Online Disrespect And Techno-Trauma

Wednesday, January 15, 2020
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Listen while you read: "I Surrender All"1 (Lyrics)

More and more people are using the Internet to communicate. It makes sense. After all, it's quick and easy to send someone an email, text, or direct message.

But I think that there's a growing problem. It's that people write things that are disrespectful.


First, let's be honest. We humans are deeply flawed.

Second, instant communication eliminates our "sober second thought". Before we've had a chance to fully think things through, it's easy to send something that we'll later regret. And it's too late to take it back.

Third, for all its benefits, the Internet has a desensitizing effect. Since we can't see people's faces when we communicate with them, it's easier to treat them like they're less than human. It's as if we forget that we're dealing with an actual person.

I think that a significant and growing source of stress and anxiety for people is techno-trauma.

And yet, Paul says, "Honor one another above yourselves." (Romans 12:10b NIV) We fail to do that when we don't use that sober second thought, and when we forget that we're communicating with other flesh-and-blood people online.

With all this in mind, here's a rule that can help us to honour others online, and which will curb the number of things that we type that we'll one day regret:

Never say something to someone online that you wouldn't say in person.

Before we type, message, or hit send, let's ask ourselves whether or not this is something that we'd say to someone's face.

Our online communication habits can give us the illusion of anonymity, since there's a physical distance between us. But anonymity disappears when we're face-to-face with someone. We're usually more accountable and respectful with our words in person.

So, let's honour one another.

Never say something to someone online that you wouldn't say in person.

Prayer: Lord, as we communicate with others online, remind us that we're interacting with people whom You love, people made in Your image. In Jesus' loving name, we pray. Amen.

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About the author:

Matthew Ruttan <>
Barrie, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Good advice, Matthew.

    Thanks, Matthew. Good advice.

    Truer words were never spoken.

    Thanks for your excellent devotional today!

    Right on. I am astounded by comments I see.

    Thank you for the great reminder of the two-dimensional nature of the written word! I have felt both sides of its sting!

    Good advice Matthew which could also apply to our face to face conversations
    with others when the person we are talking about isn’t present.

    Dear Matthew,
    Thanks for the good advice.
    God Bess you. Thanks for your prayer.
    Keep writing.

    Thank you, Matthew, for sharing this encouraging devotional with us. My mother always said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Thanks for the reminder. Blessings.

    Greetings Matthew,
    Thanks for submitting this devotional and delivering great advice. Yes, it is important to be nice with our words and your quote from Paul in Romans is “right on”.
    Blessings to you and enjoy a pleasant day.

    Good morning Matthew,
    You are so right. We need to be careful as to what we write. I am very careful as to what I write, in letters as we used to, and in E-mails now. And if we do it is good to think about it for a couple of days before we do.
    Thank you for writing.

    Wow, thank you for your message today, that needs to be put out there. I believe every one of us has been guilty of hitting the send key without actually thinking things through, or proof-reading, some even end up with the wrong person and can cause more hurt. I plan to share your message on FB. Kind of ties in the tongue being a two-edged sword. Blessings to you.

    So true. In the early 90’s when my son helped to get me online, he said that once you put it online, it is there forever.
    It’s regrettable that so many unhelpful things are said online as well as the media.
    May God help us all to measure our communications.

    Hello Matthew. Thank you so much for your, oh so true, thoughts. Very recently I was almost ready to hit that SEND key, stopped to check it and wiped it out. I try my very best not to say anything that I be hurtful when the receiver misunderstood. FB is a great tool in numerous ways when we are careful and thoughtful. So, I am thankful that for the reminder we all need. God bless you really good.

    I tell people the first one you write, if on paper, rip it up and start again.
    If on an online message, delete it and start again.
    Especially if you are upset, the second one will be very different – even leave it a few hours or overnight.
    A woman from our church several years ago wrote a terrible letter to our minister as she was angry with something he said and delivered the letter to the minister’s house. Obviously, she did not do the overnight rule.

    O yes, much needed, Matthew! This action is called, ‘The Sacred Pause,’ in my understanding. Not running out ahead of God while asking Him to guide my footsteps but even more important, to guard what comes out of my mouth. What is Your will today, dear Heavenly Father? Thy will, not mine, be done. Often our quick response is us retaliating for what we believe is trash talk, forgetting the central importance of humility to any spiritual growth. Thanks for linking it to the internet and for sharing your perception today.

    Matthew, Thank you for your reminder to be more careful in what we communicate. I always reread what I have written and can find that I need to make a change or two. If we do more reading of the scriptures, we will learn how to encourage and pray for one another more. I find that we fail to communicate even though we have emails and phones that make it easier. I will be 88 soon and I praise the Lord that I can still read and hear and communicate, but I find that my children and grandchildren are so busy with their work and smart phones that they don’t take time to write a note. Maybe we need to learn more from Paul and the Psalms some of the things we need to communicate. Blessings,

    Thank you, Matthew, for the good advice, given for Jesus’ sake and for human interaction.
    Keep writing.

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