GOODNESS AND THE INTERNET
Managing Our Online Life
We’re all dependent on the internet and that phone in our hand that connects us to it. No question, our productivity, knowledge, and other aspects of our lives are enhanced by information that comes to us this way. However, there is a lot of “unhealthy” information available to us this way as well…improper texts, rant-and-rave postings, and pictures that we would never show our mother to name a very few.
So, it’s a good idea to stop now and then and ask yourself…is the internet promoting more goodness in my life or is it causing me to become the type of person I was never intended to be?
In the age of technology, there is constant access to vast amounts of information.
The basket overflows and people get overwhelmed.
It creates confusion of how to think, feel, digest, and react to what goes on.
Setting Internet Standards
We know that if we want our lives to be guided by goodness, we have to incorporate it into all we do…even our online activity. Yes, even online where we can be anonymous at times and state our thoughts bluntly without significant consequences. Even online, where we can disagree and write a critical post declaring how wrong someone is. Even online, where you can quickly point out someone’s flaws so others will see them. No question, you can do these things. But, are these the right choices to make?
If you want to come through the internet maze unscathed, you have to establish some personal standards and follow them when you spend time online. Just as you need to have
and practice good manners when you are eating with others, you need similar standards for your online conduct as well as the type of websites and information that occupy your online time. In summary, you need to strive to live with goodness in your online life just as you do in your daily personal life as you physically interact with others each day.
Technology can be our best friend, and it can also be the biggest party pooper.
It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or daydream,
to imagine something really wonderful.
Performing a Technology Self-Assessment
Being as honest as you can, answer these three questions:
Is my use of technology making me a better person or a worse one?
Is technology allowing me to just have fun or am I actually accomplishing more important things in my life as a result of using it?
Is technology helping me to be a more independent thinker or, alternatively, to copy things, thoughts, and people I encounter while visiting various sites on the internet?
Because our use of technology offers both pluses and minuses, we need to perform a technology impact assessment approximately once a month and answer questions like those above. We suggest that you do this on the last day of every month so you can identify adjustments you need to make for the coming month. This is a serious exercise and you have to be totally honest with yourself for it to help you in some way.
Many years ago the term “brainwashing” was used to indicate when external factors, including people and information, changed someone’s thinking in some significant way—and often not in a positive way. It requires some meaningful self-reflection to determine if information on the internet is brainwashing you.
What Does Online Goodness Look Like?
We have said that living with goodness reflects a desire…
…to do what is right,
…to do what helps others, and
…to perform activities that lead us to a better life.
If we are about to post something online, we need to stop and ask ourselves if the information we are about to type meets all three of these criteria by answering these questions:
Is it the right thing to do?
We need to think about everything we post online and ask ourselves if what we are about to post is the right moral choice to make. Are we acting out of anger or jealousy? Are we trying to get even with someone? Are we following the crowd instead of choosing our own words and thoughts? We also need to ask ourselves if we know with certainty that what we are posting is true. We need to look at the sources and decide if the information came from a reliable source.
Will it hurt or help others?
What effect do you want your words to have on others? Too often, we speak or type in haste without thinking through the lasting effects of our words. We can even become bullies without realizing it. We post rumors or even personal information that is true but private without thinking of how this will affect the other person. If we are causing another person to hurt—emotionally or putting them in a position of being physically hurt by others—we are not embracing goodness. If our words will embarrass someone or cause tension in a group, we are living up to our goodness goals. Do we want our legacy to be one of goodness and compassion for others, or do we want to be known by the reckless posts we made online?
Will it lead you to a better life?
We need to consider the consequences of all of our online actions. How could our posts affect our lives? It’s easy to think of the “crowd” we are trying to impress and picture them laughing at our words or egging us on to write more. We may feel proud that we attracted the attention of a certain group. What about how others see us, though? What if a co-worker sees it or our boss? What if our family members see it—or their friends or bosses? These people can hand you serious consequences. People lose college scholarships and lose their jobs because they have posted irresponsible material online. If you don’t think before you go online, you could be destroying your chances of reaching your own goals now or later in life when these posts resurface.
Managing Your Online Freedom
You do have the freedom to post many things online. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to access so many websites and groups and people through technology. This privilege can lead us to goodness. We can use our online resources to bring positive changes to our world. You can even save lives.
I recently saw a news story about a teen saving another teen after witnessing an online four-wheeler accident. The teen who lost control of his four-wheeler was filming at the time and called out for help. The teen watching the video responded and got help to him without even being in the same state. That’s using our online presence for goodness.
What Does Your Online Presence Say about You?
If someone read your posts, your online responses to others, your Facebook posts, your blog entries, what would they start to think about you? If they want on to look at the pictures you posted on Instagram or your videos on TikTok, what would they think of you? Would they see goodness? Would your posts bring joy, help others, support a good cause? Would your online presence enhance your career or help you reach your life goals?
Sometimes we can think we are being a good person because we help someone in person or because we support a good cause with our time or financial contributions. Goodness has to go much deeper, though, if we are to truly be a good person. Goodness has to appear in all of our interactions with others…in person and online. If we aren’t bringing our goodness online with us, we aren’t truly living a good life.
Technology is a useful servant,
But a dangerous master.
Acts of Goodness You Can Perform on the Internet
There are so many good things that you can do via the internet that can help others in some special way. Plus, you can use the internet to search for opportunities for you to spread goodness to others. Here are five that we like, but we’re sure you can find many other
Send an I-CARE-ABOUT-YOU Message
There are many people in your greater circle who would more than welcome a short, but special “how are you doing?” note sent via the internet. Maybe it’s someone you know who has been sick or is having some difficulty in their life right now. Maybe it’s a friend from years ago who would welcome hearing from you. Don’t under estimate the positive effect such a message can have on others
Make a Donation to a Worthy Cause
In addition to the church that you may (or may not) attend, there are lots of nonprofits in your city or state that are performing important “goodness work” for others. If you don’t know of one off the top of your head, use the internet to research such organizations and send one of interest to you a special donation, small though it may be.
Sign Up to Tutor a Child after School
Our children are being taught things in school these days that simply do not make sense and will never help them become a better person. They need more focus on “reading, writing and arithmetic” (and similar basic subjects) and less on what gender pronoun should be used. Get on the internet, research the tutoring programs in your area and sign up to “spread some goodness” by helping a child become more proficient in subjects that will actually help them get in college and even get an important job someday.
Send Flowers to a Shut-In
You can call around to the nursing homes or to some nonprofits who work with older individuals and find two or three individuals who are shut-in and can’t get out anymore. Then get on the internet and send them some flowers to brighten their day and help them feel that there is someone “out there” who really cares about them.
Start a Blog about a Worthwhile Topic
This one is not for everybody, but possibly there’s a helpful topic that you know something about and can share your insights about it with others. Starting a blog is very easy these days and there are many free software platforms that you can use to support your efforts.
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.
It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that
will determine the significance of the life we lead.
By Michael L. Nelson
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