believe that we can choose to use words that don't send a message that we are trying to put someone in their place. Bombast, sarcasm, and belittling don't communicate positively in an online situation when the are the only methods of communicating utilized. There are many who are condescending when an objection is raised regarding someone's "tone." It is true that being careful about tone can be taken to an extreme, but acting as if it is not even worthy of mention is another extreme. I tend to extremes, and it is something I want to correct.

If we are going to discuss online, we need to think about our words. There is so much missing from dialogue when the participants don't know each other, or are unable to hear and see each other. It calls for caution. I have met my prof. He's my academic advisor. I know what his motives are. When it comes to others, I need not to assume bad motives. When I communicate online, I should use careful, true words. That's the good thing about English; there are lots of words to choose from.