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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Ponyville Confidential”

There is no such thing as the Internet on “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” (although they managed to incorporate it into the first Equestria Girls movie). However, I think they did well enough with a school newspaper that ended up going city-wide in this episode to simulate the fact. While their episode that focused on bullying wouldn’t happen until the next season, this episode dealt with something possibly even more critical to children: the unholy hybrid of gossip and bullying — cyberbullying.

Out of all the unintended consequences of advancements in technology within my lifetime and many of ours, cyberbullying has to rank one of the most immediate, commonplace, and worst. It’s literally the foulest of both worlds. It affords all of the ability to quickly ruin reputations and spread hateful lies that gossip does, yet has the advantage of anonymity of the originator. It affords all of the shaming and esteem-bashing of bullying, yet provides the ability to avoid all consequences. It many ways, it’s the ultimate way to be violent, cruel, wicked, vile, and sadistic without having to physically do anything to someone else. What more, it serves as a meter-stick of how much society is willing to tolerate in terms of its own behavior, as no law, regulation, or punishment is likely ever to curb it so long as mass communication exists; let alone stop it completely. The only way will be through people policing themselves.

However, the worst aspect of cyberbullying might be something far simpler: the bully doesn’t even realize they’re doing it.

Another thing that’s come with the advent of the Internet is the sense that everyone is entitled to your opinion. Anyone can put anything up for the world to see anywhere, which has led most of us, I think, to believe our opinion is not only worth more than it is but to believe everyone is entitled to it. And this is regardless of how brutal we are or how much tact we lack. As a result, people put up their thoughts about everything everywhere. Heck, that’s part of the reason I have this blog. Because I’ve succumb to the same mentality. Of course there’s also tweets, comments, Youtube videos, etc. Everyone puts their opinion about everything out there, but the truth is we don’t always think before we speak.

Sometimes when we like a comment or endorse a political position or share a certain post, we let our emotions get away with us. We focus so much on wanting to “zing” someone that we aren’t stopping to wonder if we’d do the same thing in public while face-to-face with the individual. Or we become so obsessed with wanting to get revenge or even that we slander a person in what is the equivalent of yelling out a secret on a crowded street in the middle of a busy city. It’s been known for a while that something about being online decreases inhibitions. People feel more comfortable speaking their mind online and more easily do so without thought to consequences. Usually they’re more aggressive and less polite too.

And, as a result, much like the Cutie Mark Crusaders in this episode, they don’t realize just how much they’ve violated trusts and friendships until it’s too late.

Hurtful gossip can ruin a person’s reputation among friends, immediate social gatherings, in the community, or at work. But gossip or slander spread online literally goes worldwide and offers the ability to continuously humiliate someone. As a result, it’s little surprise that reactions to cyberbullying include avoiding people, avoiding places or activities, carrying weapons due to feeling in danger, depression, or even attempted suicide (if not successful suicide). While laws are in place to try and stop this, the Internet is in many ways the “Wild West”, in which there’s never going to be any way to control it all the time. What that means is we have to watch out for ourselves.

Paul states in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” The same could be said about what we type online.

In regards to what you decide to say about other people, whether online or in person, we should all take a moment to practice more responsibility and maturity, especially those of us who identify ourselves as Christians who mean to encourage one another and be the light of the world. To quote Paul again, this time in 1 Corinthians 14:26, “Let all things be done for building up.” Stop and think next time you want to feel justified or you want to get a bit of revenge against someone about what you’re going to say next, especially behind their back. Furthermore, if you happen to associate with others who try to use the Internet to wage their own wrath on other individuals, try to recognize it and be mature enough to “look away” and encourage others to do the same.

A good rule of thumb to follow is this simple adage: “If the person I’m talking about was right in front of me when I said this/typed it, would I still say/type it?”

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for all of the wonderful technological advances my generation enjoys that has given us the opportunity to be closer than ever and share your Message and the Kingdom of God more easily than ever before. Help me to realize that all advantages are gifts from you and, as a consequence, carry a measure of responsibility with them. In doing so, please help me to always stand against slander, lies, threats, bullying in any form, and to always seek integrity and the truth rather than go on hearsay or rumor. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”