Email Muscles

Previously published on 10/11/2013

Yesterday, a dear, sweet friend of mine sent out a message on Facebook. She’s trying to raise money for missions by participating in a chili cookoff. Her message was short and to the point. But, when I saw it, truthfully, I groaned a little inside. I didn’t reject the message, but, because of her chosen method, I knew my friend was in for a rough day. What could she have possibly done so wrong? She included 191 other people in her Facebook message.

For those (dare I say, wise) few of you who aren’t connected to social media, let me explain. My friend sent a group message for which every response would be sent to everyone in the group. For those who receive alerts on their phone, it was going to be a day full of constant annoyance. And, it didn’t take long for the nastiness to start. People messaged to ask to be removed or deleted. Some were far from kind in their response. Meanwhile, each response was further aggravating others on the list, prompting them to add to the madness. I truly felt sorry for my friend as her desire to do something good turned into a massive headache.

But, more than all of that, it made me wonder why some people feel the need, and perhaps even the right, to respond in such a negative way. In this case, the simple out would have been to just leave the conversation, but maybe they didn’t know this was the best option. I wonder if these same people would have responded the same way if they had received a phone call or if the request was made face to face. Technology is a wonderful thing in so many ways, but it also has a way of removing the immediate consequences that a face to face conversation invokes. My boss calls it “Email Muscles”. When we say something hurtful directly to a person, we are subjected to an immediate response. We can see the hurt, and maybe feel a little shame for having caused it. Technology let’s us hide behind the words on the screen and emboldens us to say things we shouldn’t say.

By the end of the day, things had settled down for my friend. One hundred people removed themselves from the conversation and the messages stopped. But, the incident may long linger in my heart. I need to remember this, even when I have the opportunity to hide behind technology:

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you”. – Ephesians 4:31-32

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