In this short post, I’m going to lead you to answer an unfamiliar question: How authentic can you get on the internet?
As an internet practitioner, I’ve seen how it matured from a business communication tool to a personal, social networking monster. When it started in the Philippines sometime 1997 to about 2003/2004, we knew the internet as email, webpages for companies and doing online commerce (otherwise known as “ecommerce”). With the advent of Friendster, the rules have changed.
The internet has become personal. So personal that these days, as I observed, most people ranging from students to corporate employees cannot end the day without checking their favorite social networking site — blogging, adding friends, posting their pictures and sending messages.
How personal did the internet become these past few years? You’ll see people meeting online and getting married. You’ll see people fighting over ideologies, religion and politics. You’ll see old friends, high school, college classmates and roommates reuniting. One can immediately conclude that everything we now see on the internet can be real, personal and authentic.
Authentic? How authentic? How real?
Here’s my observation. While the internet has become personal, it is still less real. Authenticity isn’t the popular term on the internet. People can post false information about themselves in the guise of reality. People can choose to destroy people through a powerful tool called blogging — who knows how true can it get? People can cover their insecurities and pretend to be somebody else. Over and over, I saw people arguing about something without really understanding each other — only because they judged based on what is written and not necessarily on how it is actually written. I see friendships broken, relationships tainted because of a blog post or a profile information or a status update — only to find out that it could have not happened if they didn’t interpret it as it is.
And it can even become uglier — that is, if we take social networking tools so seriously and judge people’s character and motives based on their online activities.
– if a person knows enough of the subject that he writes about, does that mean he practices it?
– if you post a picture about yourself, does that mean you “only love yourself” and not anybody else?
– if someone frequently visits your profile, does that mean s/he likes you?
– if you post happy thoughts, does that mean you’re happy?
– if you post sad thoughts, does that mean you’re pathetic?
– if your picture rocks, does that mean you’re really beautiful/handsome in person?
– if you post seductive pictures, does that mean you want to have sex with your online visitor?
… the question never ends. It could be longer and deeper than you think.
Here’s my point: use the internet as a tool for communication. Find new friends. Locate old friends. Share your life. Break new deals. Earn, if you can. Share your problems to a group of online friends. Give counsel. Share Jesus. Give announcements. But don’t go beyond that. Don’t assume. Don’t judge. Because the internet isn’t a replacement to face to face, real world communication. If you do, you’ll be mislead and arrive to a wrong conclusion.