If you read something online that is wrong—like offensively, hatefully wrong—should you respond?

I suppose a more relevant question isn’t the hypothetical “if,” but the inevitable “when.” All of us who read blogs and follow social media have come across vicious rants, mean-spirited treaties, and complete misunderstandings that anger us.

I faced this question last week when a friend of mine became the subject of a blog post meant to smear her career and reputation. On the one hand, the claims were so blatantly deceptive, it was laughable. And yet, the more I read and thought about it, the angrier I became.

I stared at the screen as my emotions raged. Inspiration flowed like a river, flooding my mind with insulting tweets. I fantasized about mocking, silencing, and shaming the people working to discredit my friend. I wasn’t just angry. I was outraged.

This is what the Internet can do to us, especially through the escalating back-and-forth on our Facebook and Twitter feeds. A 2013 study found that anger was the emotion most likely to spread through social media. In fact, its influence has a “a ripple effect that could spark irate posts up to three degrees of separation from the original message.”

In a New York Times article, author Teddy Wayne speculated that anger spreads so easily due to its brevity and conviction: “A 700-word Facebook post accounting for all sides of a contentious issue is unlikely to garner as many readers and endorsements as a one-sentence quip blaring heightened feelings.”

Much has been written about Internet outrage. This widespread phenomenon has garnered worthy attention, including among Christians. Less has been ...

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