Anyone can be anything on the internet.
When I blog, when I Facebook, when I Tweet, I’m taking the choicest pieces of my character and putting them on display. Sometimes my intention is to bring attention to Christ and His perfection and glory. Sometimes my intention is to look good and be praised for what a sharp fellow I am. But whatever I’m doing on the internet, I’m mediating it – I’m doing it right now! And I’m betting on you taking what I write for granted and moving along. Sure, we might comment back and forth, and there’s bound to be a meme thrown in there if you give me enough time to exercise my witty humor, but since we’re engaging each other over a medium in which we can put the best ingredients and set the others aside, we’re both going to come up with something much like an artificial sweetener – definitely not the real thing, but close enough for all practical purposes.
And that’s all fine and good for entertainment.
But I know a darker, more deceptive side of me that enjoys the anonymity of the internet. It’s the side that prefers “Paper Pastors” (as one good brother put it here) that “don’t know me from Adam,” to the flesh and blood ones who will get all up in my business. It prefers virtual friendships that can end with little more than an “Unfollow” an “Unfriend” or a “Block” to the real ones where I’ll sometimes be rebuked, reproved, and by grace, restored. It’s the side that wants to look good to everyone when I post about how important it is to be diligent in attending and heartfully worshiping in the assigned days of corporate worship of our Lord with my local body, when I haven’t attended a service in so long when I was able to, that I have to re-up my membership. Shorter, a good brother has put it this way concerning unbelief, but I’ll re-work it here, as it fits: “It’s just lazy.”
A friend of mine – who knows me in real-life, and was kind of a driving force behind my blogging this – has had me deeply thinking about the cons list of social media, following this and that blog, and making sure I keep step with whatever good brother I’ve elevated to a place I should not. And don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way speaking ill of those men (mostly older, more mature) who’ve studied hard, who’ve learned by experience, who’ve followed Christ faithfully and have distilled those years of wisdom into Tweets, and blog posts, and Facebook statuses: men who “write well to be read well,” men who’ve become a menace that must be stopped to the seemingly “endless line of clowns that keep coming out of the internet clown car,” men who’ve taken on strange fires with the water of the Word – their efforts have been to the glory of Christ and to the betterment of His Church, and we would be missing something without them.
But what those good brothers intended for in those things, to be used to make me more useful in my local body and to my pastor who is serving faithfully, doing his duty as an overseer, I take instead and use them to become anything I want under the cover of the internet’s anonymity. I become a great debater – I know the facts and can lay them out by bullet points, but can’t bring myself to talk with a co-worker about the Gospel that I claim to know so well. I become the internet preacher, linking to this blog and commenting on that happening and explaining some Scripture, when I can’t bring myself to join my fellow Christians in corporate worship because they don’t believe every jot and tittle that I do.
And then there’s the one where I become the blogger who expects you to read and submit to every truth that I drum out, when all the while I refuse to submit to my local assembly, the outposts of Christ in this world, the Body of Christ, to the preaching of the word there, the administrations of the sacraments there, the worship in song and prayer and giving there, even such a little thing as submitting my writing as though the members who see me in the flesh, unmediated by the internet, are going to read it and call me out when I try to pull a fast one.
Anonymity is fun sometimes. You can’t tell me you don’t follow a parody account on Twitter, so hush it. But when we’re being whatever we want to be on the internet at the cost of being what we’re called to be in the Scriptures – many members contributing to the life of one Body – then pray that we lose an eye, because otherwise, it’s just all fun and games.